10 steps to a successful nonprofit social media strategy

These days, it’s no secret that social media is one of the most efficient ways people, companies, and institutions can promote themselves or their brand. With its ability to reach an incredibly broad audience range, its level of convenience, and the fact that its usually free to use, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why social media is such a popular outlet for companies to utilize. While social media has been beneficial for many different types of companies and brands, perhaps it has been one of the biggest helps to nonprofit organizations. Social media strategies have recently been growing in popularity among these types of businesses, probably because there are so many different ways they can use social media to their advantage. Julia Campbell shares ten steps to a successful social media strategy in a presentation she gave last September, which gives great insight as to how a nonprofit can successfully implement social media into their business strategy. Below is an easy-to-understand recap of this presentation, let’s take a look:

Firstly, Campbell states that social media platforms are important for nonprofit organizations for a number of reasons. Firstly, she claims that the use of social media creates an extension of an organization’s donor relations, generating better research, stewardship, connections, and cultivation. She also makes the point that social media increases an organization’s public awareness, accountability and transparency. Additionally she notes that social media is important for small nonprofits because it reaches a public that values stories (especially emotional ones), and it is a great outlet for nonprofits because it allows for instant feedback. Now, on to the important stuff:

1. The first and one of the most important steps to implementing a successful social media strategy is to build a committee. She says, “You cannot do this in a silo. Won’t work.” She urges leaders of a nonprofit to pinpoint which employees (or volunteers) like social media the most, who the creative ones are, who is the most connected, and which “have their pulse on the latest news”. Once you have figured these things out, it will be easy to create a social media committee.

2. The next step is to define your goals and objectives, or in other words, how will your organization define its success on social media? She lists increased email signups, increased event participation, new volunteer sign ups, increased web traffic, and increased fundraising all as good examples of how a nonprofit can measure its success. This step is very important in identifying which strategies/tactics are working on social media, and which ones are not.

3. The third step in the implementation of a nonprofit’s social media strategy is to get organized. Campbell suggests that any organization using nonprofit should create a “social media measurement spreadsheet” so that a nonprofit can easily track “likes”, followers, blog readers, and email subscribers at the start of a new campaign. She suggests organizations sign up for a free account on Google Analytics to track these elements.She also thinks it is important to create a square version of your nonprofit’s logo to make it easier to identify on social media, and to create secure consistent URLs for all social media sites an organization is using (ex: facebook.com/nonprofitorgs).

4.   Creating policies is the fourth step to incorporating a successful social media strategy, Campbell claims. Policies she suggests creating include a crisis communications plan, an external policy (what will get users blocked from the page or group and what is encouraged?), and an internal social media policy and training.  In this section she also covers the 5 Rs of social media, which I encourage you to read about by clicking on the link to her presentation.

5. The fifth step is to choose your channels. This includes asking questions like, where are your supporters? where do they congregate? From there, she urges organizations to Follow/”like” similar organization’s social media pages, ask or survey supporters and constituency, and reminds us to never get caught up in something called “shiny new object syndrome”.

6. Next, you must listen, Campbell states. Spend time on each of your chosen channels, get to know each network’s culture, feel, and language, and pay attention to what similar organizations are posting about to grasp what sorts of subjects/language moves people and encourages support.

7. Work Smarter. It is beneficial to look into different social media scheduling platforms such as HootSuite, TweetDeck, Buffer, or PostPlanner. These mechanisms will make posting easier and more efficient and some will even show you your social media analytics.

8. Arguably the most important step Campbell discusses is to make great content. She urges nonprofits new to social media to create a simple editorial calendar, which is a “tool for planning, scheduling, and managing publication of content across channels.” great content is a key component to a successful social media strategy because it’s what makes followers want to continue following and participating in your organization’s social media accounts. She encourages your content to include compelling visuals as well to pique viewers’ interest.

9. Next, an organization must measure and improve. she warns to always measure your results slowly. For Facebook, track your “Instant Post Insights”, ReTweets and mentions on Twitter, blog traffic, and email newsletter signups. “See what works. Do more of that”, she suggests.

10. Lastly, it is important for an organization to celebrate its successes. Post when you reach a notable number of Facebook “fans”, acknowledge the people who helped get you there. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and always remember that social media is “a marathon, not a sprint.”

Image source: http://www.socialable.co.uk/8-social-media-predictions-for-2013/

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