Basic Social Media Plan & Marketing Strategy for Nonprofits
Updated: Jan 20, 2022
If social media overwhelms you, you're not alone. There are dozens of platforms, endless content, and a never ending feeling of 'not doing enough.'
This blog outlines every step you need to take to get a handle on your social media strategy so you can stop feeling overwhelmed by it!
You're already here, so I don't need to go on a long rant about why having a roadmap will help you get to where you want to go. However, one thing I've learned as a freelancer is that if you're feeling overwhelmed, you need to take a step back and plan. While it sounds counterintuitive, the feeling of 'I don't know what to do next' is often the result of poor planning, and will leave you feeling additional stress and overwhelm.
While many businesses, charities, and social enterprises understand the need for marketing and communications, the difficulty is often in knowing where to start.
Whether you’re re-doing an existing communications plan or are starting from scratch, each of the steps below will help create cohesion and clarity in your communications plan.
Before we get started, remember to have fun! You should be excited about your digital communication strategy. Use this as an opportunity to let your creativity flow free, try new things, and be willing to experiment. Identify Your Goals
STEP ONE: Identify your goals and target demographic
Like any other aspect of your organization, a digital communications strategy requires a plan, a map of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.
If you're a charity, your organizational goals are likely to raise funds, provide essential programs and services, expand your capacity and build resources. Your digital strategy should be used a tool to help you achieve your goals, so make sure that they are clearly defined before you get started.
Now, your target demographic. It is tempting in a non-profit or organization to assume our target demographic is everyone, but it isn't. If you're a women's shelter, your target demographic likely have the following characteristics: they live within a 10km radius of your location, they engage in volunteering and advocacy work, care about political and social issues, and are more likely to be women (although this isn't always the case!).
Before we continue, keep in mind that the ultimate goal of the strategies below are to drive traffic towards your organization’s website. That is where your supporters are going to make donations, sign up for your newsletter, and learn more about what you do. For this reason, every post you make should have a clear call to action (CTA).
(Figure 1: Homeless Shelter example).
STEP TWO: Pick Your Platforms Wisely
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to post on every popular social media platform. Choose two to three platforms to post on––MAXIMUM. If you focus your time and energy on one or two platforms, you will not only be able to maximize your efforts and reach, but also avoid spreading yourself too thin. Think long and hard about who your target demographic is and where they spend most of their time. In Figure 1, the target demographic is both big donors (corporations, foundations, and individuals), and passionate advocates (who will help you share your message). The popular and well known platforms are: Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, and Quora. Want to learn more about what each platform does and how it can help you achieve your goals? Hootsuite has a really fantastic blog that breaks them all down. The one platform I’d like to touch on is your newsletter.
Okay, a newsletter isn’t a platform, but it is a vital part of a healthy digital communications strategy. This is called 'lead capture' (lead capture is the action that happens on your website when your visitors are converted into leads).
Additionally, and most importantly: you do not own your social media accounts. Platforms can delete your account at any time, and sometimes there is very little you can do about it. However, a list of contacts and subscribers can be taken with you anywhere you go.
On your newsletter subscription form, be sure to offer your audience value. Will they receive exclusive deals? Are they able to download PDF templates? Will they receive monthly updates/news on what is happening in the sector?
STEP THREE: Long Versus Short-form Content
If you’re constantly creating one-off content on all of your social media platforms, you’re going to burn out. Not only does this type of content not convert traffic to your website, but it also takes a lot longer to produce and maintain. Let me explain the differences:
Long form content: Forms of content that can be broken down into smaller, more digestible pieces.
For example: blogs, videos, interviews, articles, etc. These are pieces of content that, yes, take more time to produce, but can be easily broken down into smaller more digestible pieces (short-form content). Short-form content can then be used to drive traffic towards your website, where you can encourage people to read the full-length article, watch the full video, or learn more on your website.
Short form content: Content that has already been broken down into a small, digestible pieces. For example, if a staff member at your shelter has written a blog compiling multiple stories from people who frequent their shelter, this long-form content can then be broken down into individual quotes, testimonials, and photographs which can be posted about on your social media platforms. This content drives traffic towards your website and acts as social proof.
To summarize, long-form content may take some more time and resources to produce, but it has the benefit of: - driving traffic to your website and improving SEO
- establishing your organization as an authority on the subject (therefore building trust with your audience) - making content generation easier
Not only does producing useful content on your website benefit your SEO, it also gives you a reason to drive traffic towards it.
STEP FOUR: Keep Track of Analytics
If you’re new to digital communications (and even if you aren’t!) it is vital to keep track of what is and isn’t working. When it comes to generating revenue or finding sustainable funding for your organization, you do not want to *wing it*.
From your website to your e-mail newsletter and social media, tracking analytics can help you make informed strategy decisions when necessary. You can download our free basic social media audit outline below.
The truth is, it takes time to find your niche and figure out what type of content will perform well. We all bring a set of assumptions to our communications and marketing, and the goal of analytics is to rid ourselves of those assumptions. Your social media audit should be re-evaluated and re-assessed on a fairly regular basis. Set a specific date on your social media calendar—bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or annually—to do a social media audit. The best plan is one that is flexible and responsive.
STEP FIVE: Brainstorm Your Content Pillars
Your content pillars are the primary components driving your digital strategy and are directly derived from the goals listed above. Once you have your organizational/communication goals clearly defined, a list of platforms, have long and short-term content in mind, it is now time to break them down into actionable pieces of content.
In Figure 1, I have suggested some potential content pillars. Of course, depending on your audience and goals, these may vary greatly. First and foremost, BE CREATIVE! The only limit is your imagination. If you’re new to digital communications and have no idea where to start, go online and see what other organizations are doing. Do they post blogs? Videos? Infographics? What type of content are they posting on Instagram? Twitter? Facebook? How is it being received? When you’re ready, brainstorm a list of content pillars that makes sense with your organizational goals. Remember, at this point, there is no such thing as a bad idea. Write everything down—you can always refine it later!
STEP SIX: Compile Content Under Pillars
The goal of a digital communications plan is to cut down on the amount of work required to execute it. Work smart by compiling folders/documents of content ahead of time so when it comes time to post, everything is ready to go. Organization is key when you’re trying to stay on top of your digital communications.
For example, ‘Behind the Scenes’ (in Figure 1) can be folder of photographs that staff members can add to every time they take photographs of an event, meeting, or activity.
‘Facts and Statistics’ can be a Google doc that compiles the latest statistics and studies around the housing crisis in Canada. This beats searching for this information every time you need to post.
STEP SEVEN: Engage
This is the aspect of a digital communications strategy that people often find exhausting. However, building a community online requires active and consistent engagement. Here are my best tips to avoid burnout:
1. Schedule time to engage with your audience: Put an alarm on your phone for 15, 30, or 45 minutes and focus on liking, re-sharing, commenting, saving, and messaging accounts that align with your mission and values. I have found that engaging ‘whenever I have a free moment’ ends up either a) not happening or b) I end up getting distracted and do very little actual engaging. Be intentional with your time.
2. Message every new follower: Take a moment to introduce yourself, what you do, and find a common interest to connect on. Getting to know your audience, including what they like about your mission, is vital to building an active and engaged online community. 3. Post polls, ask questions, and conduct surveys: Not only is this great for your engagement (which pleases the algorithm gods!), but it allows you to gain feedback and interact with your supporters.
4. Share other people’s content: Not all of the content you share has to be your own. Re-post and share other accounts content (and be sure to tag them!). The best way to support like-minded organizations is by sharing the content they put a lot of time into creating—this also makes them much more likely to return the favour!