Basics of Twitter and Facebook for Nonprofits

by Eric Melin on November 1, 2012

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Nonprofits who avoid using social media are missing out on big opportunities to raise money and grow their supporter network.

The growth in fundraising for nonprofits through online outlets is pretty substantial. According to the M+R 2012 eNonprofit Study, online giving is up 20%, and 65% of nonprofit fundraising is being done through online sources.

This weekend I am speaking at the 4th annual Midwest Regional Engineers Without Borders-USA Conference (which is branded with the #EWBUSA2012 hashtag) and I’ll be talking about two basic concepts: The Basics of Twitter and Facebook for Nonprofits and the Power of Storytelling.

Since I’ve covered the storytelling presentation in this blog before, I wanted to concentrate today’s post on something that I don’t often get to discuss. What are the basic best practices for nonprofits on Twitter and Facebook? If you haven’t started a Facebook or Twitter profile for your nonprofit, chances are your goal is probably very simple. You want to engage people, make connections, and be able to leverage that following for fundraising. Am I right?

Here are some fundamentals for accomplishing that goal on the two biggest and most-used social networks for nonprofits. If you are a beginner and you haven’t even put a profile together before, these tips for nonprofits will be very useful.

For Twitter:

  1. Upload a logo first and then an appealing header photo that doesn’t have your logo in it.
  2. Be honest and real. Use your own voice. Stay positive.
  3. Tweet interesting news from across the web. If it’s not directly related to your cause, find a way to do that. Alternately, know your audience and the outlying topics they’d be interested in.
  4. 60% of your content should be from other sources. 30% should be conversation. 10% should be your own content. When sharing links, remember to @ people and give them credit.
  5. Follow and engage strategically. Twitter has a great suggestion tool now, but you may want to use their advanced search to find people talking about pertinent subjects.
  6. Live-tweet your events and others – Meeting people in the real world and following them on Twitter can cement relationships.
  7. Spread out your tweets. Don’t do a bunch in a row. Decide a frequency and stick with it. Schedule tweets using free tools like HootSuite or TweetDeck.
  8. As stated in #2, be nice. Part of that extends forward into your actual engagement. Support others and they’ll support you. Respond, engage, retweet, and follow.

Common Twitter questions:

What is a retweet and how can I do it? A retweet is a simple way to share others’ content. You can do that manually by placing an RT before somebody’s tweet or within the Twitter system. If you do it within Twitter, you can’t add your own comment, so I almost always use the RT method.

What are hashtags? Think of a hashtag as a live chatroom on a specific subject. You can click on them to discover discussions on topics you’re interested in and find people to follow who are also interested in those topics. When you use a hashtag in your tweet, it goes out to anyone following it, not just your followers. Here’s a list of popular nonprofit hashtags.

What is #FF? On Fridays, people often make a list of cool people that they suggest people follow. This isn’t as popular as it used to be, but is still a good way to thank your recent followers.

Also, don’t forget to add a Twitter plugin to website so people can see where on Twitter they can find you and that you are saying interesting things and conversing with people. It is a great way to boost your followers and it promotes the messaging on your Twitter feed to people who might otherwise not see it.

For Facebook:

  1. Upload logo as profile photo first, than an eye-catching photo for cover. The cover image will have to be larger and more hi-res.
  2. Select a custom URL for your page so its easy for people to find it.
  3. Decide how many administrators from your organization you will need and add them. Admins can suggest to friends that they like a page, which is a great way to get started building an audience.
  4. Tell your story – Part of doing this effectively is identifying your audience and making sure your personality suits them. What things will they be interested in seeing from you on Facebook?
  5. You must engage fans and members of your group to like, comment, share. This is the only way your posts will ever be seen by others. Interaction boosts the likelihood that others will see you in their News Feed. To boost engagement, ask questions of your audience and respond to them when they leave comments. Make them feel welcome and supported and they’ll keep coming back.
  6. Share your news, articles, blogs, and press releases — but remember to follow a similar rule as the 60/30/10 Twitter rule from above. You want people clicking on links they found in Facebook and being driven to your other assets, but you don’t want to over-saturate them with PR for your organization.
  7. Use photos and videos! This is huge. I can’t state it enough. People are more likely to comprehend a message quickly through a photo and way more likely to like, comment or share a photo than a link or text-only post. Videos take a bit more investment in time, but they often include images and are also attractive to share.
  8. Create Facebook Events and use them to invite people and discuss the event before/after it happens. If you’ve invited somebody and they haven’t “joined,” they can still see posts on that page, which may help them make up their mind. Invite people strategically. How many times have you gotten an invite for something that doesn’t even take place in your state? Don’t spam people with invites they can’t use.
  9. Engage other groups/organizations and always tag them (which means “like” them first). If you want people to spread your content, you’ll have to help others spread theirs. If your goals are similarly aligned, chances are your supporters will enjoy hearing about other organizations as well.
  10. Lastly, and this is the same as the Twitter plug-in idea, but add a Facebook plug-in to your website too, so others can find your Facebook Page from your website as well.

I know this only scratches the surface. If you’re a social media nonprofit beginner, what did I miss? If you’ve been doing this awhile, what things have you learned to maximize your success on these basic social platforms?

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