NPOs, NGOs and social enterprises – they’re around, they’re growing and we can all agree they’re doing great things. But how many amazing ones are out there that we don’t know about?
In this day and age, where advertising rules the world, there are endless resources available to help not-for-profits to gain some exposure. So why aren’t they putting the word out and making us more aware of their cause?
Three words; not for profit. Unlike for-profit businesses that can allocate a budget towards marketing and exposure, not-for-profits need to gain awareness with little to no budget. Therefore, the stigma attached to a little budget producing lesser quality work prevents a lot of organisations from taking time to produce an efficient social media strategy.
Not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises are supposedly believed to be well-placed to succeed in the social media world. Their activities are of great interest to a large number of people and they invoke considerable interest and commitment among their followers. But how do they get this engaged follower base to begin with?
It’s the starting out in social media that often proves to be the first bump in the road. Not-for-profits often find themselves asking questions such as ‘where do I start?’, ‘do I need a large fan base to be successful?’ or ‘how can I reach the people who are interested in my cause?’
A few of the larger social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have taken to offering paid services to help businesses and pages gain a larger following. For example, Facebook page administrators can now advertise their page or account and optimise their ads for gaining more ‘followers’.
This may not always be the best option – there has been some online speculation lately that a significant portion of the ‘bought’ fans, especially on Facebook, may have no genuine interest in the page they’ve liked. Instead, they may work for so-called ‘click farms’ and like the advertised Facebook pages merely in an effort to diversify their like profiles and make them appear more natural.
This was one of the issues we had to address when I and my group of friends decided to create, grow and maintain a social enterprise called the BeeKeeper.
BeeKeeper is an enterprise dedicated to creating products that change the world but cause no harm to the environment. The core idea of the enterprise is to use business to inspire change and to support the BabyTree Projects charity in its fight for quality education for all children.
We were serious when we said we wanted BeeKeeper and its products to help change the world, so people needed to know about us. We needed to grow our hive.
However, we decided we wanted the quality over quantity approach – it’s all good and well to have thousands of ‘followers’ on our pages but if they’re not interested in our cause and story, how would that help us grow?
If people see or hear about an amazing cause, the likelihood that they will talk about it and share our story is extremely high and we were hopeful that our story was good enough to be shared. Word-of-mouth will get you very far. We wanted each and every one of our followers to fall in love with our story and decide for themselves if they wanted to be a ‘Keeper’ in our hive.
Our initial supporter base was comprised of our family and friends – and what an incredible support they were, sharing, liking, inviting, emailing, pledging – the whole dog and pony show.
Over time, we found that people we didn’t even know started inviting friends to our page, sharing our posts and sending us messages asking about our product release dates, how they can get involved and much more.
As our following began to grow – people could see that we were a fairly new enterprise and had already generated a substantial following in a short amount of time and this intrigued them to check out journey and story themselves.
So what are the top 6 tips to get a not-for-profit started on social media?
1. Use what you’ve got
If you have family members and friends who are supportive of your cause, ask them to spread the word! Most likely they will be happy to like, share, tweet and email about your cause. When starting out, you may only have a follower base of ten people, with nine of those probably comprising of just your family and friends. However, keep in mind that when your current supporters spread the message about your non-profit to their social communities, this, in turn, generates awareness with potential new supporters.
2. Identify and connect with influencers related to your cause
If you’re just getting started on social media, begin by following other organisations that complement your organisation. Networking is a great way to develop a larger following and you will find that if other organisations are interested in your cause they are happy to tweet or share a post about you to their followers.
In time, this will result in a beneficial boost in your following as people become increasingly aware of your organisation through other similar organisations. Don’t forget to return the favour though, as this helps in building strong relationships and networks.
3. Be responsive
If your followers are asking you questions on your posts or posting on your page, make sure to respond. The quicker you do, the better. People take a greater liking to organisations that respond well and show that they care about their community and fan base.
4. Understand and engage people in your posts
Make sure to ask questions in your posts to generate discussion. Before this though, you might want to get an idea of what your supporter base is like in terms of their typical interests and views. By understanding your followers it is a lot easier to post engaging content and to generate discussion.
5. Promote the use of #hashtags
Whether you’re holding an event or promoting awareness for a cause, using relevant hashtags enables you to engage and track supporters across a variety of social media channels.
Use your hashtag in all printed media when promoting your cause or event to encourage supporters to spread the message. This practice also allows you to research what groups are using similar hashtags, which could present an opportunity for some networking and cross-promotion.
6. Be consistent
Always post on your social media outlets consistently. If you’re trying to contribute something great to the world, never lose hope and fall off the radar. By having a strong and consistent social media presence you’re communicating to your followers and the rest of the world that you’re here to stay and to make a real difference.
To sum up, don’t be disheartened by your limited budget; there are accessible and extremely valuable resources all around you. You just have to be creative.
The first bump in the road always proves to be the trickiest, but if your cause is great and your story is worth telling, you’re well on your way to making a real difference.