8 Routine Social Media Practices of Successful Nonprofits

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8 Routine Social Media Practices of Successful Nonprofits

A routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program. Too often, I find that nonprofits engage in social media along more of a catch-as-catch-can program. Nothing fixed about it.

To maximize social media productivity your practices must become habitual. And, of course, your habits must be good ones if you’re to be successful.

Recently my colleague Rebekah Radice (who also contributes to this blog) wrote 6 Habits of Successful Social Media Marketers in Social Media Examiner. It inspired me to borrow a few of these habits to discuss how they apply specifically to social benefit organizations, and then to suggest some additional practices that will help nonprofits drive awareness and convert leads to purchases and donations.

  1. Build meaningful relationships
  2. Be constituent-centered
  3. Use psychology of persuasion and neuroscience
  4. Tell a story
  5. Get visual
  6. Connect with influencers
  7. Create a balance of desired action responses
  8. Measure your effectiveness; adjust

This post will cover the first four; the next one will cover the balance.

Let’s begin.

  1. Build Meaningful Relationships

    Why are you even using social media? It’s good to ask yourself this question every now and again. Remind yourself of your bottom line.  Let’s face it: you’re an organization that depends upon fundraising to enact your mission. This is how nonprofits differ from their for profit brethren.

    Businesses, even social ones, look for venture capital investments and promote profits. They sell. Nonprofits seek philanthropic investments and promote social benefit. Nonprofits fundraise.

    What selling and fundraising have in common is relationship-building. Fundraising has always been about building relationships with people who are, or will be, ready, willing and able to give.

    Increasingly, nonprofits are leveraging technology to build relationships with potential supporters.

    Never forget that social media began as a “social” network. It’s an act of attraction. It’s invitational. It asks who’s interested?  Who wants to participate? This means you should be chit-chatting; not lecturing. You should be exchanging information, not broadcasting. The days of outbound one-way marketing are long gone You must gently “pull” engagement from people by listening to them; then offering content that’s relevant to them.
    ACTION TIP to Build Meaningful Relationships: Know Your Audience

    Listen up! If you can’t show folks you know them you’ll never really be able to “relate.”

    Ted Rubin, co-author of Return on Relationship and former chief social marketing officer for Collective Bias and OpenSky says you have to start by “looking people in the eye digitally.” What does this person care about? What keeps them up at night? How can you help them?

    An easy way to begin is to review their profiles. Look them up on LinkedIn. See what groups they’re involved in. Genuine ‘linking’ happens within groups. Not only is this how you position yourself as an authority; it’s also a great way to meet influencers in your area of work/expertise. Through groups you can learn how people across industries are connected to issues and people you would like to influence to benefit your work.

    Also pay attention to the types of content your followers share. For example, if they have Pinterest boards or Instagram accounts, what are their interests outside of business? What types of content do they tweet? Once you have an idea what may be relevant to folks, you can begin to connect with them on a level that’s meaningful to them.

  1. Be Constituent-Centered; Supporters Ask “WIFM?”

    If you want donors to love you, you’ve got to love them back. Another way of saying this is if you want gifts, you must give them.

    The best gift you can offer is helping your donors fulfill their dreams. In fact, you should formally incorporate this as part of your nonprofit mission. No one says this as eloquently as Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry of the Veritus Group: Donors Are Your Mission, Too: Creating a Radical Culture of Philanthropy.

    Donors want to belong to a community or movement. To be more than they thought they could be acting on their own. Donors, like all human beings, are on a continual quest for meaning. It’s the existential search to be all that one can be. To feel self-actualized.

    So don’t make all your contacts with potential supporters about giving you money. Also connect with the intention of helping folks see themselves as the people they’d like to be. When you just sell or fundraise you get a customer for now. When you help someone you get a customer for life. You must first get into people’s hearts. When you do, they’ll become your biggest advocates.
    ACTION TIP to be Constituent-Centered: Create Targeted Useful Content

    Learn what your constituents want and need; then give it to them. It doesn’t have to be expensive or tangible. It can simply be an article you’ve written with answers to frequently asked questions. Or a “how to” or “top 10 tips” guide. “How to to keep your aging parents safe”… “10 tips to go a little greener”… “How to get kids to finish their homework”… “How to communicate your concerns to your legislator”… etc.

    Share what you know best in the form of little “gifts” now, to promote longer and more lasting interactions later. To make it fun, and shareable on social media, consider a series of inter-related strategies to promote your gift of content.

    • Facebook, Twitter, Google+: Post once per week.
    • Pinterest and Instagram: Create unique graphics and share twice per week.
    • Blog or E-Newsletter: Write one article per week highlighting your gift of content.
    • YouTube: Record a quick video (e.g., “Cooking Demo: Nutritious Kid’s Snack” for a food pantry or “How to Blow a Horn” for a symphony or music conservatory). Christian Hospital in St. Louis offers videos of surgical procedures, narrated by the surgeons themselves, to ease fears.
  1. Use Psychology of Persuasion and Neuroscience

    Successful marketing is all about persuasion. One of my favorite books is Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human. His premise is that we’re all in sales on a daily basis. Whether it’s simply trying to get our kids up and out the door in the morning or persuading our boss to give us a raise, we’re constantly coaxing people to induce a specific desired behavior.

    Science has studied how to do this effectively, and it behooves you to follow their lead. I always look to two places for inspiration: (1) Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (tried and true), and (2) neuromarketing (cutting edge).
    ACTION TIP to Use Psychology of Persuasion and Neuroscience in Your Marketing Routine: Study Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion

    There are six of them, and they’re all dynamite. One of my favorites is the principle of reciprocity. People tend to return favors. Or as I always tell nonprofits, if you want gifts you must give them. Begin with your content editorial calendar and make sure you’re offering a balance of content that’s heavily weighted towards constituent benefits. Strive for about three to four “gifts” of content to every “ask.”

    I also like the principle of social proof. People will do what other people are doing. That’s why it’s great to show who is taking action for your cause – others are likely to conform.

  1. Tell a Story

    Too many nonprofits try to persuade people with facts. Guess what? This doesn’t work well. Feelings first, facts later. There are no exceptions to the rule that you must awaken the heart to arouse the mind. You must move someone emotionally before they’ll take in information – or act. You can’t spout information until you touch the heart. Speak to the soul so the facts have a fighting chance.

    Stories get your message across. They’re the oldest form of human communication – before writing! We’re wired to understand the world through stories. So even if your message doesn’t start out as a story, find one to tell. Wrap your message in a story that your audience will empathize with and find stimulating and relevant.
    ACTION TIP to tell a compelling tale: Use Familiar Story Structure.

    Take your very best content and put it into the familiar structure of “once upon a time… there was a protagonist… who endured certain travails… and encountered various drams… until a hero could be found to swoop in and give the story a happy ending (with your donor’s help, of course).

    Always include your donor in the story. Engage them as active characters. Everyone relishes the chance to play the hero.

Get into an Effective Social Media Routine

Stop winging your social media strategy. Decide where you’re headed; plan ahead to assure you’re not wasting your time and energy to get someplace you don’t really want to go. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll very likely get there.

Ultimately, you’ll achieve success when you align your values with your constituents’ values. When the content you offer is content they can use. When you make your story their story.

That’s the stuff of which successful nonprofit marketing is made.

What do you think? What routines do you incorporate to power your social media and content marketing and turn passive observers into active participants? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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