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5 Examples Of Nonprofit Social Media Strategies (And What You Can Learn From Them)

Author: Tatiana Morand
November 7, 2019
🕑 9 min read

This is a guest post from Kayleigh Alexandra, content writer at MicroStartups

Small budgets require creative thinking, and social media is a promotional channel with a lot of potential for reach and engagement even if you aren’t able to spend a lot.

However, that doesn’t mean you can just send out a few Tweets and call it a day.

I’ve seen too many nonprofits only posting on Facebook once a year — which just leads them to #fail and conclude that social media doesn’t work.

That’s why if you’re drafting a social media strategy for your nonprofit, it’s worth looking to others to see what they’ve done.

Read More: Check out our complete guides on how to get started on each of the major social media platforms for nonprofits: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram

Let’s take a look at the five best nonprofit social media strategies I’ve come across lately, and consider how you can use them to create your own message.

  1. WWF
  2. Save The Children
  3. Truth Initiative
  4. Make-A-Wish Foundation

World Wide Fund for Nature: Earth Hour

The World Wide Fund For Nature needs no introduction. Although they focus on many different environmental issues, one of the biggest challenges they face is climate change. Rising sea levels and increased temperatures pose great challenges to the natural world, but it’s often eclipsed by the domestic impact of climate change on individuals.

So WWF launched Earth Hour, a social media campaign that called for everyone — individuals and businesses alike — to switch off their lights for one hour. This reflected their efforts to tackle climate change and preserve the world’s wilderness.

2017 marked the campaign’s 10th anniversary, and on the 25th March, millions of people and thousands of landmarks around the world turned their lights off for a single hour. The WWF used the #EarthHour hashtag (amongst others) to galvanize its followers, generating over 2 billion impressions as a result.

What you can learn from them

Even if you’re not a huge nonprofit like WWF, it’s still possible to see success using social features like they did. Beyond their campaign’s hashtags, the WWF also created a unique Facebook profile photo that let people show their support for Earth Hour before it happened.

This is a strategy used by countless nonprofits, most notably after the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. It’s a great way to raise awareness via visuals, rather than through copy. Create a unique profile photo overlay that encapsulates the essence of your campaign and pique the curiosity of people who haven’t yet heard of your cause.

Since Facebook is so focused on building connections with people you know from the real world, this is the perfect opportunity to tap into that personal connection to drive awareness for your cause.

But the WWF campaign’s success was also due to its limited timeframe. In this example, a single hour time limit meant individuals were compelled to engage with the campaign and its global goal lest they miss out.

So, how can you replicate this kind of success?

Set a time limit for your social campaign and make it clear across all messages. Use power words that elicit action, such as “now” or “hurry”. This subconsciously galvanizes individuals into action through language.

Including countdown timers on your page are also an effective means of creating a sense of urgency. This prevents potential supporters from dithering about a decision by increasing fear or anxiety around missing out on something, thus making them more willing to act.

You can also drive this further with concurrent email marketing campaigns. Use email marketing automation to schedule messages to your followers that increase in urgency as your campaign progresses.

Working alongside your social strategy, this forms a multipronged attack that gives your followers no quarter. While this might seem aggressive from a B2C commercial brand, such a strategy is justified for nonprofits by the gravity of your cause.

Save The Children: get emotional to go viral

Save The Children is a UK-based organization that aims to improve the lives and wellbeing of children around the world. Children in warzones are particularly at risk, especially those in far-flung countries that many Westerners feel distanced from.

Obviously, when people in need — even children — are so far away, it’s difficult to make your message resonate. Physical distance creates emotional distance, and people might be reluctant to donate as a result.

To counter this, Save The Children created the following video:

The video puts a Western child in the situation of a child from a far-off (but very real) warzone. It closes the aforementioned distance and drives donations, awareness, and video shares as a result.

What you can learn from them

Viral videos aren’t out of the realm of possibility for nonprofits on a budget. Virtually every smartphone has good recording capabilities, and cheap video editing software makes it easy to craft slick videos that are perfect for social.

But while virality can be achieved overnight, actually planning a viral video is less instant. The creative entrepreneur Jamie Salvatori identifies the key ingredient as user self-interest: “You’ve got to think about when someone shares this video, what is it saying about them?

For nonprofits, this means compelling people to show their social media circles that they care. This is achieved by creating an emotional narrative that tugs on the heartstrings. It evokes sympathy, outrage, sadness, joy — strong emotions that compel people to share with the world.

Your video needs to hit your donors’ pain points — meaning that the emotional crux of your message, whether it’s the plight of impoverished refugees or the mass extinction of endangered animals, should be at your video’s core.

Read More: An Introduction to Nonprofit Storytelling

Truth Initiative: Big Tobacco Be Like

Everyone knows smoking is bad for you, but with the Big Tobacco lobby preventing any real legislation against it (with smoking alternatives like flavored vapes even being outlawed), quitting can feel like a losing battle.

But the Truth Initiative is taking on the fight against Big Tobacco, one step at a time. Recognizing that many young people hide behind the guise of ‘social smoking’ rather than admitting they smoke outright, the nonprofit spearheaded their #BigTobaccoBeLike social strategy.

The campaign used social influencers such as Logan Paul (pre-controversy) to highlight the ways Big Tobacco capitalized on young people’s casual attitudes to smoking. The video is irreverent and uncondescending, and as a result the message lands genuinely.

What you can learn from them

What really sets this strategy apart is its ability to appeal to younger audiences without appearing clumsy or out-of-touch. This is something countless brands (not just nonprofits) fall prey to when trying to engage millennials or Gen Y audiences — but Truth Initiative achieves this perfectly.

Making your causes engaging to young audiences requires a deep awareness of how this market communicates. That means using cultural references and vernacular they understand, something even the biggest brands struggle with from time to time.

This shows why it’s so important to do your audience research and create comprehensive donor personas to inform your marketing. The more you know about the people who follow you, the more able you’ll be to engage them with your content.

Some data points to look at are:

  • Other accounts they follow and share content from on social media
  • What posts of yours get the most engagement
  • What kind of content performs best (such as links you share vs. videos)

Use this to build your personas and create lists of references, vocabulary, and pain points to appeal to your supporters effectively and appropriately.

Read More: 7 Tips to Create a Fundraising Video to Increase Donations

Make-A-Wish: using emotive content to solicit native donations

Make-A-Wish is renowned around the world for, as the name suggests, making sick children’s wishes come true. From skydiving to meeting their favorite superhero, Make-A-Wish makes it happen.

But making dreams come true is a costly initiative. So, to help show how they’ve impacted children’s lives, Make-A-Wish relies on a social content calendar that includes emotive videos of happy beneficiaries. It capitalizes on these sentimental stories by encouraging users to make a donation via the Donate button at the top of its Facebook page.

Engaged users can seamlessly make a donation right there on Facebook — easy, convenient, and bolstered by emotionally-stimulating videos. It’s a flawless strategy that drives donations time and again.

What you can learn from them

Take advantage of everything your social channels have to offer and make action easy. Build it into your online presence and use persuasive content (such as emotive videos) to elicit donations natively within the platform.

Similarly, if you have an online store for your nonprofit, you could go beyond soliciting donations and encourage users to make a purchase via your social platform too.

Most good ecommerce platforms incorporate social selling into their offering, letting you make products and donating available on Facebook, Instagram, and so on.

In short, enable native action for your audience, no matter what that action may be — donating, signing up for an email newsletter, or making a purchase. People are inherently lazy, so the easier you can make it to take action, the better.

Read More: 4 Tactics You Definitely Aren’t Using to Grow Your Nonprofit Email List

WATERisLIFE: First World Problems

The #FirstWorldProblems hashtag is predominantly used by people humorously sending up their day-to-day issues that don’t actually matter — things like Starbucks being out of their favorite drink or their earphones getting tangled up in their pockets.

nonprofit social media strategy

But the nonprofit WATERisLIFE saw this hashtag as an opportunity to highlight third world problems of water sanitation and hygiene.

They hijacked the #FirstWorldProblems hashtags to promote their First World Problems Anthem video, in which citizens of poor countries read out these tweets:

The contrast between petty first world problems and the actual problems of third world countries is stark. Consequently, it has a powerful message that resonates with audiences long after they’ve finished watching.

What you can learn from them

The success of WATERisLIFE’s campaign lies in its ability to tap into a trend. By hijacking or capitalizing on a social trend (also known as newsjacking), you’re able to become part of the conversation online.

This starts by knowing your audience. Use the social listening tips outlined above to identify key events that matter to your target market. When performed regularly, this is useful for spotting one-off trends that arise (like the #FirstWorldProblems hashtag). Even just doing a quick scan through the Trends that appear on the right side of Twitter can help you see what’s going on — although not all topics will be relevant to your organization, you never know what you’ll be able to work with.

You can also combine this with Google Trends analysis to spot regular trends that happen every year, such as the Super Bowl. While hijacking these trends isn’t guaranteed, incorporating it into your marketing still makes you part of the online conversation while keeping it relevant too.

How You Can Create a Nonprofit Social Media Strategy

Now that you’ve read through these examples, you might be wondering: how can you follow suit? Although there are four key questions to ask yourself before starting to post, the most important thing to remember is consistency.

Even if you just start with an hour or two every week, you’ll start seeing what kinds of content resonates with your audience. The more you share, the more data you’ll be able to compare to figure out what works.

And by incorporating these tactics into your social media plan, you’ll get a head start on some great campaign ideas.

Do you have any advice on creating a nonprofit social media strategy, or have any examples you’d like to share? Comment below and let me know!

Additional Resources:

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