4 Non-Profit Social Media Tips

December 18, 2013

non profit social media

As an employee of a non-profit organization, we often wonder how to build the social media audience we want, when we don’t have a product to sell. We envy the retailers, manufacturers, and restaurants for the ease of their social promotions — they offer coupons, discounts, giveaways and free samples. But what can you do as a non-profit to boost your following? 

The truth is, non-profits are a unique case. We do have a more challenging job to sell ourselves online. But it’s not impossible. Let’s take a look at a few non-profit social media tips.

1. Gain Trust

This may seem like a simple statement, but consider the companies you “Follow” or “Like.” You probably view them as an expert on the product they sell and look to them when making a decision about which model you purchase or what item you order from their menu. Position yourself or your company as a reliable source of information. Post information that is relevant to your audience.

For example, I am a dog lover. But where do I go for information on the best food for my dog, training tips, and more? Probably not a company that I think only wants my business. Typically, I look to the breeders association or a local non-profit rescue league who has positioned themselves as an expert in dog care. This is where non-profits have an advantage. Because we aren’t trying to sell a product, it is easier for us to gain the trust of our audience.

2. Take Advantage of Your Network

This tip doesn’t refer to your social network – utilize your friends, business connections, members and fans. They may be able to help you with promotions and giveaways. What types of promotions you may ask? Let’s stick with the dog theme. I recently saw a great promotion for the local rescue league on Facebook; it was simple, yet effective. The non-profit partnered with a manufacturer to sell yellow dog collars for a month. In this case, the promotion was a win-win-win. The manufacturer gained extra sales from the connection to the non-profit, the non-profit earned a portion of the sales and the customer received something for their dog, while supporting a local cause.

Other options may include asking a local retailer or restaurant that has a connection to your non-profit to donate gift cards or giveaways. They too will gain business from your non-profit’s support.

3. Position Your Message

While these types of promotions are a great way to attract Followers and Likes, keep in mind, the key to such promotions is ensuring you attract your target audience.  Be sure to position your promotions and giveaways so that you find true supporters of your organization. Use fun trivia, statistics, and information you want your audience to know and promote your giveaways. Make sure your messages are tied to your organization, but yet engaging enough that your audience will participate.

A great example of this was done at the non-profit association I work for – the Iowa Grocery Industry Association. The association has a genuine interest in recycling, so instead of pushing the association’s services, etc., we reached out to the public with statistics on recycling in the State of Iowa, questions on the number of plastic bags recycled annually and questions relating to the Build with Bags Program (a program designed to promote recycling in elementary schools across the state). In turn, the person who responded with the accurate answer received a $10 gift card to an Iowa retail location.

4. Be Relevant

Do you hate seeing your inbox fill up with information that doesn’t apply to you? The same is likely true for your Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds. Always make sure the information you supply for your target audience is timely and useful. Outdated information or information that doesn’t apply to your audience will immediately discredit you as a reliable source of information.

As a non-profit organization, your team is already spread thin. Make sure you have someone dedicated to maintaining your social media outlets — and take time daily to update your pages. Facebook and Twitter may be the first encounter your audience has with your organization — make sure you leave a good impression.

The other piece of the puzzle, being useful, will also build your credibility with the audience. Here I have to steal a term from Jay Baer and recommend you exercise Youtility. In other words, offer insight that others find useful to build a relationship with your audience.

At the end of the day, your overall goal as a non-profit should be the same as any other company’s — to build a relationship with your target audience. Although each organization is different, by considering these options, you can easily begin to market yourself and stand apart from the rest.

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.