All too often, we see brands treating social media like a free advertising channel, discounting any actual engagement with the community. The pages are dedicated to speaking about the brand, about its activities, and any new updates.
Yes, it does make sense to use social media to market your nonprofit. But if you look at the bigger picture, what finally gets people’s attention and what gets them to click on the ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ button are emotional experiences with the brand. A list of automated posts five times a day albeit brilliantly curated are not going to do the trick if you want to form long term connections within your community.
For a nonprofit, these connections are essential to its sustenance.
To humanize your social media presence is to follow through with a strategy of personal engagement with your community i.e. treating social media as an engagement channel rather than an advertising one.
These are seven guidelines that you can follow to get a head start with humanizing your social media presence.
People want to feel involved, to feel themselves as part of the bigger picture. As the representative for a cause, your social media channel is an ideal platform for people supporting the cause to come together. It could be a weekly webinar, questions encouraging discussion, or even a hashtag project like what American Heart Association did with #LifeIsWhy.
The AHA tagline, Life Is Why is now a prominent hashtag that encourages people with heart conditions to share their personal stories. By using the hashtag, these people are directly associating themselves and their personal stories to AHA. Once you’ve encouraged people to discuss and to share, you can go in to offer insights, support and well, basically give supporters unique and individual responses that make you seem human.
Moderate the automated posts
Schedule and forget is a very easy attitude to follow if you are automating your social media outreach. A healthy amount of automation is certainly fine, it’s a huge time saver and lets you consistently post curated content whether you are around or not. But parallel to automation, you need to set aside time to go in (as a real person) into your social media channels and engage with people i.e. respond to comments, share and comment on posts from supporters, and like, favourite, or follow relevant people. I’m sure that you’re familiar with social media profiles that have row upon row of posts that looks like it came straight out of a robot. Making social media about your community just as much as it is about your nonprofit is how you can avoid that pitfall. Another tidbit to keep in mind about automation is to know when to click the pause button. If your community is discussing something big and you’re still sharing yesterday’s news, that can turn off your supporters.
Build a consistent voice
Your social media feed is probably being handled by multiple people. But if each person goes into it personifying it in their own way, you nonprofit stands to lose or never find it’s own voice, a voice that people recognise and come to associate with your brand. Be it textual content or images, make sure that your voice remains consistent across channels and time. The easiest fix is to get together with people who handle your social media feeds and find common ground in the type of personality you want for your nonprofit. Once that’s done, it’s only a matter of building on that personality.
Create messages driven by purpose
Yes, that image of the smiling dog is cute. But how does it align with your cause? Every piece of content you send out has to fit into the larger picture i.e. your mission. It can be for brand awareness, to highlight a cause or an issue, invite donations, or convey relevant news. Vague content even if interesting, that does not serve a specific purpose is not associated by your community with your cause. Messages that go unassociated with the cause do not serve to strengthen your connections. If you’re out of relevant content, get creative. You can create your own digital content, source user generated content (with permission of course) and even repurpose your old content.
Using people to represent your brand
If someone is working at a nonprofit, there’s a good chance that they’re there because they want to and not because they ran out of options. Stands to reason that these people are passionate about the cause and are willing to openly associate themselves with the nonprofit. While celebrity ambassadors are always an option, it’s a nonprofit’s employees that have the potential to be its most ardent ambassadors on social media. Their experiences carry weight because people can immediately associate the stories with a real person. While a single employee may not be able to bring consistent traction to your social media presence, a collective effort can bear enormous fruit. And this is not just limited to nonprofit employees, encourage all your supporters and volunteers to take up the mantle and share individual stories to social media.
Improvise and be funny
You don’t always have to stay in character. If you’re posting a selfie with donors or when you’re at a nonprofit event and tweeting every cool quote you hear (and pictures), it embraces a rough-at-the-edges authenticity that people have grown to trust and love. So improvise, be spontaneous, it’ll only make your brand look more human.
Another break from character that many nonprofits have a tough time with, is being funny. Those that have done it (and some have done it exceptionally well), served to lighten the mood and get people smiling about causes that were always considered serious. And being funny goes beyond making people smile. A 2013 study concluded that there was one near unanimous factor across all advertisements that went viral — ‘humor’. Small organisations can win more than their share of attention if they are willing to embrace the funny.
Go behind the scenes
Your organisation is literally changing lives. By going behind the scenes and bringing individual stories to the front, your nonprofit is seen as more than just a brand, it is seen as the sum of the experiences of different individuals, individuals with personal stories of loss and gain. These are stories that your community can relate to and care about. Let people see the work that goes into making change possible. And then let them see the change that you brought about. You can achieve this with images of volunteers in action, sharing personal stories of beneficiaries, and any other means that lets people visualize the journey your nonprofit is on.
People don’t want to deal with brands or products, they prefer dealing with personalities. Social media especially, is becoming so bogged down with marketing material with a lack depth, that people have become proficient at blocking out everything that looks robotic. But when they come across brands that have embraced a personality, one that they can relate to, people are also quick to respond and form connections. These seven methods will hopefully help your nonprofit’s social media presence seem more human.
About the Author
Augustus Franklin is founder and CEO of CallHub, a California-based Voice and SMS service company bridging the communication gap for political campaigns, advocacy groups, and nonprofits. When he is not working, he is either making toys with his kids or training for a marathon. Find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Guest contributions represent the personal opinions and insights of the authors and may not reflect the views or opinions of Imagine Canada.