Social Media & the Non-Profit: the Systematic Storytelling Approach

Overcoming Barriers to Participation

I have heard all the excuses. “I have nothing to say on social media.” “I don’t have the time to spend on social media.” “Social media is just not what I do.” Great and acceptable if you have the ability to pay someone to do it for you. But, that’s not the case for many non-profits. Even if you have someone doing it for you, your business can benefit from your understanding of the task at hand.

First, let me broadly respond to your excuses. As a business owner, you must learn to watch and account for what you do. In other words, learn from your mistakes and successes. Business analytics is big business. It is also a way to continually improve on your business. Knowing what is occurring is important to knowing what to innovate, reinvest, or discontinue. You have a ton of content to post. It may be ill-formed and out of context, but you have content.

sadCatThough others use social media as a personal diary, you don’t have to use it that way. More specifically, it is a diary of sorts, but your content can be the progress of your business, not the latest activities of your cat.

What to post? Consider the message, personality, and social good of your brand. Is it about uplifting quotes, challenging calls to action, family values, jamming on music, bucket lists, or what?

How open should you be? Whatever you are willing to yell in the public square is fair game. More strategically, what information informs your target consumer? What topics are your demographic already talking about?

Content creation

Social media is not a chore to be done. It is an outlet for your creativity and productivity. Your business needs to create. Your business needs to market itself. Social media is your journal of sorts.

Similar to your core business, social media is about content. Different maybe from your core business, social media is about story moments. Your job is to present those moments in a compelling way. It may not be simple, but you have learned that systematic beats simple every day of the week.

Always collect:

  • Motivational statements that fit your business. These make easy posts especially when they are pictures with words or memes.
  • Blog Ideas that would inform your customers. Include how to use your service or make donations. Jot down a title and the point the blog could make or discussion that it adds to.
  • Photos from Events or service delivery. Be aware to collect model releases. You may want to include a line to that effect in your application or customer profile form.
  • Stories & Quotes from real people, clients, employees, board members, supporters. These are great fodder for posts and blogs.
  • Video from events, quick thoughts, and greetings. Special occasions like holidays or a new hire offer an opportunity to share a video message.

 Content Selection

Now, to the best part. Develop the story arc of your business for at least the next 30 days. It would be great if you could develop up to the next event, holiday, or fund drive conclusion. The story arc is the message you want viewers to take away from your social media posts as a whole. It has a beginning, middle, end, and a main point. You will also want to include a call to action.

Scheduling Content & Content Management

Sit with your team, in the context of your business model, informed by current events, hoping to trigger your call to action and map your story arc over the next 30 days or other time period.

Posting content can be the most significant barrier for many. This is where the time is drained. Beyond the obvious opportunity to hire someone to do it for you, other options exist in your systematic process. Focus on auto-posting, cross-posting and the ability to schedule posts.

wordpress-facebook-twitterIntegrate a content management system (CMS) like WordPress for your main web site. Such a system has built-in functions for auto-posting to ALL your social media accounts. It also allows you to schedule posts in advance. It’s a good idea to allot time each day for social media engagement, e.g. answering questions or responding to comments. But, these auto-posting and scheduled posting mean that you can create the content in advance and allow the CMS to do the posting over time.

You can set up posts to Facebook so that they auto-post to Twitter, and vice-versa. Instagram will post simultaneously to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Pinterest will simultaneously post to Facebook and Twitter. Use these features as time savers. Consider the best platform for your message. Then, post with the knowledge that it will be shared to others outlets.

I recommend a Facebook page for three important reasons. Cross-posting is the first. Scheduled posting is the second. Facebook is the only platform that enables scheduled posts. The third is analytics. Sharing from your Facebook post is tracked with a fairly informative report that can be integrated into your CMS for your information or for user triggering (i.e. they see that a post is popular. They check it out too).

From Barriers to Opportunities

Social media is not the end-all marketing platform. But, it is a relatively easy and effective way to rise in search engine rankings, engage with current customers, and inspire potential customers. Your non-profit must tell stories. Social media can be a way to get those stories shared and retold.