The Top 5 Questions Nonprofits Ask about Social Media

In today's high-touch digital world, almost every nonprofit organization has a presence on social media. Whether that's simply "set and forget" the channel and feed it every so often or whether you have full-on engagement, it can be challenging for nonprofits with small staffs to keep pace with the demand.

Pierpont’s Dori Ludwig and Amy Lach recently led a two-part session on nonprofit social media covering a range of topics—from the importance of monitoring social media and reviewing analytics to community engagement and uniform branding. As part of our 30th anniversary giving campaign, Pierpont experts are sharing industry knowledge and professional insights with Houston-area nonprofit organizations through a marketing series.

Below we recap the top 5 questions communicators had during the sessions.

Q: How can we best publicize our events?

A: Your social media posts, whether about an upcoming event or other featured content, should engage your audience by informing them, while including a call to action. One of the best ways to publicize an event and encourage participation is to link your social posts to more information, such as an event landing page or registration page. Using visuals (e.g., great photography/images, infographics or videos) is another way to engage your audience.

Additionally, sponsored social media posts enable you to amplify your event promotion further. Paid social media content increases the reach or impressions received, so your content can touch more people. Another way to engage your community and boost event awareness is to develop a catchy hashtag unique to your event that can be promoted for your social communities to use. This also enables you to track engagement during and after the event.

Q: What’s the best way to use a hashtag?

A: Depending upon which social media platform you’re using, hashtags can be used to track and encourage engagement around an event or topic. While Facebook is the preferred social media platform for nonprofits according to HubSpot, hashtags aren’t the most popular way to drive engagement on the channel. Our advice is to use them strategically and more sparingly on Facebook than on Twitter or Instagram, where hashtags are more prevalent.

Hashtags on Twitter allow nonprofits to broaden their audience and gain additional followers, but you should be careful to not over use them with the limited number of characters allowed per tweet. One to two hashtags per tweet are sufficient. Incorporating a visual element into your social posts coupled with a hashtag can help boost impressions, which is why Instagram is a great platform for leveraging hashtags. Since Instagram is image based and character counts are not limited within each post, your audience can engage visually with the hashtags you use, and you’re not limited in how many you can include with each post. Instagram is also effective in tracking community engagement around hashtags by linking similar posts from an event or around a topic together.

Q: How do I engage our employees on social media?

A: Employees can be a nonprofit organization's most influential brand ambassadors. They are your publicists, your keystone community members and the driving force behind your organization. Engaging employees may seem difficult at first, but empowering them to be a part of your organization’s brand on social media is the best way to grow your presence and expand your audience. If your teams are unsure about how to engage on social or may just need a brush up on skills, try coordinating a training workshop over lunch about how to participate effectively. Educate your team on which platforms your organization is active on, what content is available to like and share with their friends and followers and how they can amplify your organization’s message through social media.

After educating your employees on your social media strategy, keep the line of internal communication open, so they can be more effective advocates for your brand. If you have new content to share or upcoming events to promote, let them know about it, so they can pass along your organization’s social media posts to their personal audiences. Encouraging a culture of sharing and collaboration will not only increase your brand’s sphere of influence, but will also foster a feeling of empowerment and purpose within your team.

Q: Do I need a social media policy?

A: It is important to have a social media policy because it sets a standard of conduct and expectations for employees to follow. Social media is a great way for an organization’s employees to share their insight, connect with one another and build their professional network. However, your employees should be mindful of how their actions and words can reflect upon your organization. When creating a social media policy, keep in mind that though employees should be able to express themselves freely on their personal social media accounts, they should adhere to basic guidelines that protect the privacy and reputation of your organization and its stakeholders.

Q: What is the best nonprofit social media advice?

A: Know your stakeholders. Whether your nonprofit is dedicated to a specific cause, issue or group, knowing your stakeholders is essential. A nonprofit’s employees, volunteers, board of directors and community members are its biggest assets, acting as the core group for social media engagement and awareness. Engaging stakeholders on social media is vital to a nonprofit’s success and growth, because they are the ones who will carry the organization’s mission into the community and be the face of your brand.

Josh Davis is an intern at Pierpont Communications, supporting clients with marketing, social media and public relations initiatives.