It’s impossible to deny the ubiquity of social media platforms - it seems that everyone and their dog has a social media account of some sort these days. The reality is the that having a strong online presence has become important, and this is especially true for nonprofit organizations - whose causes rely heavily (and sometimes entirely) on their supporters. Since many nonprofits already have to deal with tight budgets and limited staff, social media isn’t always high on their priority list. However, while effective social media requires constant time and effort, the attention that your cause can garner along with the connections you can make with your audience are a worthwhile tradeoff.

Though email and websites still rule the roost as nonprofit marketing channels, social media is catching up and is growing 3x faster than email. In terms of total numbers, email still beats social, but the gap is closing. Here are some benchmark numbers of where nonprofits stand in terms of social media followers, broken down by segment:

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So, you’ve seen the value of social media for your nonprofit and have set up a social media account…now comes the tricky part – convincing people to follow you. If you’re not a Kardashian, the idea of amassing a large number of followers on social media may be daunting. But working your way into the Twitter community doesn't require being a celebrity, or finding some elaborate hack. You can increase your number of followers by focusing on two main things - becoming follow-worthy and maximizing your visibility. Here are some tips to achieving this and getting your constituents to follow you on social media:

Become Follow-Worthy

Work on your profile: Make sure your profile is complete with an image that shows your nonprofit’s logo, a header photo, and a solid bio. It's important that people know what your nonprofit’s mission is and the areas your efforts are focused in. Many people will read your Twitter bio before deciding whether or not to follow you. A good written bio can help you get much more followers than a poorly written bio.

Compose interesting, funny or thought-provoking posts: Most potential followers will glance at your most recent posts to see if you're worth following. Therefore, the better your posts, the more followers you'll gain. Try and be as interesting as possible and post about the different projects your nonprofit is involved in or any upcoming events. Pictures and other multimedia are important elements to include to give more of a personal feel to your profile and shift the conversation from simply telling your followers what you're up to, to showing them. As well, posting or retweeting interesting links that are related to your mission is a great way to add some variety to your wall and involve your peers in the discussion.

2011-08-15-tweet.pngPost often, and at the right times: Nobody wants to follow someone who never posts, therefore it's important to remain consistently active on social media. You should have a minimum of one post per day and ideally two or more posts per day to maximize your visibility. On the other hand, it's important not to inundate your existing followers with too many posts, as this can fill up their feed and come across as spammy, which might cause them to unfollow you. It's also important that you post at a time of day when the most people are active. No one will see your message if you're always posting when they're asleep. The best times to post are before people go to work in the morning (pre-9am) and after they finish in the evening (around 6pm).

Use Hashtags: Using hashtags is a great way to connect to people with similar interests and to increase the visibility of your posts. Add hashtags to your messgaes and also create posts based on hashtags that are popular on social media at the time (you can usually see trending hashtags listed on the side of your home page). This will maximize your tweet's exposure. However, like everything good in life, hashtags should be used in moderation. Just pick one or two relevant or amusing hashtags which add to the quality of your message - don't just add hashtags onto words that appeared in the rest of your post or include them just for the sake of it.

Increase your Visibility

Direct people to your accounts: You can direct more people to your social media accounts by putting "Follow Me" links on your blog, e-mail, other social networking outlets, and across the web. That way, people who are already interested in what you're doing can easily find your profile and follow you. Using graphics, such as a button or a follower counter can also be more effective at catching attention and getting you more followers. Also, don’t forget to promote your social media sites at events by putting your profile information in your presentation/speech/markeing materials and asking your constituents to follow you.

dog-social-media.jpgFollow everyone who follows you: It might seem counter-intuitive to do this when you're focused on gaining followers, but it's a good practice because people who notice that you didn't follow them back might unfollow you. Many social media sites operate with an unspoken "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" type of mentality. Also, when you follow back, some people might respond to you publicly, which will give you some added exposure to their followers.

Follow other accounts with similar interests, then follow their followers: This sounds kind of complicated, but it's really not. Just look for users with similar interests to your own, but who have way more followers. Then all you need to do is follow that user and their followers. For example, if you’re a nonprofit that’s focused on protecting the environment, find another environmental nonprofit that has a lot of followers and then follow that account, and their followers. If it’s clear from your bio and your posts that you’re also working to protect the environment then they are likely to follow you back.

There appears to be great room for growth for nonprofits on social media - and many ways to go about it! At the very least, there’s certainly many reasons why social media is a great place for nonprofits to invest their time and efforts, such as building community, engaging influencers to help spread your mission, becoming a thought leader in your space, and getting the word out about your projects. Whether you end up with as many followers as Oprah or not, social media can be an extremely valuable tool in growing your nonprofit's mission and amplifying your voice.

Now that you've got followers, it's time to turn them into donors. With Donor Engage, you get all the donor management and fundraising capabilities you need to connect with constituents and raise funds anytime, anywhere. 

Interested in even more ways you can use social media to target funders and increase donations? Download our free webcast to learn how you can utilize social media to drive donations to your organization.

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