The Social Observer

The Social Media Marketing Blog by SNHU Students

How a Nonprofit Fails at Social Media


How Nonprofits Fail at Social Media

Everyone seems to be posting about ways to succeed in social media, but what about the “don’ts?” If you work for a nonprofit, and are looking to expand your social media horizons, get ready for four steps to failure!

Don’t let your nonprofit have a strategy

A common mistake made by those new to social media platforms is assuming that social media can run itself. Some aspects of social media are self-sustaining, such as campaigns that go viral (think ALS ice bucket challenge—which actually wasn’t even started by the ALS foundation). However, simply throwing posts and links at your audience willy nilly is like playing darts while blindfolded. You may get lucky here and there, but you won’t be nearly as productive as you would be with a strategy in place. A social media strategy ought to:

  1. Target your audience (ask: what are the demographics of your donors? Which donor audiences do you want to penetrate?)
  2. Choose purposeful communication channels (ask: where are your donors getting content? Your website? Your blog? Facebook? Instagram?)
  3. Outline a plan to engage (ask: who will run your social media applications? How will you respond to negative feedback? To positive feedback?)

Be a one-way megaphone

Social media platforms exist for interaction. Twitter’s mission is “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” Facebook, similarly, exists to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” So many organizations—for-profit and nonprofit alike—make the mistake of using social media as a one-way megaphone to broadcast their products and services to the world. This is effective to a degree; but eventually your audience will tire from hearing the same monotonous content, and will eventually put you on mute. CC Chapman, writer of Content Rules encourages marketers to reimagine the ways in which their messages are communicated. Here are some ways that nonprofits can use social media to engage with their communities.

Ignore who your nonprofit’s audience is (and post irrelevant content)

A nonprofit organization is only as good as its stakeholders. If you only post things that you find interesting or think may hold stakeholders’ interest, you risk losing the very foundation for your company. Knowing your audience involves learning both the demographics (external attributes) and psychographics (internal/emotional/mental attributes) of your stakeholders. Then you will be able to post content that is relevant and stimulating. Knowing your audience involves everything from the voice/language you use in your blog to the communication channels you choose.

Only post plain text

Why do nonprofits have such boring content? This is a mold we have to break out of. A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is probably worth a million words. Words in themselves are very important and form the core of content strategy (why else would I be writing this article?); but without visual content, your posts will be as dry as a biscuit without gravy. Post infographics, pictures, and videos that catch your audience’s attention and connects them with your written content.

How do nonprofits fail at social media? By not having a strategy, shouting at an unknown audience, and posting boring content. There’s a lot of nonprofit organizations that are succeeding at social media engagement. Read about some of the top ones here. And while we’re at it, here are some Social Media Marketing Best Practices for Nonprofits, as outlined by Salsa.

Category: Integrating with Traditional Marketing

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