Ask the Experts: Social Media for Nonprofits #SMM

social media for nonprofits

Ah, social media. The overarching, somewhat ambiguous, term seems to be the center of our universe these days. From personal accounts to tools for work, we have an obsession with it. You have to ask though: what are some of the DOs and DONTs of the social media world? Further, what’s the best way to use social media for nonprofits?

  • How can nonprofits use social media to garner support for their cause?
  • What are the best social media tools for nonprofit organizations?
  • What should nonprofits post on social media to maximize engagement?

Luckily, we have some social media gurus specializing in the nonprofit sector here to lend their expertise!

Taylor Corrado is the Head of Nonprofit Marketing at HubSpot, a leading marketing software provider. She has worked in the nonprofit space for several years, starting as a marketer (and HubSpot customer) at the online fundraising company, FirstGiving, where she educated nonprofits on the benefits of peer-to-peer fundraising online. Follow her on Twitter: @TaylorLCorrado.

Susan Chavez works with nonprofits to build communities in support of their causes using online and social media tools. With a ten-year career that began with an AmeriCorp fellowship, Susan has experience in fundraising, program development, volunteer recruitment and training, and marketing and communications. Susan has worked with organizations such as TechSoup Global; The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc.; NGOsource; and The Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation. In her work as a trainer, Susan has spoken at the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference, the Center for Nonprofit Success, and the San Francisco Online Community Meetup. Check out her blog, here and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Chavez.









1. To you, what is the primary function of social media for nonprofits?

Social media is about reach and amplification. It’s about leveraging your current supporter’s networks to bring in friends, family and colleagues to support your organization’s efforts. It’s about sharing your stories of those you help, of your organization and of your successes with those that follow you and encouraging them to share those stories with their networks to raise awareness and drive more and more people to engage with you. If you don’t have a social media strategy, you are missing a key element to raising awareness and getting more eyes on your stories and impact. Thus, it is a piece of the fundraising puzzle that cannot be ignored.The primary function of social media for nonprofits should be to build online communities around their shared cause and mission.

2. This probably depends on the platform, but what are a few things nonprofit organizations should absolutely avoid on social media?

Nonprofits should avoid using social media like they use other communications tools, like press releases and print brochures. Don’t use it to initiate one-way communications with their intended audience.

Number one, don’t post just to post. It’s not effective, it’s annoying and it’s time consuming. Make sure everything single thing you post is something that you are very certain will be liked, shared or commented on. If it’s not, don’t post it. Number two, do not allow just anyone in your organization to post without guidelines. If you organization has sensitive information that could be detrimental if posted on social media, you must at least write down you social media publishing guidelines. (link to article: . Number three, don’t post the same thing over and over again. Make sure you diversify your content, between videos, pictures, blog posts and news articles. Mixing up your content will keep your audience engaged.

3. What is one thing most nonprofits are NOT doing with social media that they should be?

This is not to say that there aren’t nonprofits out there doing this, but measuring the results from your social media engagement is something that I think a lot of organization’s struggle with, mostly because there aren’t great tools out there to do so. Tracking your ROI of social media, i.e. how many donations come from social media directly can be tough, but it can be done. And once you measure your social media ROI, you are able to make the case to invest more resources, like a full time social media manager to build and maintain your community consistently. Social media isn’t going away any time soon, organization’s just need to measure it’s effectiveness.Nonprofits are not experimenting enough with social media. Social media is a great place to fail fast and fail forward. Nonprofits should embrace the fast pace of the social web to be creative and try different messages and strategies.

4. What are some of the most unique uses of social media by NPOs you’ve seen? Any pointers on coming up with creative ideas for social media?

I think leveraging your internal team to be the voice of your organization is very unique and not many nonprofits do it. With 10% of followers on social media actually being fake, it’s difficult to build a solid, real audience. By empowering your employees, you allow them to use their own voice and passion to share why they work with your organization gives a very genuine perspective that is easy to connect with from the outside. It also allows you to tap into their network of friends and family and even drive in potential volunteers or staff members.In terms of unique nonprofit social media campaigns, I am a fan of Diabetes UK’s Vine channel. They have done such things as created fun stop-motion animations with office supplies to educate their audience about the symptoms of diabetes and just say hello to their online followers. DoSomething is also doing great things with social media, having adopted Snapchat to connect with their young followers. DoSomething, which actively engages youth as social change agents, became aware that young people were very quickly flocking to Snapchat and followed suit. They have used the Snapchat stories feature to create funny and silly stories to get youth interested in and engaged in their campaigns.

5. What are a few essential questions NPOs must ask and answer before embarking on a new social media campaign?

Nonprofits should ask themselves what they’d like to accomplish and how it relates to their mission – lots of fans/followers is not enough to serve the mission. To that end, nonprofits should choose one thing they can ask their online community to do – donate, volunteer, vote, etc. – and structure the campaign on getting people to do that one thing. Make you case compelling by talking about why that one action helps the mission and make it easy by explaining how to participate.

At HubSpot, we actually have a list of 14 questions, but the top 5 are:

1) Is your organization’s work sensitive in nature?

2) Do you need to contend with local laws or culture?

3) What is your organization’s liability should an employee post something questionable?

4) What processes do you have in place should a mistake happen? Like if an employee posts something sensitive, questionable, or offensive?

5) What is the size of your organization?

6. What tools might an NPO consider using for managing social media and tracking smm (social media marketing) metrics?

A social media dashboard like HootSuite, TweetDeck, or NetVibes is incredibly helpful for keeping track of important conversations across social networks. An organization’s website analytics are also important to keep track of conversions from social media.

Hootsuite has some good reporting that you can pay for. Google Analytics can give you basic info on the traffic coming from social media sites. Facebook provides insights as well for your Facebook brand page. Radian 6, which is owned by Salesforce, is much more advanced. HubSpot has monitoring and publishing tools called Social Inbox.

7. Is there a particular platform you think nonprofit organizations might benefit from more than others? What channel is underused? Overused?

I think Instagram is on the rise. Millennials are turning away from Facebook because their family members are becoming the main demographic for the platform and turning to Instagram. Visuals are much more engaging and the tool is very simple to use. I think more nonprofits should leverage Instagram to publish decent quality images more consistently.There is no one-size-fits-all answer or approach to using social media for nonprofits. Every nonprofit and its audience is different. Nonprofits should understand what their needs are and who they are trying to reach to figure out what social networks would best meet their goals.

8. How do you see the role of Google+ waning or strengthening in the future for nonprofit organizations?

As nonprofits learn more and more how Google+ profiles impact search results, there will definitely be increased interest in this social network. As it stands, when a user searches for information about a nonprofit, Google will pull information from their Google+ profile if they have one and it is active. Having an active Google+ account is a great way to provide more information about your organization – more informaton gives a more compelling reason to visit your site and get involved with your organization.

I don’t hear much buzz around Google+, but Google hangouts are great for nonprofits to interact with their major donors and fundraisers in a group setting. I see these being used often to share news, gain feedback and engage active supporters. They’re also a great way to bring brands and nonprofits together to talk about a common issue and effort to make a bigger impact. TOMs shoes, Giving Partner Seva Foundation and charity:water came together to do a Google Hangout last May to talk about how simple products can have a big impact.

9. Any other tips and tricks you’d like to offer up for successful social media for nonprofits?

My one last tip on social media for nonprofits is to be a friend. Good friends don’t make the conversation all about themselves; they show an interest in each other. Therefore, create opportunities to let your supporters talk about themselves and pay attention to what they have to say. Be a friend by sharing information that might be helpful. For example, I’ve shared everything from interesting online news items to daylight saving reminders and it’s surprising how such simple things are appreciated.

Don’t be afraid to try and fail. There are so many resources and companies out there that want to empower your organization to make a bigger impact. You just have to be willing to take the first step, and not be afraid. If it doesn’t work how you hope, and you don’t raise quite as much as you wanted or reach enough people, then its not going to work. So, engage people online, use social media effectively, and give it a chance.


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