Editor’s Note: At brand new or small nonprofits, people who run volunteer programs may be responsible for other functions within the organization, including marketing. Whether you’re taking on social media yourself, or working with a colleague to promote your volunteer program, this article can help you get started.
Guest post by Brad Wayland
Social media is one of the most powerful marketing and engagement tools in your arsenal, but only if you use it effectively. Let’s talk about how your nonprofit can do that.
The birth of the social network did a strange thing to the field of marketing. Suddenly, it became possible to effortlessly spread the word about a brand or event to a positively massive audience — provided you knew how to do so. Nonprofits are in a unique position to benefit from social marketing, but they’re also faced with a unique set of challenges.
That’s what I’m here to talk about today — I’m going to go over a few tips for how you can get your nonprofit established through social and use social media as a way to engage volunteers.
- Ask Yourself: What’s Your Purpose?
To start, your first step should be to work out what your nonprofit aims to accomplish. What cause are you raising awareness for? Is it important that you generate donations, or is your aim to get people to attend events or volunteer for your cause? The answers to these questions will inform your entire social campaign, so be sure you have a clear understanding of your goals.
- Figure Out Who You’re Marketing To
Once you know the goals your nonprofit is aiming to achieve, the next step is to determine your target audience. Again, this is something that will inform every step you take moving forward. Different messages resonate with different people, after all.
“Try to pin down your average supporters’ socio-economic background,” reads a piece on Technology-Trust.org. “It might seem like a superficial thing to do, but actually it’s really good practice for working out the kinds of things you should post and the type of messaging you should use. Try to be as specific as possible — think about their age, location, economic background, what they likely think of your nonprofit, and what you’d like them to think about it.” You should also consider what types of people would like to volunteer for your cause and tailor your messaging towards them.
- Choose Your Social Network Wisely
The next question you need to answer is which social network (or social networks) you’ll be marketing on. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that, according to a 2014 Hubspot survey, Facebook is the #1 social network used by nonprofits at 98%, with Twitter coming in second at 70%. YouTube is an effective network to use for volunteer training videos and videos of past events to recruit more volunteers. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be on all these networks — only that they’re typically a safe bet for social media investments.
- Figure Out What To Track
How will you determine your success? What metrics should you track in order to work out whether or not your campaign worked out the way you needed it to? Since you’re running a nonprofit, you’ve got something of an advantage in this regard — according to Buffer, almost half of nonprofits find that a donation is the pinnacle of engagement. That might be a good place to start if you’re strapped for ideas. You can also track the number of new volunteers after a social media campaign.
- Create a Killer Hashtag
Especially if you have plans to market on Twitter, the creation of a suitable hashtag is essential. Make it short, memorable, and unique — but most importantly, make sure it’s one that’s easy to associate with your organization. Do note that hashtags carry an element of risk if you don’t carefully monitor your hashtag and curate it, there’s a good chance someone might hijack it (and trust me, that’s not something you want to have happen). Encourage your volunteers to use your hashtags and participate in the conversation on social media. As a result, you will have plenty of user-generated content to repurpose and tell your nonprofit’s story. These personal anecdotes and images will help engage current volunteers and recruit new volunteers.
- Account For Your Limitations
How much time and money do you realistically have to devote to social media? How skilled are you at creating content, and what does your writing look like? In order to successfully assess your strengths and abilities, you must first account for your weaknesses and limitations, and mitigate those limitations.
- Display Integrity and Transparency
As noted by a post on the Smart Insights blog, nonprofits are faced with a unique landscape where social media is concerned. On the one hand, they’re automatically considered to be a trustworthy source of information, and people experience a genuine need to connect with them and their causes. They’re also well-positioned to provide rich, emotive content.
On the other hand, if they send their messages poorly or ineffectively, the backlash is far worse than for other organizations. You need to be certain that you’re transparent and responsive, or things will very likely blow up in your face.
- Look At What Other Nonprofits Have Done Right
Last, but certainly not least, take a look at how other nonprofits have driven their causes to success on social media. Movember, for example, went from a small event run between friends into one of the largest annual men’s health fundraising campaigns in the world. Take a close, careful look at Movember and successful nonprofit organizations like Movember — ask yourself what they’ve done right, and what you can do to emulate their success. Another strategy nonprofits use successfully is asking their audience questions. For example, if you are trying to recruit volunteers for an event, you can ask what the volunteers from last year’s event what they enjoyed the most.
There’s a more to bringing success to your nonprofit on social than we’ve laid out here. These are just a few tips to get you started. Bear them in mind, and you’ll be well-equipped to learn more.
About the author:
Brad Wayland is the VP of Business Development at BlueCotton.