Among non-profit organizations, Facebook is still the shining star of social media platforms, and Twitter is a bright second, while LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest and Instagram just kind of give off a soft glow in the background.
At least that was the gist of what our panel of non-profit social media experts said Wednesday (November 19, 2014) at the Social Media Breakfast Madison, held at the River Food Pantry on Madison’s East Side.
The panelists – each representing a non-profit in the Madison area – seemed to agree that Facebook is the dominant platform for them because it allows them to capture people’s attention through images and text.
“The vast majority of our content is on Facebook because our content is so visual and it’s about storytelling,” said Megan Sullivan, a founding board member of Fetch Wisconsin Rescue.
“We serve children but we market to their parents, mostly women in the 30s and 40s on Facebook,” said Katie Hensel, Executive Director and Founder of Tri 4 Schools.
The event’s host, Pat Gallagher of the River Food Pantry, said he focuses almost exclusively on Facebook, using it primarily for informational purposes such as highlighting events at the Pantry. Pat said he isn’t shy about asking his supporters face-to-face to “like” the page because that helps spread information.
Theresa Vander Woude, Communications Coordinator for the Clean Lakes Alliance, said she also uses Pinterest (finding ideas for events) and Instagram but mainly Facebook and Twitter (following scientists that highlight information important to clean lakes). Her Facebook audience, she said, is slightly older but made up of the very important demographic of people and organizations that support the Alliance.
Alnisa Allgood, Executive Director of Nonprofit Tech, a nonprofit technology consultancy, said the organizations she works with primarily use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and “a little Google Plus.” She said she has an Instagram account but doesn’t use it. On Facebook, she said, “we connect with other nonprofits and pull their information into our feed.” They use LinkedIn primarily for making connections. “It’s like my daily Rolodex,” she said. She said she does use Google Hangouts to offer technology education to nonprofits and uses a “fair amount” of YouTube, “but probably not as much as we could.”
Megan from Wisconsin Rescue said she hasn’t used Twitter very much so far but might in the future. “We have a LinkedIn page but it hasn’t been a focus. And we haven’t touched Google Plus yet.”
Katie Hensel, Executive Director and Founder of Tri 4 Schools, said she uses Twitter daily for connections, largely keeping in touch with local media outlets and reporters, and that she is “trying to amp up our YouTube channel” with videos.
Some of the panelists said they have modest budgets to boost Facebook posts and believe it is valuable to spend a little money.
Megan uses a monthly boost budget of $40 and that gets her 500-700 new followers a month “because it gets our page out in front of new people. I don’t know how people do it without paid promotion.”
Alnisa agreed, saying a non-profit can benefit from as little as $250 a year. That could be spent on small post promotions throughout the year and a little for ads. Mix that in with a content strategy, Alnisa said, using the one-to-four formula: Provide four other things for every one promotion of an event or request message. For those other posts, she said, take advantage of Facebook’s ability to pull information from newspapers or like-minded organizations with great visuals. “Use their visuals,” she said, because Facebook posts with good visuals get much more engagement.
Pat from River Food Pantry said he tries to do just that, mixing in information posts such as a shout-out for National Nutrition Month rather than always asking for volunteers or money or promoting events.
Katie said it’s sometimes fun and very effective to be come up with creative strategies. For example, she said, her board members agreed to make a donation for each new follower, a tactic that led directly to 360 new followers in one month.
Alnisa said you should always think of what your targeted audience is most interested in and then give them that information.
Panelists recommended that you pay close attention to your analytics, identifying which types of posts generate the most response, and what time of day posts are most effective. Every organization has a different audience, and their interests and online habits will be unique. Alnisa suggested that you use Facebook scheduler, Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule five or six posts a day over a period of time and monitor which ones get the most engagement.
Katie mentioned that she had a lot of success promoting Giving Tuesday, a pre-holiday event dedicated to encourage people to give back to their communities. Using the hashtag #GivingTuesday, she said, Tri4 Schools set a goal last year of raising $3,000 and actually raised about $6,000. The keys to success, she and other panelists said, are to “pick a cause you know your fans are passionate about,” make the event fun on social media (post entertaining pictures along with your pitch), set specific and realistic goals, and make sure your biggest supporters are on board to get the ball rolling so that the campaign is perceived to be a success right from the start. That will encourage others to join in.
“People really want to bet on a winner,” Megan said.
The panelists said it is important for non-profit staff to communicate clearly and often with their supporters and board members to make sure they become engaged in social media efforts. Katie said she gives her board members packages of messages and images “so it’s really easy for them to copy and paste. I try to be very specific and make it really easy. All they have to do share it among their followers.”
“First things first,” added Alnisa. “Make sure your board members and staff are following your Facebook page.” Also, she said, it helps to give your staff, volunteers or board members roles on your social media pages.
Some panelists said they post the same or similar messages to all their social platforms but they agreed that if you have time it is best to customize each message for the specific audience on a social media platform. In other words, an approach that works on Facebook might not work so well on Twitter and most likely won’t on LinkedIn.
“Sometimes people must decide, is this appropriate for Facebook, is it appropriate for Twitter, or is it appropriate for both?” Alnisa said. “You have to decide what makes sense and who the audience is. Once you start a social media platform you have a brand new audience and you need to get to know them.”
The River Food Pantry provides free groceries, clothing and other needs to Madison families. It serves more than 600 families every week, with hot meals three times a week, baked at its own kitchen. It also has a bakery job training program. Pat said RFP accepts donations of food, clothing and money and has volunteer opportunities. To find out how you can help, go to RiverFoodPantry.org.
Written by Bill Hurley, (@billhurleymedia / billhurleymedia.com / beachmaniac.com) Editor, writer, social media strategist, website developer, digital publisher. BillHurleyMail@gmail.com, Bill@smbmad.org.
Photography by Bob Wydra: