Nonprofits have a dilemma. The classic nonprofit “ask” of money and time is high (who really has enough of either), but the classic nonprofit budgets are too low, too often. Those Sarah McLaughlin TV spots don’t come cheap!
Enter social media. Nonprofit organizations already know it’s a great way to get attention and target people who are passionate about their cause. What they don’t always know is how to use it properly.
Through Tracx-sponsored events in DC and NYC we unearthed the top ten ways nonprofits are grabbing attention and generating awareness through successful social media campaigns:
1. Attract attention with authenticity.
The ALS #IceBucketChallenge is the gold standard for nonprofit social media success. The easily shareable nature of hashtag campaigns meant once it took off, it spread like wildfire. There are two main pillars that led to their success and can be replicated in your own campaign.
The first is authenticity. #IceBucketChallenge resonated with audiences so well because of the strong emotional draw — the challenge was 100% patient-driven. The creators of the campaign were the ones fighting the battle. A deep tie to the cause gives a campaign legitimacy that inspires your audience to share, act, or donate. (Tweet this!)
2. If you’re asking people to share, make the content super-shareable.
The second key to successes like #IceBucketChallenge is a compelling call-to-action (CTA). You have to create an action that people will really want to share. A push-up challenge, for example, is enticing because friends love to one-up each other, and push-ups are a recognizable nod to the military. When the CTA fits your brand and gives the audience something fun to share on their profiles (like push-ups or dumping a bucket of ice over your head) you’ll be in a position to get a lot of shares and ultimately donations.
3. Drive participation by including the audience in your goals.
A publicly stated goal motivates your audience and gets them actively involved in your campaign. People have an “imaginary audience” mindset where they think their behavior is the center of everyone else’s attention and a tendency to follow the actions of the herd. A public goal capitalizes and encourages this behavior. A goal of sharing a video with 1,000 participants doing push-ups gets a lot of people involved — and now all 1,000 have a compelling reason to share a post on social media. While 1,000 shares seems to pale in comparison to 1,000 donations, research has shown that “slacktivism” actually does help build social capital and drive donations.
4. Encourage slacktivism! It actually works.
Prioritizing likes, shares, and retweets over donations seems counterintuitive, but it’s not. People share videos of themselves doing push-ups, dancing, or dumping ice water on themselves to look cool and challenge their friends. The cause gives them a dose of the warm-fuzzies, but it’s usually not the main reason they are sharing. A short-term strategy of maximum exposure supports a long-term strategy of donations. (Tweet this!) To gain social capital, feed your audience’s egos with a fun call-to-action. Their shares will drive awareness, engagement, and ultimately donations.
5. Use technology to make it easy to donate.
When GoodWorld built a platform that facilitates instant donations via Facebook and Twitter with an autoreply to anyone using the hashtag #donate, they opened up a new opportunity for nonprofits. Don’t be shy when asking for donations on social media. The Beagle Freedom Project usually gets about $1 million dollars a year. They weren’t afraid to use #donate on social — and they raised 75% of their typical yearly donations in just a few months.
6. Don’t talk at your audience — talk with your audience.
Nonprofits are using social media; they just aren’t using it effectively. Twitter’s not a speech — it’s a meet-and-greet. Social media’s perfect for having two-way conversations and sparking action with your followers. Organizations can use social media to manage events or handle a crisis.
Example: During a dog food recall, the ASPCA set up a rapid response team of veterinarians and other experts who could provide guidance and advice over social media. Their fast reactions were the difference between life and death. Conversing with people on a human level rather than a brand level leaves a lasting positive impression.
7. Know your influencers.
Influencers have the power to motivate their entire audience. Design your campaign to take advantage of that. The #DiabetesDanceDare got Shaquille O’Neal, Usher, Kelly Clarkson, and plenty of other celebrities dancing and motivating their followers to do the same. Influencers can tap their vast network to expand your campaign’s reach and effectiveness. Celebrities are great, but people don’t have to be famous to be influential.
A good social listeningl tool can help you find influencers based on conversations, keywords, and post-level reach. Capturing influencer data helps you identify social media power users based on the audience you want to reach and the conversations you want to be a part of. Building a relationship with the right influencers takes time, but striking a relationship with the right one opens up a new captive audience for your cause.
8. Be patient! Success is (usually) not instant.
Give your strategy some time to pan out. While it might seem like social media campaigns happen overnight, it’s very rare that something drums up $100,000 in less than 24 hours. For every campaign that takes off like wildfire, there are dozens slowly chugging along and gaining a following.
Even if your campaign isn’t a runaway success, it’s still making an impact if it’s getting shares, likes, retweets, and clicks. The ALS Association now runs the #IceBucketChallenge every summer (#EveryAugustUntilACure) While none have come close to the success of 2014, each campaign is still a major fundraiser. There’s no formula for an instant viral campaign — it’s a little creativity, a lot of strategy, and a lot of luck.
9. Track, monitor, and optimize throughout the campaign.
Campaign’s up? Great! Don’t set it and forget it, though — the more information you can gather about your campaign, the better.
Monitoring the audience response is crucial to engaging with your audience in a timely and meaningful way. Tracking behavior throughout your campaign can help you tweak and test new ideas — leading to more insights and ideas to optimize current and future campaigns. You can’t replicate results on social, but you can learn a whole lot in the process!
10. Be ready for results.
What good is planning for a viral campaign when it takes off and leaves you in the dust? Be prepared for a runaway success so you can capitalize on it when it happens. The #IceBucketChallenge wasn’t a planned campaign, but Porter Novelli, the agency working with the ALS Association, recognized an opportunity and redistributed their resources. Keep social media activity on your radar so when your campaign starts to build up, you can prepare for the social frenzy you’ve started.
Don’t just let your hard work get lost in the social media jungle. Social media campaigns allow your nonprofit to make the most out of limited resources, foster engagement, and make clear headway toward finding a cure, saving lives, or serving others.
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