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4 Ideas About Social Media for Nonprofits

Community & Social Media

4 Social Media IdeasI spent the day yesterday learning all about online fundraising campaigns at ArtezInterAction 2013. In addition to the workshop I hosted, Data, data and more data... what to do with it all? (slides are posted here), I had the pleasure of hearing from many great speakers. Here are four of the ideas and insights that stuck most with me:

1) Think of online interaction like a house party

Amy Sample Ward started her lunch keynote with a great analogy for online interaction. I've heard the analogy of social media as a party before, and I think it's a good one, but Amy took it to the next level. Here's my attempt to summarize:

  • The kitchen is your space during a party, where you have control and can organize things how you want. This is like your website - your online space where you can control how you frame your message.
  • If you invite many different types of people to your party, they might congregate in different spaces and interact in different ways, so you need to engage them in different ways. Amy's nerd friends may be tempted to sit around with their smartphones, so "adult drinks" are helpful to loosen them up. However, her husband’s theatre friends are lively and don't need that kind of help - but maybe some snacks to keep them occupied for a minute. Similarly, there are different groups of people in different platforms and conversations online, that need to be engaged in different ways.
  • Lastly, like the signs or balloons that lead people to the party, make sure that your social properties point back to your website.

2) Share Facebook content that will make your thumb stop scrolling

Facebook isn’t about your Page - it’s about the news feed. Daniel Habashi summed this up by reminding us to create content that would catch your attention and make you pause when scrolling through the news feed. After all, the harsh truth is that your message is competing for attention with updates from each person’s friends, family and colleagues.

How do you get attention? Daniel told us that images are the most engaging content on Facebook - by a landslide. He also mentioned that status updates of less than 90 words are best - many people won’t click “read more” on long status updates.

Tip: Facebook shares resources and case studies for nonprofits on their Facebook for Nonprofits page.

3) Create simple ways to make a difference

When Jason Chaney and Alexandre Normand from lg2 shared their experience with the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, they shared the challenges of creating a campaign the topic of mental health. The goal of the campaign is to break the silence and get people talking about this issue.

Let's Talk
They wanted to widely engage the public, but as we all know, the reality is that good intentions and wanting to help doesn’t always translate to taking action on an issue. So, they decided to make the action as simple as possible: sending a tweet, text message or making a long distance call (in 2013 they also added the option to share an image on Facebook). For each action taken, Bell donated 5 cents to programs for mental health


In experimenting with different types of actions, here are a couple of further insights they gained:

  • The first year, they created an app where people could upload a picture of themselves. However the extra step of downloading the app wasn’t a good fit with this campaign, and very few people did. So for future campaigns, they haven’t used this app.
  • In 2012 the emphasis on Twitter was to retweet a specific tweet by Bell about the campaign. However, they realized that people wanted to talk about the issue in their own words, so that was the focus in 2013 - leading to some very moving and candid tweets contributing to the discussion on mental health. It also resulted in a jump from 30,000+ tweets in 2012 to over 1.5 million tweets in 2013!

4) Don’t forget about Reddit

While many nonprofits don’t even think of Reddit as a social media platform to engage on, Ryan Davis from Vocativ suggests that we should be considering it. In particular, he recommends seeing if there is a Subreddit on the topic/issue you are working on, as these smaller groups tend to have people that are very passionate about the particular issue.

Before diving into Reddit, take some time to learn more about this platform as it has it’s own unique culture which can be a bit tricky to navigate for the unaware. I suggest reading How nonprofits can use Reddit and 10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Maximizing Reddit for Business as a starting point.


Tierney Smith, Community Engagement Manager, TechSoup Canada