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Which Social Media Networks Should My Nonprofit Use?

Do you struggle to keep up with numerous social media networks for your nonprofit? Use this guide to pick the best ones for your organization.

As an agency working exclusively with the nonprofit sector, we know how difficult it can be for organizations to manage multiple social media sites. Whether you handle social media for a large organization that has a robust digital media team or a small nonprofit with limited social media resources, you do not have to manage all of them. In fact, trying to tackle all of the platforms out there might hurt your group’s efforts to communicate with supporters.

We’ve put together a quick guide to help you find the right social media networks to spend two of your most valuable resources: time and money. But before you get started, you will need to do some homework. Answer the following questions:

  1. Who is your target audience?
  2. What are your organizational priorities?
  3. What kinds of content do you currently have and what types of content do you generate on an ongoing basis?
  4. Who in your organization will manage your social media communities?
  5. What is your budget?

You can figure out which networks will be most useful for your nonprofit based on your responses. We only tackled the top five social networks, but there are hundreds of others that might be a good fit for your organization. Feel free to comment below if you have a question about a particular social networking site.

How To Choose A Social Media Site

By Brian Solis and JESS3

Facebook

Let’s start off with Facebook — the largest of the social networks with about 1.15 billion monthly active users as of June 2013.

  • Audience: 57 percent male. The average age of a Facebook user is 38 (older than you thought, huh?). Given the size of the network, there’s a good chance that you’ll find supporters for your nonprofit on Facebook.
  • Reason to be on the platform: A Facebook page can be used as a community hub by your nonprofit to spark conversations around key issues. It can also double as a broadcast medium.
  • Types of content needed: Facebook is a visual platform, so compelling images always strike a chord with users. However, in order to be successful on the network, you will need to share a diverse mix of content about the issues your organization focuses on. Simply sharing content produced by your nonprofit might seem repetitive, which in turn could lead to lower engagement. You need to inspire people to engage with your nonprofit by posting interesting and thought-provoking content on a regular basis. Facebook has been shifting to a pay-to-play model, so be prepared to spend some money for additional reach. The average Facebook page only reaches 16 percent of its audience organically.
  • Time commitment: 10 to 15 hours per week. This could increase as your community grows and you begin to utilize Facebook’s features to target posts to audiences within your community on a granular level. Also, make time to analyze page analytics to see what is working and what isn’t.
  • Budget: Facebook’s advertising platform can be very effective in building audience and driving off-platform conversion. We recommend always setting aside at least $500 each month for promoting content and attracting new supporters. Media Cause’s Community Building Plans start at $750 per month.

Twitter

Next comes Twitter, a fast-paced network that can be highly useful to share news about your nonprofit and build connections with potential supporters.

  • Audience: 55 percent female users in the U.S. with 39 percent of users in the 35+ group.
  • Reason to be on the platform: Twitter straddles the line between being a broadcast medium and a personal communication platform. This is good news, because you can put out as much content as you want about your nonprofit, but you can also engage with users on an individual basis.
  • Types of content needed: It’s crucial to post highly timely content. Twitter has become the go-to place for breaking news. This doesn’t mean you need to turn your organization into a newsroom, but you need to tweet relevant content that has some news value.
  • Time commitment: 15 to 20 hours per week. Twitter requires time not only to find interesting content, but to participate in conversations with users.
  • Budget: Twitter is more labor intensive than other social networks. If you don’t have the staff to commit the hours, then your biggest cost will be to hire someone to do it.

YouTube

YouTube is not just a space for storing your nonprofit’s videos. The video-sharing website can be considered as the second largest search engine in the world as well as the second largest social network.

  • Audience: Approximately 50 percent male. Of all the major social media sites, users on YouTube are decidedly young – 63 percent of users are under 35.
  • Reason to be on the platform: Most nonprofits struggle to reach a younger audience. Contrary to popular belief, young people are not engaging on Facebook. Using YouTube as a social network is the next big shift in nonprofit social networking strategy, so consider making an account as soon as possible.
  • Types of content needed: Riveting videos that are no longer than three minutes and 45 seconds. A long video on YouTube is two minutes and 45 seconds. And a short one is 30 seconds. Aim to share brief and captivating videos.
  • Time commitment: 15 to 20 hours per week. Making an interesting video is just the start of a long process. Plan on spending 50 percent of your time understanding the platform, including understanding the nuances of YouTube Optimization and promoting your videos through earned, paid and owned media.
  • Budget needed: Not taking into account any production costs, you should expect to allocate some money in your social media outreach budget to get out in front with traffic for videos your post for YouTube. The first 24 to 72 hours have the most influence on the success of a video.

Pinterest

The social bookmarking site may hold more potential than you might think for your nonprofit.

  • Audience: 68 percent of users are female and 50 percent of users are between 25 and 44 years old.
  • Reason to be on the platform: Pinterest’s value is not what happens on the social networking site — it is in what happens on your site. The commodity in social networking is the ability to get people to share your content by liking or retweeting or sharing. On Pinterest this is the only action that is truly used, but it happens on your website. By putting “Pin It” buttons all over your website, you are turning Pinterest users into ambassadors that help take content from your website and distribute it to all their friends on Pinterest. Therefore, the value really isn’t in how awesome your boards are (but they should be awesome), but how awesome your content is on your website.
  • Types of content needed: Strong visual content on your website.
  • Time commitment: 5 to 10 hours a week. The biggest hurdle is going to be getting the “Pin It” button on each individual piece of content on your site.
  • Budget needed: Potentially none, if you already have great visual content on your organization’s website.

Google+

After a slow start, Google+ is starting to show some serious legs as a competitor to Facebook.

  • Audience: 67 percent male. The average age of a Google+ user is 28.
  • Reason to be on the platform:  The platform takes some of the better features from Facebook (visuals, and ranking through +1) and Twitter (hashtag integration) and integrates them into other Google products like Gmail and Places.
  • Types of content needed: At this point, you are probably on Facebook and Twitter. The key to effectively managing your social media channels is to be able to do so in way that doesn’t kill all of your time (Check out our other post on managing time). There is a good chance you can repurpose a lot of your content from other social sites on Google+. But take advantage of Google-specific content like creating your Google Places profile and integrating your nonprofit’s page with its YouTube for Nonprofit channel.
  • Time commitment: 10 to 15 hours per week.
  • Budget needed: Minimal, but if you have a Google Grant you will be able to add your Google+ account to your ads to quickly increase your followers.

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