How Nonprofits Can Catch the Social Media Train

How Nonprofits Can Catch the Social Media Train

Kelly and WNA intern Kamene Dornubari-Ogidi share insights from a social media training held by One Voice Central Texas. Check out live tweets and photos with the event hashtag, #OneVoiceCTX.

Nonprofits have progressively embraced the dynamic, connective utility of social media platforms in educational campaigns, event and donor outreach. Social media has also proved to be a notoriously slippery tool to effectively apply. Apropos of wrangling social media for organizational goals and growth, One Voice Central Texas recently organized a social media training featuring a panel of some of Austin’s savviest social media communicators. Panelists included Matt Kouri, Executive Director of Greenlights; Monica Williams, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Austin Lyric Opera and Founder for GivingCity Austin; Joah Spearman, Founder and CEO of; and Brooke McMillan, Founder of Social Llama Consulting. The collective expertise of these One Voice panelists has been distilled to a few basic rules of thumb for effectuality on social media.

 1. Don’t be Boring.

The ‘point’ of social media is active, personal engagement. Digitally.

  • Post with an intent to evoke pathos. Social media works best when it is emotionally engaging.
  • Be brief; the average post is given a cursory 8 seconds. Use succinct, direct language to hook the attention of your followers.
  • Use provocative images and links to tell your story.
  • A great example of succinct, emotionally engaging social media: Humans of New York on Facebook

 2. Tell a Story.

An organization’s ‘personal voice’ is foundational to telling its story, its values-driven endeavors. A story fleshes out and personalizes your organization, resulting in greater returns when the time inevitably comes for event or donor outreach.

  • Shareable graphics. They are the most potent tool to provocatively communicate an organization’s story.
  • Just share. Share insights, opinions, client stories, and interesting facts.
  • Constant engagement. Think of social media as a radio channel, keep streaming or there is dead air. Dead air is disconnection, a break in rapport between you and your audience.
  • Get in on a good moment. Utilize powerful campaigns and and organizations you’re affiliated with. A great way to do this is by repurposing content (quotes, photos, etc.) from a report or new story and personalizing them for your audience.

3. Know Your Platform.

The various social media platforms often leave small, nonprofit communications teams stumped. Think ‘different platform, different functionality’.

  • Instagram.
    • Instagram is the visual slideshow that tells an organization’s story. It is the heavily filtered image of your organization’s vision, mission, and experience.
    • It is a must-have in an organization’s social media plan. As a highly popular, easily accessible and inherently provocative experience, it more succinctly personalizes the organization and their story.
  • Twitter.
    •  Twitter is discourse. It is a continuous conversation and thus most valuable when used to communicate with those already interested and following the account.
    • Tweet at people. That is how you initiate and carry conversation. That is how they know you’re there.
    • A great place to link sharable graphics via Instagram, integrating the invaluable storytelling capital of the jpg.
    • Be consistently constant. Twitter requires constant communication. Dead air on twitter can quickly translate to a loss of relevance. Twitter’s is a swiftly moving current and you don’t want to be left by the wayside.
  • Facebook.
    • Don’t put all your eggs in the Facebook basket. Facebook’s cachet has fallen in the past year and as such, it has a dramatically lower content value.
    • Use Facebook to elaborate on your stories. Facebook posts are usually passively read and as such present an opportunity to write detailed paragraph updates. Append these posts with a re-blogged photograph linking back to a respective Twitter or Instagram account. This integration redirects followers to your active storytelling hubs.

 4. Talk About Social Media in Real Life.

Meaningful engagement via social media is most effective when accompanied by word of mouth. Engage staff, donors and volunteers about what they should be interested in, what works in your industry, etc. Engage them the way you should the online community.