Handy Nonprofit Tips to Piggyback on 3 Social Media Trends


Guest Post by Claire Axelrad

When it comes to offering nonprofits social media marketing advice, I regularly look to what’s trending in the world of small businesses.  They’re often similar to nonprofits in size, resources, and expertise, yet they’re also a bit ahead of the nonprofit curve. Sad, but true.  So…

Let me get you up to speed!

First, let me reassure you: what I’m about to share is information you can use. I’m not going to tell you to:

  • Set up shop on every fly-by-night social platform you may be hearing about.
  • Invest in a separate strategy so you can reach Millennials.
  • Invest tens of thousands of dollars in advertising.

I’m simply going to suggest you be strategic. Work smart. Apply marketing rigor (i.e., a documented social media routine) to yield measurable results.

Buffer’s 2016 State of Social Media revealed three trends emerging. Since your nonprofit competes for attention with every single business out there, it behooves you to pay attention and adjust your own social media strategy accordingly.

1. Social media platforms entered the consolidation phase.

The good news from the research is there are no new “hot” social media trends. Consolidation is beating innovation. You can settle in, and focus.


-Facebook – While it’s the top platform, 19% of small businesses will put less effort into Facebook as it has reached a saturated point for a fifth of them. Evaluate whether this is true for you. For nonprofit specific advice, I suggest you read John Haydon and Julia C. Campbell.

-YouTube – It’s now the second-largest search engine after Google. Be present or miss search opportunities.

-Live video – Greater usage of video content continues, extending a trend from 2015. Use video wherever you think you’ll stand out. Not just on YouTube, but on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, your blog and your website. Video is easy to make these days; anyone with a smartphone can do it. It’s personal, tangible and a great way to tell a story.

2. Social media became the media.

In the recent presidential campaign, folks got a preponderance of news from Facebook and Twitter. As this evolution continues, social media will be treated the same way as traditional media was previously treated.


– Invest in organic search and paid advertising. To be visible you’ll have to invest time and money. You can’t rely on people finding you by accident.

– Invest in your own social media (aka: blogs). I’ve long been a blog proponent because blogs give you a great way to build relationships with folks using your own No matter what happens with other businesses consolidating (or tanking), you own (1) your blog content and (2) your subscriber list. No one can take them from you, or mess with them in a way that negatively impacts your reach. Blogs also enable folks to find you via search.

The number one way folks find new brands today – yes, you’re a brand – is online.

3. Social media strategy must be integrated into your marketing.

One of the principle reasons nonprofits don’t invest more in social media is that they aren’t able to see the return on investment. They have a bottom line for other things, but not for social media. You must build measurement of social media ROI into your plan.


– Start with the bottom line. Build a goal-based social media strategy that answers the question: “What, specifically, do we want to get out of this?”

– Eschew vague goals like “create greater awareness” or “grow numbers of followers.” If you grow your Facebook followers from 1,000 to 1375, is that good?  Who knows if you didn’t set a goal and if you don’t know what each additional Facebook follower is worth to you in terms of engagement and/or investment?

– Make social media someone’s job. It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone’s full-time job. But it must be spelled out, and the employees responsible must be held accountable for results.

– Integrate social media with development (fundraising and marketing) in a written plan. Buffer’s research revealed that small businesses use social media primarily for awareness-building purposes that don’t provide measurable results. They also do it “catch as catch can.” UMass Dartmouth Inc 500 Research found 2/3 of small businesses did not have a documented social media strategy. Don’t emulate them!

– Use social media personas to target your audience.

– Incorporate measures to demonstrate you’ve transformed social media distribution into desired actions (e.g., advocacy, shares, comments, sign-ups, attendance, donations, sales). Heidi Cohen recommends the following metrics for small businesses; they apply to nonprofits as well. To learn more about how to do this, specifically from a nonprofit perspective, look to Beth Kanter and M+R.

The Bottom Line

Don’t make this yet another year you think: “I’m sure social media is doing something for us… I’m just not sure what.

If you’re having trouble finding time and resources to devote to social media, you’re making a decision… you’re deciding that social media isn’t important.

Don’t make that mistake.  Social media is important in 2017.  In fact, it’s the media.

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About the Author

Claire Axelrad is a well-respected fundraising consultant, author and speaker and the founder of Clairification.  She has over 30 years experience helping non-profits build cultures of philanthropy, not fundraising.

Photo Credit: Jason Howie