An excerpt from social entrepreneur and best-selling author Darian Heyman’s book Nonprofit Fundraising 101.
Ask questions. If your post ends in a question mark instead of a period, you can expect twice as many likes, comments, and shares; the currency in today’s “attention economy.”
Use photos and videos. Typically, you’ll generate twice as many likes, comments, and shares if your post includes a photo, four times as many with a video. If you use a video on a crowdfunding campaign, according to crowdfunding platform Razoo, you’re likely to receive eight times the amount of donations!
Use the right photos. Since people will likely only see the small thumbnail version of your photo, cut out the background and use cropping to zoom in on one subject. Ideally, use photos with pictures of people or animals, and focus on faces. As author Guy Kawasaki likes to say, “ABC: Always Be Cropping.” Don’t use boring photos—instead of people posing next to a house they just built, use an action photo of them carrying a ladder or building a roof. Use photos that capture your work in action and convey a sense of impact.
Promote the right posts. If you have a budget and choose to do promoted posts on Facebook, choose posts that have the best response rates, rather than promoting donation requests and other posts that fall flat. This may seem counter-intuitive, but your resources are best spent promoting posts that have proven to be most engaging.
Keep it short. Ideally, under 80 characters. Bufferapp.com found a 66 percent increase in engagement when you get to the point.
Learn about your donors. Upload your email or donor list and see how many of them are on Facebook. You can use Facebook Ads to gain invaluable donor segmentation information about them, including household income, home ownership, device use, how active they are on Facebook, how much they engage with your posts, etc. The more you know about your donors, the better equipped you are to effectively engage and solicit them!
Reply to comments. Again, think of social media as a digital cocktail party. If someone at a party says, “Hey, nice dress,” you need to say “thank you” and reply back. If someone posts a comment or asks a question, reply in a polite and conversational manner.
Leverage Facebook Insights. To succeed at engaging people, you need to listen. Insights is a free analytics tool that allows you to analyze your posts and how they perform, that is, how many likes, comments, and shares or retweets they receive. It will also help you determine when the majority of your users are online, which can help you plan the timing of your posts. (Facebook Insights is accessed through a tab at the top of your page when you’re signed in as an administrator.)
Ask for retweets. Include the term “Please Retweet,” often abbreviated as “Pls RT,” to significantly increase the percentage of people who share your posts.
Use photos, videos, and links. Just as with Facebook, this will encourage people to spend a few more seconds with your content and increase the likelihood that they share it.
Recruit influencers. Twitter is a great place to make initial contact with donor prospects and key influencers like celebrities, leading academics, journalists, and bloggers. But before asking VIPs to support you, build up your social capital by retweeting them and writing comments on their posts.
Get your leadership active. Having your executive director and other leaders active on Twitter develops additional communication outlets for your organization and can establish them as thought leaders in your field.
Use keywords. Add keywords and hashtags to your profile so that people interested in your cause will find you when they search. Using these in your posts will also help people who aren’t following you find your content and organization. Create a hashtag. Come up with a short yet descriptive hashtag to include in many of your posts. Ideally, it’s something that others in the field can adopt as well, promoting your thought leadership. For example, Social Media for Nonprofits launched #SM4NP, which is now widely adopted by others in the industry.
Use lists. Lists help you easily screen content and manage different categories of users. For example, if you are a breast cancer organization, lists can help you easily look at what’s trending from breast cancer bloggers, pharmaceutical companies, academics, journalists, competitors, as well as things like campaign hashtags.
Use tools. Social media tools like Hootsuite will help you manage mentions, scheduling, and lists. Use tools like Klout (available as a Hootsuite plug-in) and BuzzSumo to identify key influencers in your field, so you know who to cultivate and prioritize.
Be active in the Twitter community. Twitter is a circular economy. Participate in Follow Fridays by sharing the handles of other leaders and organizations in your field on Fridays and including “#FF” in your posts to gain social capital. If someone mentions you with an @ sign, especially if it’s an influencer, you should definitely take the time to retweet it and thank the person.
Get your board and volunteers to link to you. When people include you in their profiles, it gives you additional exposure, and since this is a relatively new feature and not many nonprofits are using it, you will stand out.
Ask questions. People on LinkedIn tend to be very engaged, and you can receive well-thought-out answers to robust and complex questions. This will help you to build conversations and further engage people.
Start a Group. You can create a LinkedIn Group for free, which is a great way to mobilize and engage your community of interest. Invite people to join and make sure to post content, questions, or links to a blog post or article at least twice a month.
Ask for testimonials. Ask past employers, partners, and clients to write testimonials for your organization and on your personal profile. This provides credibility and reinforces your expertise.
Create “Call to Action” overlays. YouTube offers nonprofits free access to this service, which increases subscriptions by 400 percent by creating a pop-up window inviting visitors to subscribe or even donate.
Keep it short. Keep your videos on YouTube and crowdfunding sites short, ideally 90 to 120 seconds. This will result in people watching the video when they first see it, instead of being daunted and saving it for later, which usually means they’ll never watch it.
Use hashtags. Just as on Twitter and Facebook, hashtags are a great way to create a conversation and create more avenues to your presence.
Focus on faces. The photos that typically receive the best response are close-ups of people’s faces and animals. Remember Guy Kawasaki’s ABC: Always Be Cropping.
Use action shots. As mentioned in the Facebook tips, instead of staged pictures, use images of people in action, delivering impact.
Girl power. Pinterest is a great place to reach women, as they’re two thirds of their audience, which recently surpassed 100 million users a month.
Get visual. This platform is best suited for visuals and infographics, both for finding and posting.
Darian Rodriguez Heyman is an accomplished fundraiser, social entrepreneur, and best-selling author. His work “helping people help” started during his five-year tenure as Executive Director of Craigslist Foundation, after which he edited the best-selling book, Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals (Wiley & Sons) and co-founded the global conference series, Social Media for Nonprofits and Sparrow: Mobile for All. His new book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101, is the first truly comprehensive yet practical guide to all aspects of fundraising for your cause, and chapters 15 – 18 are dedicated to online giving. Heyman is also an in-demand fundraising consultant and a frequent keynote speaker at social impact events around the globe.