Introduction to Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations

November 14, 2013


Social media is one of the proverbial methods of communication for all sorts of organizations, thanks to the internet and the growing use of mobile technology. Facebook has over 1 billion users, Twitter has over 500 million users, and there are dozens of other social media platforms which your organization could take advantage of.

In this blog post, I will introduce a few social media concepts, as well as briefly discuss a few of the major social media networks your nonprofit should most strongly consider being a part of.

What Social Media is – And is Not – For

scaled-Twitter_logo_blueGo back and re-read the first sentence. Did you notice what I said social media is for? It is for communication. Communication does not equal advertising. Just as a face-to-face conversation involves two (or more) people, social media should never be used as a one-way stream of information and ads. You will never build a loyal audience if you only try to sell your products or services online.

Your organization should instead focus on building an audience by interacting with your donors and other constituents. Post links to interesting articles that are related to what your nonprofit does. Retweet interesting tweets. Create a discussion on Facebook with your followers.

Your Organization’s Brand is Important…

How your organization presents itself over social media is extremely important. Your organization’s staff is in the best position to know about your organization’s vision and mission. You wouldn’t rely on a volunteer or an intern to write your annual report to your Board of Directors and donors, or rely on them to meet with a potential board member, would you?

In the same way, you need to protect your organization’s identity on social media. Just search for “social media faux pas” on the internet, and you’ll read several horror stories of social media interactions gone bad!

A Primer to a couple Social Media Platforms

  1. Twitter
    A “tweet” is a status update that you share over Twitter, and it can contain a maximum of 140 characters. You can say a lot in 140 characters. But this space can also be wasted.

    Twitter is perfect for real-time communication, especially using “hashtags” during conferences and other events. You can also have a public conversation with someone (or multiple people) by “mentioning” them in your tweets.

    The Twitter hashtag makes it easy for you to follow a particular topic and search that topic very easily. For example, we often tweet (@developCENTS) with the hashtag of #nptech, because we most often tweet about topics and articles related to nonprofits and technology.

    Twitter is perfect for sharing news and articles that relate to what your organization does. As I noted for all social media platforms, you shouldn’t use Twitter to constantly advertise your products and services. Instead, you should carefully build, and interact with, your audience. It’s OK to post a link to your website every now and then.

    Instead, post links to other websites too – especially to blogs, articles, and news that relate to your organization. And above all, don’t be afraid to post (retweet) information that people and organizations who you follow on Twitter post!

    One mistake many nonprofits make when they use Twitter is that they sync their other social media accounts (such as Facebook) with Twitter (or vice-versa). This is unprofessional, because content that works well on Facebook typically doesn’t work very well on Twitter, because at this point, the status update is longer than Twitter’s 140 character limit, and it includes a link to the Facebook post (which also doesn’t look very professional).

  2. Facebook
    Over 1 billion people on the planet have a Facebook account. Chances are very likely that not only are your clients on Facebook, but also your donors. Don’t miss the opportunity to engage with your constituents on the world’s most popular and most widely used social media platform!

    Facebook is great for posting slightly longer status updates (if needed). However, don’t get carried away. Nothing should replace your own blog, and our philosophy about Facebook is the same with any other social media platform: It should engage your visitors and ultimately drive traffic to your website. Never let Facebook take the place of your website.

    We like to use Facebook for posting events, pictures, and longer status updates with a little bit more information than we’d post over Twitter. You can visit our Facebook page at

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