A to Z of Social Media Marketing for Nonprofits

Lidia Varesco Racoma • Aug 10, 2020

With events and programming turning virtual, plus donors saying that social media most inspires them to give, social media has become a crucial part of a nonprofit’s marketing mix. And with social media driving 57% of traffic to fundraising campaign pages, this is the perfect time to brush up on your social media ABCs.

Let’s talk about the algorithm, (Gen) Z, and everything in between. 

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A is for Algorithm

In social media, an algorithm is a set of formulas that determines what a user sees in their feed. Where feeds were once chronological, now they vary based on relevance—which is determined by the user’s usage, interests, interactions, and connections. Algorithms are constantly changing, so focusing on user engagement is key to staying in the feeds.

B is for Branding

Branding is just as important in social media as it is in other marketing channels—especially because it may be the first way someone interacts with you. Without consistent branding, your posts can appear scattered or not relay your intended messaging. To stay on-brand on social, I recommend organizations create a social media brand guide that includes fonts, colors, themes, and types of posts (it can also include guidelines for writing, grammar, voice as well as sample posts). 

C is for Calendar

Every social media marketing strategy should be paired with a content calendar. A content calendar makes it easier to keep posts organized, on schedule, and spaced out appropriately. It’s also a good place to store links for curated posts. Based on your organization’s needs and strategy, you can use a simple spreadsheet or use an app like Trello to create your content calendar. 

D is for Data

If you are part of the majority of nonprofits that are not measuring their social media data (53%), you may be wasting your time. At the very least, you should track the most important metrics, such as engagement and awareness to see if your campaigns are reaching the right people and making an impact. Keeping an eye on your social media data will also show you which campaigns are most successful, which can help in creating future campaigns (don’t reinvent the wheel every time!)

E is for Engagement

Engagement refers to likes, comments, and shares on posts. Engagement is not a one-time thing, it’s a relationship-building activity that should be incorporated into your overall strategy. For most nonprofits, engagement will take the form of connecting with potential donors or supporters, sharing content that resonates with them, and ultimately, causing them to take action. And considering that 55% of people who engage with a nonprofit on social media are inspired to take further action, it’s worthwhile to focus on engagement.

F is for Frequency

Over the years, I’ve read countless posts sharing when and how often to post on social media—but they seem to have conflicting opinions. According to a recent study, nonprofits are posting on average 8–9 times per week, but it’s best to refer to your analytics to see when your audience is most engaged with your posts. Testing can also help: bump up your frequency to see if you get better results and vice versa.

G is for Goals

Like any other marketing tactic, social media marketing must be goal-based, as well as integrated, and aligned with your organization’s overall goals. For example, if one of your goals is to increase first-time donors, then a social media goal would be to attract and engage with this audience. Once you’re ready to develop your social media goals, start by reviewing your organization’s strategic plan and goals, then create related SMART social media goals, and lastly, determine KPIs to track each of the goals.  

H is for Hashtag

Research shows that Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than posts without a hashtag. By using hashtags strategically, you can more easily reach your target audience. Finding the right hashtag takes some research and it helps to see what others are using or which ones are popular. Some hashtags to consider for your organization are those related to your organization’s branding, mission, campaign, or event or for wider reach, a popular daily hashtag like #mondaymotivation.

I is for Influencer

Leveraging the power of social media influencers is an effective way to increase reach—and it’s not just for for-profit brands. As with other social media outreach, you’ll first need clarity on your mission and goals and assure that the influencer is also aligned. Potential influencers may be closer than you think: look at your most-vocal donors and volunteers or use a free influencer search tool. You can also check who regularly comments on or shares your posts.

J is for Jargon

Just like other forms of marketing, there is a unique language associated with social media marketing. Learning the jargon will help you work more effectively with social media consultants or team members managing your outreach, as well as keeping yourself up-to-date. 

K is for KPI

Key performance indicators (KPIs) help measure the success of your social media outreach. KPIs should be aligned with your social media goals and they should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based). For example, if your social media goal is reached, you would choose KPIs such as impressions and website visits. If the goal is engagement, you may track likes, shares, clicks, comments, or other interactions with your audience.

L is for Live Streaming

If you haven’t started using live streaming in your social media marketing mix, consider that 78% of people watch online videos every week with 55% viewing online videos every day. Many nonprofits currently use live streams to share footage of events as well as for fundraising. Other ideas for live stream are interviews, behind-the-scenes, testimonials, Q&A sessions or “newsjacking” commentary. 

M is for Mission

You probably have a mission statement for your organization, but do you have one for your social media marketing? A social media mission statement helps you discover and express the WHO, WHAT and WHY of your social media outreach: 

  • WHO: Who is your audience? Who will be reading what you share? 
  • WHAT: What do they want to learn or read about? What can you share that will encourage them to interact or inspire them?
  • WHERE: Where can you find your audience? Which social media outlets do they use and how do they use them? 

N is for News Feed

A news feed is where followers see your social media updates. Newsfeeds used to be chronological, however now they are mostly based on algorithms. For example, Facebook posts are currently shown based on who a user typically interacts with, the type of media, and the popularity of the post. Being aware of algorithms and using tactics such as starting conversations, posting when your audience is online, sharing video content, and posting consistently can help you stay in the feed.

O is for Optimization

By optimizing social media content, it is more likely to be found by—and connect with—people who are searching for what you are offering. A few ways to optimize your content are by using keywords, making all profiles consistent, creating an effective content mix (consider the 80/20 rule of 80% education and 20% promotion), testing different types of posts, posting when your audience is online, and tracking your analytics data. 

P is for Patience

Like other marketing channels, social media results may not happen overnight. You have to be consistent, persistent, and especially, patient. In marketing, it’s been said that it takes seven “touches” before a prospect takes an action and it’s no different in social media—however, it’s easier to make your touches more frequent on social. Having a system to track social media analytics can help, as you can visually see the progress being made.

Q is for Quality

I always preach “quality over quantity” in social media: instead of obsessing over follower count, focus on getting the right followers—those who genuinely interact and engage with your organization. With 43% of people saying they attend or participate in charitable events in their community because of social media, it’s a good idea to engage with followers who are truly interested in supporting your organization. Also, you don’t have to be—and shouldn’t be—on every social media channel, it’s better to focus on a few channels and do them well. 

R is for Response Time

Quick response times can elevate your organization’s online reputation, especially when relating to service-oriented questions or requests. 79% of people expect organizations to respond to their social media posts within 24 hours, so it’s a good idea to assign a staff member to monitor and engage with comments and especially questions from followers, so they are answered in a timely manner. 

S is for Strategy

Like other marketing tactics, social media won’t work unless you start with a strategy. Review your organization’s mission, vision, strategic plan and overall goals and use those insights to develop related social media goals and KPIs. Considering 67% of nonprofits do not have a documented social media strategy, it’s smart to plan and develop a documented strategy that can be shared with your entire team. Keep in mind that it’s not set in stone—you should review your strategy at least quarterly and make adjustments based on analytics and observations.

T is for Trust

As the saying goes, “People buy from people that they know, like, and trust” and this is especially true in social media, where people can make more personal connections than say, in direct mail or advertising. In fact, 87% of donors who first donate from a social referral source make their second donation from a social referral. A few ways to help develop trust in followers is to provide useful information, share stories that resonate and be consistent in outreach and engagement.

U is for UX

User experience, or UX, is the process of creating a product based on end users’ needs or expectations. All of your social media channels make up the user experience, so the branding and messaging should be focused, targeted, and engaging. Having a social media brand guide (and ideally a brand guide for your organization’s overall branding) will help assure that every print and digital interaction a user has with your organization is consistent and on-brand.

V is for Value

In marketing and sales, it’s said that you must add value before you sell, i.e. don’t pitch someone before they are ready. The same concept applies to social media—and it might even be more important here because the interactions are so personal and immediate. Let your audience get to know you before you make your ask: share stories, statistics, tips, opportunities, or resources and respond to questions or concerns in a timely manner—or consider providing a forum or community for people to meet and engage.

W is for Who

One of the first steps in developing a social media mission and strategy is the “who:” determining your ideal audience or who you are speaking to. Research which channels your audience follows and engages with and learn what type of content they read and engage with. Keep in mind that each channel will have a slightly different audience, so make sure to customize your strategy for each audience (as it relates to each channel).

X is for X-factor

Do you know your organization’s x-factor—or point of difference—and are you expressing it on social media? With social media is getting more and more crowded, finding a way to stand out and be memorable is crucial. A few ways to stand out are by using a particular style of image or illustration, creating a theme or hashtag unique to your organization, or writing in a unique voice or perspective.

Y is for YouTube

Video posts are bigger than ever with YouTube currently being more popular than all other social media platforms and the top channel for Gen Z. YouTube can be used similarly to other social media channels for campaign sharing, promoting volunteer activities, general awareness and other visually-engaging mission-based activities

Z is for (Gen) Z

Gen Z, also known as “Philanthroteens,” refers to young people born in the late 1990s and later. This group—which will be the next generation of donors—has grown up with access to current events and social media, so they tend to be well-informed, socially conscious, and looking to make a difference. Gen Z are fans of platforms driven by fast-paced visual content like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube and social change activities and volunteer experiences are especially relevant to this segment as they build their resumes and seek internships and jobs.

FREE Webinar: Social Media 101 for Nonprofits

Watch this on-demand webinar recording to learn how to implement social media marketing and best reach your donors.

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Lidia Head Shot

About the author:

Lidia Varesco Racoma

Lidia is an experienced art Director, Marketer, and Branding expert with over 20 years in the field. She is the founder of Lidia Varesco Design, as well as an active member of the Board of Directors at the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits where she is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications.

Lidia’s focus is on clients and projects that are making a difference

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