Why Social Media is a Game Changer for Nonprofits in 2016

• social media for nonprofits • fundraising productivity
Ellen Bristol

What's the biggest secret weapon to give you fantastic fundraising results? Can ya guess?

Whatever you guessed, it's really social media. Social media is an unbelievably powerful Ryan_Profile_Pic.jpgmethod for improving funder acquisition, retention and upgrading. Social media drive inbound marketing, using electronic methods to target current and prospective funders, volunteers, clients and other constituents and draw them "in" to your organization.  I asked my colleague Ryan Johnson, CEO and Founder of Meridian Social, to write a blog post on this topic for me, and here it is. Pay attention to the data!

Why Social Media is a Game Changer for Nonprofits in 2016

Social media success. What is it? How do you measure it? It’s a question many marketers struggle with. Some marketing teams think “clicks and follows” on daily posts is a good measure, while others think it’s a megaphone for getting the core message out there. But social media is a powerful tool for lead generation, constituent engagement and getting your brand noticed, as well.

Non-profit organizations appear to lag behind the rest of the marketplace in the ways they use social media and electronic marketing in general. In a recent survey by the Case Foundation, 47% of respondents defined marketing success as a donation (conversion), and 88% said their most important communication tools were email and their website. That number is not surprising at all since email marketing and on-line giving pages represent the final stages of the conversion process. They have almost no impact on expanding the following or inviting non-donors and non-volunteers to consider becoming either or both.

Even though about 97% of all nonprofits have a presence on Facebook, most miss out on the marketing leverage they could be getting from social media. Social media helps nonprofits to start attracting prospects much earlier on the conversion process, and can engage much larger swaths of their target audience than is possible through email marketing and traffic from search engines. But because the standard focus has been producing immediate conversions, the Facebook channel might not get the time, energy, and especially marketing dollars it deserves.

Email and websites will produce higher conversion rates than social for the short term, but social media is catching up. According to Social Media Benchmark Study’s 2015 report, email list sizes grew by around 11%, while platforms like Facebook and Twitter grew by 42% and 37% respectively, a growth rate around three times that of email lists. Of course, to put these numbers into perspective, for every 1000 email subscribers, there are 285 Facebook fans, and 112 Twitter followers for non-profit organizations, but the level of interaction on the social stream may be higher, and participation is growing exponentially.

Something I’ve encountered with nonprofits is a lack of qualified personnel to handle social media marketing.Non-ProfitSocial-MediaStrategy-800x671.png The Case study saw only half of the respondents employing a full- or part-time employee to handle their social media efforts. A quarter outsourced to a professional social media team, while the rest were pretty much playing it by ear. Even if there is someone taking care of social media, a majority of nonprofits lack a documented social media plan. In a survey conducted by Hubspot, the inbound marketing platform provider, more than half of nonprofit organizations spend 2 hours or less per week on their social strategies, in contrast to for-profit companies whose average is 6 hours per week. And 74% of NPO’s only use social media to publicize upcoming events and general posts about activities, but rarely if ever use social media to attract potential donors.

So what is the solution? Well first, we can look at messaging. Just using social media as a megaphone isn’t going to engage your target audience. Nonprofits should start conversations with their fan base to find out what they want to know. And it’s so simple – you’re already out there on social media, so simply ask questions and invite input from fans and followers. Next, invest in content creation, both in engaging images, and written text for your posts and blogs. (Yes, a blog is a component of your social media.) These items are highly shareable and can make the difference between a mediocre social media experience, and one that nurtures potential leads into donors and volunteers.

Steven Shutterstack of Hubspot recommends the Three A’s when constructing a social media plan:  Advocacy, Appeals, and Appreciation. The premise of each of these principles are simple but the effects can be quite far reaching when applied in a comprehensive social marketing plan.

Tips.jpgWhether you have someone dedicated to social, or you have outsourced to an outside specialist, I recommend at least 10 hours per week of work on social. This isn’t just about posting, but also curating relevant content. Use an editorial calendar where possible, and tweak your posts to suit the individual social platform. The Top 10 social platforms used by nonprofits are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Flickr, Tumblr, SlideShare, and Vine. Each of these is fundamentally different, catering to a unique segment of your audience, and each of these platforms is marketed to in a different way.

 Nonprofits are very oriented to ROI (Return on Investment), which is great, but don’t be too short-sighted and focus only on immediate conversions. Make a long-term commitment to a social media plan. Find ways to avoid exhausting your email audience with frequent, regular requests for donations and volunteering; instead, use your social media platforms to increase and diversify your lists, and find out which messages really engage your fans and followers. Offer lots of free value – opportunities to download articles, re-post messages that relate to your mission, and provide links to resources, either your own or others that complement what you do.

Take advantage of transformation social media marketing has produced. Educate yourself about its potential to attract new followers, engage current ones, and bring them closer to you. It’s a lot easier to convert a fan into someone who actually opens your emails, reads them, and responds to your calls to action. Those people are far more likely convert to donor or volunteer status, if they have gotten to know you in the social stream first.


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