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Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Company's Social Media

Social media is expanding faster than most of us can keep up with it. And just when we feel comfortable with a platform, it seems like we’re presented with a change of some kind. For example, Instagram introduces a new element to their Stories feature every month. And Twitter recently changed its policy and guidelines. Plus, Facebook has already made three, big algorithm changes this year.

Around every corner is a new evolution in social media. As nonprofits and social enterprises, it’s crucial that we maintain an online presence. So, how do we keep up?

Social media allows us to connect with wider audiences, and help us ultimately establish brand awareness and brand loyalty. According the New York Times Business section, “an estimated 81% of Americans have a social media account.” In fact, Facebook is quickly closing in on the two billion (with a B!) user mark. Instagram has 800 million monthly active users, and Twitter has 330 million monthly active users.

These are impressive numbers, but their implications, for our social enterprises and nonprofits especially, should spring us into action! Everyone is looking to connect with something, which is essential to being human. And everyone is also looking for a cause!

Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Company's Social Media

You’re cause might just be their life’s calling, but if they’re knocking and you’re not there to answer, how will they connect with you?

It’s intimidating, yet inevitable—to communicate the mission and heartbeat of your organization, you must utilize social media.

Sree Sreenivasan of the New York Times says, “LinkedIn works best when you use it as a career management tool and not just for job hunting.” We have to treat our social media accounts in the same way. They are a year-round tool that builds a community of followers, not just a launching pad for campaign and fundraising season. They are a field that requires cultivation. If we are committed (AHHH! We said the word!) and faithful over time, our use of social media platforms will yield fruit and growth.

So without further ado, let’s dive into some tips that will help your company improve at engaging with social media.

Technical and Practical Advice for Your Social Media

Before we look to specific examples of organizations that utilize social media effectively, let’s think of some practical steps to improve our social media image:

Practice brevity. Keep it simple.

Too much content can overwhelm users. To connect with your audience, be sweet, simple, and to the point with your words. Because posts like this are shorter, it requires more consistency in the amount of times you post weekly, monthly, etc. By having less written content in each individual posts, but posting more frequently over time, you will slowly and steadily build a following and connect your audience to the heart of your mission.

A nice rule of thumb is to keep each post at a one to two sentences max for Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn. However, each audience is different, and you can test different lengths to see what your fans like and interact with most.

There are definitely times when longer posts are needed. Or if, for example, your brand revolves around a person, your tribe may be interested in reading longer thoughts.  Instagram allows a lot more text, and people have found success with both short and long posts, so again, experiment! Or at least feel free to vary it as needed, depending on the content.

Hashtags are okay, but don’t use too many! We recommend two for Twitter, but no more than three on occasion. Use hashtags that highlight your brand, attract your tribe, or direct users specifically to the content they are looking for. For example, if your Tweet is about #fundraising, use that, but feel the freedom for your hashtags to vary with content. You can also identify more hashtags using websites like Hashtagify.me. You may even want to create a list of hashtags that work best, and swap them out regularly. (You'll see that we do that on our Twitter account.)

For Instagram, they’ll let you use up to 30 hashtags! Because there is more “room” on Instagram, you can certainly use more here, which will allow you to attract more people at once. You can now also use and search hashtags in Instagram Stories.

And though you can use hashtags for Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s not necessary.

 

Consistency and Frequency

Day to day and week to week, try to find a consistent time that you can post—and stick to that! It can be useful to post during peak times in social media use. Usually there’s a peak from noon to 1:00 p.m. during lunch hours, and another peak posting time at from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. at dinner time. You might look to tools like Hootsuite or SmarterQue to help you schedule postings.

It’s good to find such general rules of time, but they aren’t be-all-end-all guidelines! Have flexibility in your schedule, periodically review it, and be willing to change your patterns to fit your audience. Using business analytics through Google analytics, Facebook analytics and insights, and tools like Hootsuite to track the viewing patterns of your audience. Look at when user activity is the highest, and then cater to those needs.

It can be additionally challenging to discover what frequency should look like for your company—whether that’s twice a week or twice a day find the perfect balance. A quick Google search will give you a lot of answers, but there really is no substitute for experimenting and trial and error. If you’re interacting with Millennials constantly, it might be that more frequent posting is necessary, however, if you targets primarily an older crowd, less postings may be best.

First and foremost, we recommend finding a consistency that you can actually execute, and then building on that along the way. It’s more important to first create the habit rather than getting behind and ditching your plan. For example, a newsletter should go out at least quarterly, a blog post should go up at least monthly, and social media should post at least once per week.

This isn’t ideal, it’s a bare minimum. But if this is all you can do to start—just start. Then form the habit, and create a plan to post more frequently. But if you’re fans, followers, and supporters never hear from you...they will hear from someone else.

Developing an Aesthetic for Your Brand

It may sound cliche, but to ensure that we’re developing a brand image for our social enterprise or nonprofit, it’s necessary that we develop an unchanging and balanced aesthetic. This means that your posts should always look like they came from your organization. It's often helpful to create templates through programs like Canva or Adobe Spark that you can use again and again. (<-- They’re free and easy to use!)

Through the use of similar colors, fonts, and symbols in your graphics, people will start to develop a sense of what is familiar, and yes, even comfortable with your organization.

 

Try Bit.ly

Bit.ly is a website that allows users to create short, trackable links that connect to specific content on your website. (Hint: we use Bit.ly links on social media to track when our blog posts are clicked from other platforms.)

Rather than using super long links that use up half of the real estate on your social media post, use a Bit.ly link—they’re concise and even customizable. Plus, they’re much easier on the eyes! Who wants to look at a social media post that’s mostly a link? Answer: no one.

And not only can you shorten the links to content on your website like blogs, contact pages, social media, you’re also able to track the audience engagement through these links. Tools like Google Analytics are always more reliable, but for quick stats at a glance, this is a simple option.

An Expert Social Media Example

No matter who you are, it’s important to look to examples of companies that are at least one step ahead of you. If you want to get to the place where you're one step ahead as well, surround yourselves with examples of companies more successful than you.

Pastor Andy Stanley, who is widely known for his communication and leadership skills, says, “You are not the smartest person in your organization. You’re just the leader. If you are the smartest person in your organization, you are not a very good leader.” Always look for examples of organizations that seemingly “have it all together” or whom you admire.

And while you may be at a small organization looking to a large or popular organization for inspiration, don’t feel like you have to imitate them exactly. Did TOMS, Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, Project 7, Warby Parker, or the American Cancer Society come to mind?

They may seem to have oodles of manpower, limitless resources, and countless hours of experience, but remember that those organizations started with SMALL means and HUGE dreams. It’s probably a better use of your time to look at a successful company that projects a great online and offline reputation, but is just a little bigger than you. What are they doing on social media that you can do?

Charity: Water is constantly growing and recognized in its uncanny ability to utilize social media platforms and effectively connect with its users. Scott Harrison started Charity: Water in 2006, astounded by the fact that 1 in 10 people lack access to clean water.

They may seem like a huge organization, but they don’t actually have an enormous staff. However, they are known for being brilliant online storytellers.

Through creative engagement on social media, Charity: Water has provided 8 million people around the world access to clean water since their launch! According to CNBC, Charity: Water has funded, “30,000 water projects in 26 countries across the world. Over one million people have donated more than $300 million to its cause.”

So then, how did Harrison do it? There’s many moving parts, but arguably Charity: Water has some of the most effective marketing that a company has to offer—and its strategy is simple: present the problem and provide a simple solution.

1. At Charity: Water, all they ask for is a penny.

Let’s be honest—the world has commitment issues. It’s not easy to get people to commit to relationships, and it’s even harder to contribute our hard-earned money toward campaigns we barely know about. However, here’s the beauty in this example: It’s okay to start small!

The Charity: Water website states, “Every single penny will help bring clean water to communities in need.” In a recent #WorldWaterDay campaign, Charity: water asked children to donate their allowance, or savings, of $8.15. Not only was this a small, manageable, and simple amount, but it also allowed for deep interaction and audience participation. It’s communicating the fact that yes even kids can change the world and the world’s water crisis!

 

2. Their audience is involved.

In line with keeping its mission simple, Charity: Water makes sure that its audience is always engaged. However, it goes one step further. They also make sure that the audience is involved.

Involvement is how we generate deep bonds and ties with our tribe, and ultimately how we develop brand loyalty. Charity: Water’s campaigns are designed for the everyman—and that’s incredible. Often it’s hard to feel invested in an organization when it’s goals feel too lofty.

Under it’s fundraising page you’ll find, “Start Your Campaign.” Every campaign at Charity: Water is for and by the people—that’s powerful. Sometimes the best step in our next campaign is to simply ask, “How we can involve our audience?”

By engaging our audiences and providing them with tangible opportunities to participate in our mission and campaigns, we will build a brand that people not only feel like they can connect with, but rather be a part of.

 

3. Charity: Water uses local partners.

They have developed an extensive portfolio of partners. We might overlook the importance of our partners, clients, or business partners (you name it), however, there is power in association.

By associating ourselves with other companies, we can display a history of our work, our credibility, and our accolades. Never undermine the importance of friendships, partnerships, sponsors, and connections. We are all always just one step away from making a connection with a new client, bridging gaps in communication, or introducing someone to our products or services. Rely on close friendships, clients, key stakeholders, and other partners to bridge those gaps. You just never know who knows who!

 

4. They have consistency in social media and brand image.

We mentioned this under a previous section, however, we’ll drill it again here. Charity: Water has developed powerful imagery that beautifully and effectively communicates its mission.

A yellow water jug, common to poor areas for carrying water, symbolizes the mission of the company: clean water. This bright jug and the use of vibrant colors in general are paired with hand-written text and undersaturated hues with an abundance of blues.

People now automatically associate them with that yellow jerrycan (water jug). Sitting at 331,000 likes on Facebook and 1.5 million followers on Twitter, we’d say Charity: Water is doing something right!

 

So then, let’s start small with these simple, practical steps. As you work on it, you’ll develop your brand image, frequency, and consistency. It doesn’t have to be perfect to start, but you do need to start somewhere.

Look at where you have capability and resources, and jump in. Evaluate brands that inspire you to improve.

And just remember that the first word is social media is still "social." You need to be interacting and engaging with those who love your organization and your cause. Listen to your fans and see what they like. Ask them questions. Show them the perfect and the imperfection of your brand. But you have to talk to them to understand them. And when you start to do that, things get a whole lot easier.

Have any wins on how you improved your own social media strategy? Tell us in the comments!

 

Read the other posts in this series:



Around every corner is a new evolution in social media. As nonprofits and social enterprises, it’s crucial that we  maintain an online presence . So, how do we keep up?

Michael Banks

Michael Griffith Banks is a fourth-year Public Relations Major at the University of Georgia with a minor in Spanish. He’s throughly involved with UGA’s Office of Admissions, most recently serving as an Orientation Leader for the University.


Ask the Experts: Podcasting Trends and Strategies

Each month, I invite guest contributors to speak about timely, relevant, and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations like yours to be aware of as you grow. For November, I've invited my friend, Sarah Bragg of the Surviving Sarah podcast, to tell us all about the how, why, trends, and strategies of podcasting. I know a lot of you listen to podcasts, and maybe even wonder if you should start one. Here's what Sarah has to say.

Ask the Experts: Podcasting Trends and Strategies

Q. What are the latest trends in podcasting?

A. Five years ago, many of us couldn’t name a podcast, or maybe we didn’t even know what a podcast was. And now, 350 new podcasts start every day. There are currently over 250,000 unique podcasts on iTunes and 42 million Americans listen to a podcast each week. That last number represents 15% of the population and, for comparison sake, only 3% of the population goes to the movies each week.

As content consumers, we are hungry to find ways to consume content in a faster way, and podcasts resolve that tension for us. We no longer have to sit in front of a screen to read or even watch something. We can now consume content while exercising, running errands, folding laundry, or hiding in the closet from our kids.

As you can see from these stats, podcast consumption is a steady growth of opportunity to reach and influence your audience.

Q. What is the biggest mistake you see people making in regards to podcasting?

A. I think that one of the biggest mistakes I see people make in the podcast industry is jumping in without ever clarifying the "why." They fail to ask some important questions in the beginning. Is this just a hobby or will you treat it like a job (even if it doesn’t pay yet)? Either answer is fine, but it defines your approach. What is your purpose in starting the show? What do you want the audience to receive as a result of listening to the show? Many people fail to sit down and think through the nature of their show. Without clarifying those answers, some shows trail off after some time because even though hosting a show can be convenient, it is also time consuming.

Knowing the answers to those questions pushes me to create content in certain ways. It helps me think through why I do what I do; what kind of ads I’ll allow on the show; and encourages me when comparison wants to steal my joy.

 

Q. What is your best piece of advice to people thinking of starting a podcast?

A. One of my favorite podcasts is Off Camera with Sam Jones. Each week, Sam sits down with a different celebrity to hear their story of how they started and how they came to where they are now. And one of my favorite episodes is his interview with Will Ferrell. At some point in the interview Will said, “Forgetting to have fun is the first step towards disaster.” That was it for me. Podcasting is meant to be fun, encouraging, and entertaining. It’s an easy platform to literally speak into someone’s life. And yes, we need to clarify why we do it, but we also need to remember to have fun. I’ve been podcasting for two years now. I don’t get a full-time salary, but I still have fun each time I sit down to have a conversation around my table.

 

Q. What is one thing readers can take action on this week?

A. No matter which end of the spectrum you are on, decide this week to investigate some podcasts. As leaders, innovators, and people who care deeply for others, podcasts are great for you personally. There are many shows out there that can encourage you through their stories of starting social enterprises or nonprofits, or of working to make a difference in the world. Allow their stories to inspire what you do.

And podcasts can also be a piece of your marketing puzzle. Maybe you can speak into a certain niche, so starting a show might be beneficial. Or maybe advertising on certain show would help get your business in the ears of new listeners. Or maybe you could be a guest on a show in order to promote what you are doing. The possibilities are endless.

 

Q. Anything else we should keep in mind?

A. If you are thinking about starting a podcast, my friend Jacey Verdichio created an excellent resource to walk you through everything you need to know from clarifying your why to launching in iTunes.

 

Terrific information. Thanks, Sarah!

And if you're in need of a few more convincing stats on podcasts, check out this infographic. It's pretty compelling!


Sarah Bragg of the Surviving Sarah podcast.

Sarah Bragg launched a successful podcast, Surviving Sarah, in 2015 where she invites guests to join her around her kitchen table to talk about surviving life so that women will be inspired, informed, encouraged and entertained. 

In addition to that, she is an author, speaker and content director for Orange. She and her family reside in Marietta, GA.



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Sarah Bragg of the    Surviving Sarah    podcast to tell us all about the how, why, trends, and strategies of podcasting for nonprofits and social enterprises.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Ask the Experts: Event Planning Trends and Strategies

Each month, I invite guest contributors to speak about timely, relevant, and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations like yours to be aware of as you grow. For June, I've invited my friend and former co-worker, Kristi Collins from Coco Red Events to share about event planning since many of you are starting to prep and plan for fall events.

Event Planning Trends and Strategies

Q. What are the latest trends in your industry? 

A. As a foodie, I think my favorite trend right now is casual food, especially a Mexican buffet with fajitas and tacos. I mean, who doesn’t love queso? For dessert, we’re seeing more donut installations, pie bars, and bite-sized treats. Most cakes (wedding, birthday, or anniversary) are smaller with a statement design, such as tiers in geometric shapes, a colored glaze dripping down the side and marbled fondant.

For design, we’re seeing a lot of clients interested in a woodlands theme. Think muted colors like a dusty rose, ivory, and sage green paired with lots of greenery and other natural elements like moss, river rocks, and tree slices. I think a big reason why people are choosing to go this route is because it’s gender neutral and everyone can enjoy the aesthetic. And people always enjoy a good vintage piece. Whether it’s a farm table used as a dessert table or an old library card catalog used to display escort cards, these pieces will create more dimensions to the design.

Our clients are also moving away from the traditional photo booth with props, and opting for a Polaroid camera setup instead. Guests love it because they can take the photos with them, and our clients love it because it’s engaging. At the end of the event, we’ll gather the left over photos and save them for our client, who can turn them into a photo album. The photo album is a great keepsake, whether it’s a coffee table book for a newlywed couple or something to keep in a company break room for employees to flip through.

Q. What is the biggest mistake that you’ve seen people make in regards to event planning?

A. I think everyone should have a day-of coordinator for any event. And I’m not just saying that because I am an event coordinator. Trust me, I had someone coordinate my own wedding! I think it’s so important for our clients to be able to relax and enjoy everything that they’ve envisioned and worked hard to create. If you’re running around, making sure that everything is perfect, you will not have a good time. You should be able to mingle with your guests and enjoy yourself. Even if you’re DIYing your whole event, hire someone to handle the details and make sure that everything runs smoothly on that day. It’s worth every penny!

This is especially important at a fundraiser. Your guests are there because they believe in you and what you’re doing. Think of yourself as the brand ambassador and make yourself available to answer any questions that your guests may have. If they can’t find you to get more information about your cause, they are less likely to support it. We are there to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch and that you are able to reach your fundraising goal.

Q. What is your best piece of advice?

A. I think that people are naïve when it comes to the budget for any event. Many clients don’t know how much it costs to hire a good photographer, caterer, etc. so, they’ll spend money on little things and before they know it, they’re way over budget. My advice, choose your top three Items and spend the bulk of your money there. My top three are always food, music, and alcohol. I like invitations, but they aren’t the most important item to me. Now, if you’re a graphic designer or your company sells paper, the invitations are probably really important to you and that’s ok. Make invitations one of your top three. The important thing is to focus on what’s most important to you, and then build the rest of your budget from there.

Another great thing about working with an event planner is that we get discounts, which we pass onto our clients. A good event planner will save you several hundred dollars in various areas, covering some of their fee.

Additionally, if you’re just diving into the event world, be sure to cultivate relationships with other vendors early on. Find out how you can work together and offer discounts for your clients. Meet other like-minded vendors that specialize in your area and be sure to send them leads for dates that you have already booked. They’ll return the favor and help grow your business. The wedding and event industry is a small one, where everyone knows everyone else. Networking is so very important. Go to as many networking events as you can and start making those connections early on!

Q. What is one thing readers can do this week to improve?

A. If you’re an event planner or getting ready to plan an event, do some research. If I’m planning a company event or fundraiser, I always ask myself the following 5 questions:

  1. What is this company’s daily mission?

  2. What is their goal for this specific event?

  3. What brand-specific elements can we incorporate into the event? (Awards, logo placement, etc.)

  4. What is something fun and memorable that we can do during the event to increase brand awareness?

  5. Is there something that guests can walk away with that will keep the brand or mission at the front of their mind?

Q. Anything else we should keep in mind?

A. No matter what type of event you’re planning, it’s important to remember the story your organization or client wants to tell. When guests walk into the event, they should be able to look around and know who or what this event is for. Everything should reflect the brand or personality. That’s what makes your event stand out from everyone else’s. And most importantly, make sure that your guests have fun!


Kristi Collins has been involved with events for over 15 years. She has her BA in Musical Theater from Samford University. After theater, she went into retail, then coordinated events in the non-profit sector and finally found her calling in the wedding and social event industry. Kristi has received her Certifications in Wedding and Event Planning, as well as Social Media Marketing. She lives in Decatur, GA, with her husband, J.R., and her insanely cute dog, Toby.

Learn more about Coco Red Events.



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Event planning for nonprofits and social enterprises

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


12 Questions That Inspire Content Creation

Content marketing has made a huge splash over the past few years, and it's only gaining ground. If you aren't familiar with the term, content marketing is defined by the Content Marketing Institute as, "a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues."

If you haven't jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, you'd be wise to not only consider it, but start the implementation process soon.

This is the reason you see more and more organizations of all sizes utilizing social media, blogs, webinars, podcasts, Pinterest and the like. These mediums for "giving away" free content do not hurt revenue, and only help to spread the word about your organization. They also help build credibility as well as a relationship with fans. If you haven't jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, you'd be wise to not only consider it, but start the implementation process soon.

However, one of the biggest challenges to content marketing is creating a steady stream of, well, content. Some days it can feel like inspiration rains from the heavens, while other days are more drought-like. The important thing is to record ideas as they come, so you'll have them on tap for a later date.

If you need a springboard, or think your supply is running a little short, below are some questions to get you started.

CLIENT INSPIRATION

  1. What questions have they asked?

  2. What problem or need are you trying to solve for them?

  3. What case studies can you share that others can learn from?

INDUSTRY INSPIRATION

  1. What are the latest trends?

  2. What have you learned at recent events or conferences?

  3. What are your online and in-person mentors discussing?

PEER INSPIRATION

  1. What relevant conversations are you having?

  2. What questions have they asked regarding your expertise?

  3. What do you see them doing that could help your clients/customers/fans?

POP CULTURE INSPIRATION

  1. What movies or TV shows have sparked business ideas or lessons?

  2. What books are you reading that you could share lessons from, or post a book review on?

  3. What podcasts are you listening to that could also benefit your audience?

As you see, inspiration can come from anything. Pretty soon, you'll start to recognize it in all its forms. And because information changes, your knowledge base expands, and perspectives shift, you can come back to these questions again and again.

A reminder: Make sure you have a system handy for writing down ideas when the pop in your head so that you have them ready to go in the future. And a tip for writing—do it when the mood strikes, and write as much as you can. Get ahead, if possible, for when you are low on time or your creativity is more tapped.

Where do your content marketing ideas come from? Please share in the comments!



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

If you haven't jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, you'd be wise to not only consider it, but start the implementation process soon.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.