It is no longer enough to type words onto a sheet of paper and hope to successfully market your nonprofit organization. Times are changing, and it is imperative that today’s organizations change their marketing strategies to mirror the shift. With so many new opportunities to explore, the nonprofit world is alive with new techniques to reach out to and captivate various audiences.
For those new to social media, there is a lot to learn – but that’s not to say that it is an impossible task. Old-fashioned marketing, public relations and advertising approaches will always serve as framework, but it is becoming increasingly necessary to tweak these processes for a younger generation. According to an article on emarketer.com, $3.08 billion was spent to advertise on social networking sites in 2011. This was a 55 percent increase from 2010. With the way social media is growing and expanding, it is reasonable to assume that these numbers will only increase in the coming years.
Today, the most profitable and successful nonprofit organizations use a wide variety of social media sites and they tailor each message to fit the specific channel. Some of these platforms include, but are not limited to: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Each site is unique and holds the power to enhance any business endeavor – that is, if the organization knows how to properly encode the material.
Social Media Site #1: Facebook
Facebook was created in 2003, and since then it has grown into the largest site for peer-to-peer connection and communication. So what different strategies are tried and true when it comes to marketing an organization on Facebook?
1) Create A Facebook Page. A Facebook page allows organizations to garner fans and post updates. It also allows for solid feedback, as fans can “like” certain posts or they can comment on them in opposition. Organizations can even arrange to have to have their name as part of the Facebook page URL for easy access and recognition. Many nonprofit groups have seen success through hosting contests and posting special information on their pages.
2) Foster Personal Communication. Part of Facebook’s popularity stems from the fact that it allows a diverse range of groups to communicate with one another. In the nonprofit sector, relationships are absolutely critical to the success of an organization. Whether it is through messages to an inbox or an instant message, organizations now have the ability to talk one-on-one with potential donors. Most people today will go online for information before they pick up a telephone, so having a team dedicated to communicating via social media sites can be a crucial asset to any type of company.
3) Utilize Ads. Since its implementation, Facebook has grown into an advertisement hub. It is impossible to log on without seeing multiple ads running down the right side of the screen. Creating Facebook ads is yet another opportunity for corporations. Although this does apply more to business-oriented firms, nonprofits can also use ads to get information to a target audience. The creator of the ad can pick and choose the demographic information that he or she finds relevant, and Facebook pushes these messages out to people who meet the specified criteria.
Social Media Site #2: Twitter
Over the past few years, the popularity of Twitter has exploded. Twitter is essentially a forum to share messages, but these messages have a 140-character limit. Although this might restrict some of the creative opportunities for businesses, there are still ways to push out meaningful information.
1) Use Hashtags Strategically. Twitter does a great job of grouping topics together through the use of “hashtags.” A hashtag is symbolized by the “#” character and it can be put before any word. This hyperlinks the word, and it is then clumped together with similar tweets. Now, there is some science to this. Twitter has a feature on the left-hand side on the screen that lists “trending topics” for the given geographical region. This is essentially a list of topics that people have hashtagged and are interested in at that time. If an organization can somehow find a way to tie in one of these trending topics to its tweet, it has a better chance of being seen. This is difficult because the trending topics won’t always be totally relevant, but having a creative mind that can make the two messages connect will do wonders for an organization’s exposure.
2) Distribute Coupons and Discounts. Twitter is a great platform for distributing special offers and hosting contests. This applies to business corporations as well as nonprofit organizations. For example, a business could tweet about a 30 percent off coupon, but make it applicable only to those who can show that they received the tweet on their computer or phone. In turn, this will compel more tech-savvy individuals to follow that company’s twitter account. A nonprofit could host a contest, such as offering a prize to the person who re-tweets the organization the most or recruits the most followers. This allows companies to form more personal relationships with their target demographics.
Social Media Site #3: Pinterest
Pinterest is a relatively new site that specializes in the distribution and organization of various images. Pinterest allows members to view various categories of photographs and “pin” their favorites onto “boards” that they create. This adds an entirely new, visually compelling approach to marketing. Pinterest is of special interest to nonprofit groups simply because it establishes an emotional connection between the image and the viewer. The sense of inspiration that flows from Pinterest is directly paralleled by the nonprofits themselves, thus making the two an unstoppable team.
1) Add a “Pin It” Button to Your Organization’s Website. By adding a “Pin It” button to your organization’s website, visitors then have the option to pin any of the images from your site on one of their boards. For example, say you are a nonprofit group and you post pictures of people helping out in the local community. Someone who sees this might decide to pin these photos to one of their boards. Other Pinterest users will see this new pin on their homepage and will be exposed to your organization. It’s as simple as that.
2) Get the Community Involved. Pinterest is a good way to facilitate community involvement. Nonprofits can ask people to upload photos of themselves doing service work around the community or supporting their favorite nonprofit cause. This ensures that people are actually interacting with their community, and it allows the organization to get to know its customers and donors on a more intimate level. For nonprofit organizations, this relationship is the groundwork for promoting positive social change. People often say that pictures speak a thousand words, and in this case the phrase rings true.
3) Encourage Employees To Pin. Pinterest is far from static. Users are pinning every minute and it can quickly become a challenge for an organization to stay on top of its ball game. In order to make sure that an organization is in front of the competition, it can encourage all workers to open a Pinterest account and create boards. They can then pin images that are relevant to the organization’s values and overarching goals. A somewhat lesser known fact is that Pinterest users can actually upload and pin videos as well as still photographs. Most nonprofit organizations already have videos that advocate their cause, so simply pinning these videos would be a great marketing tool.
There are an infinite number of social networking sites, and each one offers unique features. They all have the power to help your nonprofit organization, but these sites are not magic. You can’t just create a page and hope for the best. The use of this emerging technology requires strategic planning and accurate implementation. Once these approaches are fully developed, they can take your organization in a whole new direction. The way the world works is always changing, and by changing with it we can help shape the future.