The 2017 Nonprofit Social Media Benchmark Survey deployed by donor management software provider Bloomerang found that 44 percent of nonprofits surveyed were active on Instagram. More than 90 percent considered Facebook their primary social network and across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn the number one nonprofit goal was to share organizational news. While an effective social media marketing program can make a meaningful impact on a nonprofit’s marketing ROI, it only takes a few missteps to impede success. Avoid these common nonprofit social media marketing mistakes to maximize your organization’s success.
Mistake #1: Making it All About ‘Me’
Nonprofit organizations make a profound impact on the lives of those they serve, be it through direct service, advocacy or outreach. They often have a broad range of stakeholders – ranging from Board members to funders to clients to corporate partners and beyond – whom seek varying types of information in unique formats. Effective social media marketing takes a holistic look at the organizations audiences, embraces their commonalities and takes their individual needs into careful consideration when planning content, format and timing.
When crafting your cause’s social media story, remain mindful of how each of your audiences empowers your organizations success and allows you to make the greatest possible impact. While touting your successes can provide valuable proof points to attract and retain donors, crafting stories that are audience-centric and covey the depth of your impact are often more impactful and drive higher levels of online engagement.
Mistake #2: Spreading Yourself Too Thin
For nonprofits who are seeking to stretch their limited marketing budgets, the appeal of free marketing tools can be overwhelming. Which platforms should you use? How do you cultivate the right audience? And, where is all of the content going to come from?
First and foremost, remember that more does not always mean better. Choosing the right social media channels – the ones that will allow you to reach and engage the right audiences, and the ones whose format and constraints are most conducive to sharing your story – is the first step in building an effective social media marketing program. It is also important that all of your chosen platforms are updated on a consistent basis with high-quality content so it is important to be realistic about what your bandwidth and budget will allow you to maintain effectively.
Mistake #3: Overlooking Social Media as a Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Tool
Among social media’s greatest gift to nonprofits is the ability to tell stories through sharable and engaging formats. As demonstrated by the success of the #IceBucketChallenge, social media can also be a powerful fundraising tool for nonprofits.
As you may recall from the #IceBucketChallenge, the crux of the campaign’s success was rooted in a simple call-to-action and peers challenging each other to participate and/or donate. It grew from one person’s mission to raise awareness into a groundswell of online support for a worthy cause, the ALS Association, that raised $220 million dollars. And, yes, it all started on social media.
By empowering stakeholders – clients, family members, volunteers, partners, and donors, to name a few – to share their personal connections to a cause via social media, nonprofits can reach and engage news audiences and tap into new channels for fundraising.
Mistake #4: Becoming a Chameleon
Nonprofits offering a broad range of programs and services are often challenged to maintain an all-encompassing brand identity and avoid being defined by just one, or even a small group, of their offerings. At times, that can yield a brand identity that is chameleon like, changing colors to fit the medium.
While it is important to adapt one’s content to suit a chosen social media marketing platform, it is imperative that the brand maintains a consistent identity across all of its online and offline marketing channels. From logos and messaging to brand photography, the organization’s global mission should remain evident at all times.
Mistake #5: Skimping on Metrics
Similar to how data drives fundraising, identifying the right audiences, the right “asks”, and the best ways to deliver that information, data takes a leading role in driving an organization’s social media marketing and content strategies. Data can help to identify:
- The best social media channels for an organization
- Which audiences can be reached through which platforms
- What types of content audiences are craving
- Which platforms are best suited to sharing which types of content
- Which calls-to-action are most effective
- What results your social media program is delivering
Identifying the metrics your organization will use to evaluate the success of its social media marketing program should be part of the strategic planning process. When you outline your overall marketing goals, and the role(s) each marketing channel/strategy/tactic will play in helping to achieve those objectives, it is important to identify how you will determine whether social media (as well as all of your other marketing channels) have proven effective. Take the time to set both long-term goals as well as interim benchmarks against which you can evaluate your efforts. With that said, social media marketing campaigns need time to build momentum so be mindful of giving opportunities to make slight refinements to the program before shifting in an entirely new direction.
Social media allows nonprofit organizations to extend their reach, engage new audiences and share stories of need and impact through shareable multimedia formats. From breathtaking Instagram photos to moving success stories shared across multiple channels to tribute videos to education tweets, nonprofits have a wide range of opportunities at their fingertips to leverage social media marketing to strengthen their overall marketing program and make an impact on their organization’s bottom line.