Social media: How to engage people where they are

The world of social media is constantly changing and competition for the time and interest of individuals is higher than it has ever been. That said, a well-formed communication strategy can also foster engagement and reach a greater audience than ever before. I have been working on the NVCF communication strategy for the last year, mostly using a trial and error approach, and here are four of the most useful lessons I have learned.

1. Be aware of the skills at your disposal, and be honest about your limitations

When I came to NVCF I was immediately struck by the writing talent and passion of the people here, and from the start the communication plan was centered around passionate calls to action and clear descriptions of services. In contrast, we have had several ambitious false starts on starting a regular video series which requires skills and equipment that I do not currently possess. We quickly realized that we had more to gain by focusing on blog posts and social media content than we did by trying to reinvent the wheel by making weekly videos.  By playing to our strengths and focusing our time and energy where it is having the greatest impact, we have been able to use our small staff to have a tremendous impact in terms of engagement.

2. Curated content is important, but original content is what will get your message to your audience

People follow you on social media because they have had some interaction with your organization and are interested in your work. Using content created by other organizations is a great way to increase awareness about specific topics, and it is almost essential to filling out a regular posting schedule, but it doesn’t do much to get your message out or prompt engagement from your community. We have some curated posts that our followers really seem to enjoy, but the engagement numbers go through the roof when we are posting content written by our staff and about our community.

3. Carefully craft a posting schedule

One of the most important things I have learned is that social media communication is a marathon, not a sprint. You cannot only post a reminder about your annual event and expect people to see it and engage with it. Our strategy is to have something from us on our followers’ feeds at least once a day. We combine curated content, original blog posts written by team members, and a few regular features to fill out our weekly schedule.  Remember that consistency is key. I would recommend spending some time at the outset getting the schedule just right so that it plays to your strengths and won’t require a great deal of major adjustment once it goes live.

4. Get some help             

Time is our most valuable resource, and many in the nonprofit world find that they never have quite enough of it.  Just because you cannot spare the time to develop a communication strategy or manage social media accounts, that does not mean that you should write off the benefit your organization can see from engaging with the community. There are a lot of local people, particularly students, that would jump at the opportunity to get their foot in the door of an organization working for social good and build up their resume and experience. Put the word out that you are interested in bringing someone onto your team, and you are sure to find some interested people. I started at NVCF as an unpaid intern and will be forever grateful for the opportunity.

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