5 Things Nonprofits Should Do Online

Photo by Sean MacEntee
Photo by Sean MacEntee

About three times a week, I leaf through my entire Twitter feed to see what is going on in the great wide world. In doing so, I come across a lot of great things, like blog posts that are informative and companies I’ve never heard of. I also tend to find at least two to three things a week that absolutely drive me bonkers! Instead of focusing on what I see that I would deem wrong, however, I’d like to offer some tips on what nonprofits could do to increase the effectiveness of their social media marketing campaigns.

1. Drive traffic to pages that mesh well with your Facebook post or tweet.

It’s very important to make sure that your messaging remains consistent as people travel across your various online outposts. If someone sees a tweet about how you want to save the wolves, for example, taking them to a page all about robins will represent a disconnect. Even more confusing would be if you sent out a tweet making a joke about saving wolves and then you link people to your cause which is all about saving wolves. Which representation is the real you? What is the real cause of your message?

Actionable Tip: Consider your website landing pages as a continuation of the social media discussion. The copy on your page can be a continuation of the thought you began on Twitter, Facebook, or other online platforms. 

2. Encourage interaction. Don’t overplay the “expert” card.

When you are passionate about a cause, or really anything, it can be very easy to begin to talk about that issue in a way that comes off as stuck up or snobby. This is an especially easy trap to fall into on social media sites because you want to promote what your cause is doing and you want people to know that your knowledge is solid on the subject.

Actionable Tip: Instead of dominating your feed with your own blog posts or bits of knowledge, send out questions and share the work of other causes related to yours. Be ok with the fact that you don’t know everything (or at least be ok with presenting the facade that you don’t know everything).

3. Accurately preview what kind of content people will see when they click your link.

Let’s face it. As a cause, one of your primary goals online is probably to try to increase contributions for your organization’s funding. Another truth: asking people to donate money online can be hard to do. It can feel like you’re turning into a used car salesman asking people for money right there in the public stream.

One way to make the ask without feeling guilty about it is to be 100% honest about where you are driving your traffic. For example, if you tweet, “XYZ issue is really in need of your help” someone might think they are just going to go to an informative page. If you take them to your donation form, they might feel a little turned off. Be honest. Say, “XYZ issue is really in need of your help. To learn more and to donate, visit us here.” Now you have been completely forthright about the purpose of your tweet, and where someone will end up if they click your link.

Actionable Tip: In order to avoid confusion, make sure that your tweets are short enough so that when people retweet you, the information about your content can still be shared. If the tweet is too long, that important information is likely to be cut out by the person sharing your tweet.

4. Use hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, and G+ strategically.

Hashtags can be extremely useful, especially in terms of tying together a lot of individual tweets into a single conversation that would be important to your cause. However, this benefit of hashtags can often be masked by overuse of hashtags, particularly hashtags that aren’t that useful like #thanks or #cat. A modicum of hashtag usage can be extremely effective, but overuse can actually hurt instead of help.

Actionable Tip: Have a conversation with everyone in your cause about some really important keywords tied to what you are working for. Find ways to use those hashtags strategically as part of the content your organization shares. That way you can follow the conversation, and also help people correspond your particular cause to that important word.

5. Use that “about” or “bio” space wisely.

Your “about” or “bio” section is some of the most valuable online real estate you have, if you think about it. You can offer information about what you are all about, you can link to your website, and you can even update it to talk about time-specific goals. Unfortunately, a lot of people and causes use that valuable space to talk about more personal interests and hobbies. Particularly if you have individuals sharing your organization’s content, try to encourage them to use that space wisely. It’s great that they love running, but if that does not pertain to your cause it’s not helping you out a lot.

Actionable Tip: If you have multiple people posting content online for your cause, consider creating a sort of bio template. It doesn’t have to be worded the same way but the same general points would be presented. This will help people understand the accounts are related and will also help to build your brand. 

Have you tried any of these tips? What were your results? We’d love to hear from you!