Your social media efforts should not exist as an island apart from your organization’s other strategies. Be sure to incorporate social media into your overall strategic planning and align your social media tactics with the organization’s mission and goals.
This will help you avoid another common pitfall—failing to set clear goals for your social media function. As a part of your communications strategy, determine exactly what you are hoping to achieve and let the overarching goals of your not-for-profit guide your social media objectives.
Many not-for-profits struggle with finding the right frequency for posting on social media. At one end of the spectrum, some organizations believe opening an account and posting once a month is all that is required to engage on social media. On the other end, some organizations pump out multiple posts a day, to the point of potentially annoying and alienating supporters.
The appropriate number of posts will vary by organization. But, it is something that should be studied and determined in advance, rather than done on an ad hoc basis. Solid, appealing content should lead the way.
One factor that will drive the decision about your posting frequency is the type of content you publish. Basically, you need to post enough so that you can get in your asks (for example, donations, event registrations or petition signatures) without seeming as if all you do is make requests of supporters.
Mix in calls to action with content that engages, educates and promotes. Include visuals, videos, volunteer recognition, how-to tips and humor. Remember, it is important to tell the organization’s story. Displaying your organization doing good deeds for the community can go a long way. One of the benefits of social media is that you can tell a story as it develops, allowing your followers to watch.
Not-for-profits understandably can grow frustrated when social media work does not produce quick results. No one likes to see few or no likes or comments. However, unless you are a celebrity or famous athlete, understand that social media growth is a slow-moving train. Your leaders may need to lower their expectations and allow more time to realize their goals. Getting the word out and making your organization visible is what is important, not the number of likes a post receives.
For many not-for-profits, a lack of resources is a major stumbling block when it comes to social media use. If you cannot afford a full-time social media manager, consider hiring or offering an internship to a college or even a high school student. Or, you could spread the responsibility across multiple employees. That could reduce the stress that employees who work full-time on social media experience due to the hectic, nonstop pace and the drain of dealing with online trolls.
A moving target
With social media evolving as quickly as it does, you will need to review your social media strategies and the results of your efforts on each platform on a regular basis. Fortunately, many free social analytics tools are available to help you look back and chart your best course forward.
Picking the right platforms for your organization
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube ― not to mention all the up-and-coming platforms you have probably yet to hear about — are popular social media platforms. The sheer number can easily overwhelm a not-for-profit, whether it is dipping its toes in social media waters for the first time or just trying to swim with the current.
But, you do not need to engage on every possible platform. In fact, you are better off establishing a regular presence with a consistent voice on a few platforms, rather than spreading yourself so thin that it is impossible to post material that has impact.
At this point, Facebook and Twitter are popular for most organizations, but you can select additional platforms based on other factors, such as your target audience. For example, professionals regularly use LinkedIn and younger adults tend to congregate on Instagram, while many teenagers currently use Snapchat.
Exercise caution when it comes to jumping on the newest, hottest thing. History shows that these often burn out. Go ahead and grab your account name, but hold off on pouring a lot of energy into a new site until you confirm that its audience is one you want to reach.