Is having a 100,000 followers important? Probably not ,but a few days ago I saw a YouTube video from a charity leader who I think says a lot of important things in support of the sector, he had posted a video how to get 10,000 twitter followers. It made me think every once in a while people ask me how I got this many follower. So I thought I would do a video as well. Below is the video with a few tips and approaches I use. I have had my twitter account since 2011 so by no means is this video going to change your following over night. However doing some of the things on the video will definitely help your following to grow in a systematic fashion. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.
Tag: social media for nonprofits
Not that I think I have a rock-star twitter following or anything, but I do definitely like the platform and I think it can be a great awareness and even revenue building tool for you charity. The video below includes some of the strategies I use to build twitter relationships. However I have also included a link to a recent post Kim Garst posted on her blog. Kim has some great ideas and in the video I talk about some of her ideas that I have not used but am planing to try. You can check out her blog for the original post. However you are bound to find some other great content and tips there as well.
We love and need our donors, but nothing resonates with our supporters like kids helping kids. Here is follow up on 5 year old Haylen’s efforts to raise money for sick children. It is a great story but truth be told it is also a great story about the power of social media. It is a good lesson for small charities not to underestimate how they might use digital platforms or social media to get their message out.
More findings from the Weber Shandwich study about Social CEOs
To understand how an organizations brand can have a greater impact for a charity it is likely useful to understand the/a definition for “brand”. Kylander and Stone (2012) define brand as:” A brand is more than a visual identity: the name, logo, and graphic design used by an organization. A brand is a psychological construct held in the minds of all those aware of the branded product, person, organization, or movement. Brand management is the work of managing these psychological associations. In the for-profit world, marketing professionals talk of creating “a total brand experience.” In the nonprofit world, executives talk more about their “global identity” and the “what and why” of their organizations. But the point in both cases is to take branding far beyond the logo.” Defined in this way it is not difficult to take the leap to what groups or individuals beyond donors alone who may have a “psychological construct” of what your organization is and what it does. It is also understandable that an organization may want to manage these psychological associations for volunteers or other NPO/NGOs who may collaborate with your organization.
These authors quote Diane Fusilli, (a global brand consultant and former communications director at the Rockefeller Foundation) who suggests “A strong brand helps bring greater credibility and trust to a project quicker, and acts as a catalyst for people to want to come to the table.” In this description beyond providing financial supports or revenue your brand can be useful in getting people on-board or to become engaged. Kylander & Stone (2012) don’t stop at external constituents but illustrate brand as a factor in rallying internal stakeholders or constituents as well. They describe brand as having the power to make organizations more effective. For example:” When an organization’s employees and volunteers all embrace a common brand identity, it creates organizational cohesion, concentrates focus, and reinforces shared values.” The authors go on to elaborate:” Strong cohesion and high levels of trust contribute to greater organizational capacity and social impact. A cohesive organization is able to make more efficient and focused use of existing resources, and high external trust attracts additional talent, financing, and authority. This increase in organizational capacity enhances an organization’s social impact.”
With the potential benefits to nonprofit organizations it is easy to imagine how important the role of your MarComm team (whether they are paid staff or volunteers) is in developing an brand that is understandable and embraced by not only your external stakeholders but also your internal stakeholders. In this case it seems very reasonable that the organization have a much broader definition of internal stakeholders. Board members, staff and volunteers are clearly internal stakeholders but when it comes to brand stakeholders you should include social media followers. These followers can also become strong assets in sharing your brand, but will do so only if they embrace it as much as stakeholders who your organization may have traditionally viewed as closer to you. As mentioned in part 1 of this article not only should your followers embrace your brand but also your team must be willing and able to create content and collateral that makes it easier for these followers share your brand with their contacts and followers. This is a place that may feel very challenging for traditional marketers. Losing control of who is sharing your message and your brand –or if they are creating their own twist on your messaging. Kylander & Stone (2012) introduce the concept of Brand Democracy and how it can be utilized to share your brand –however inevitably your team will have less ability to control this sharing of your brand. They describe;” Brand democracy means that the organization trusts its members, staff, participants, and volunteers to communicate their own understanding of the organization’s core identity. Brand democracy largely eliminates the need to tightly control how the brand is presented and portrayed. The appetite for brand democracy among nonprofit leaders is largely a response to the growth of social media, which has made policing the brand nearly impossible.”
It is likely that the notion of being able to control your brand is becoming less and less probable. Based on the psychological construct described earlier –likely we don’t really own our own brand anyway as it is largely based on how others perceive us. These authors quote Alexis Ettinger, (head of strategy and marketing at the University of Oxford’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship) in saying;” “Given the rise of social media it would be insane to try to single-handedly control the brand.” Instead of trying to control your brand Kylander & Stone (2012) suggest:” Brand democracy requires a fundamental shift in the traditional approach to brand management. Organizations aspiring to brand democracy do not police their brands, trying to suppress unauthorized graphics or other representations of the organization, but strive instead to implement a participatory form of brand management. They provide resources, such as sample text and online templates that all staff can access and adapt to communicate the mission, strategy, work, and values of the organization.” Reading this quote for the first time made me think about the Mario Andretti quote:” If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” If we feel like we have total control of our charities brand it is possible that we are not adapting quickly enough to how the internet, web-based technologies and social media are changing how our supporters will perceive and interact with our organization. The authors do recognize that for Brand Democracy to work, an organization does need a strong internal brand identity and organizational cohesion. Just to be clear the authors do not advocate abandoning all efforts to manage your brand. Kylander and Stone (2012) do caution;” Brand democracy is not brand anarchy. Organizations need to establish parameters for a brand, even if the space within these limits is large.” Certainly some cautions should be applied and organizations should manage to the best of their ability how their brand is perceived. However some days it does feel like we should heed Andretti’s advice and go a little faster.
If you would like to read part 1 of this post:
Kylander,K. & Stone, C. (2012) The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector: Stanford Social Innovation
Review; V34, Spring 2012, as retrieved from:
Having had some great marketing people on boards I have worked for, the importance of “brand” has always been discussed at board meetings or during strategic planning sessions. We have learned some great concepts and practices from the for- profit sector, but I have always wondered “shouldn’t a nonprofits brand be used in a different way? “Over the last few years as the use of social media has grown and become so pervasive it has struck me that how nonprofits manage their brand might actually be underutilizing the potential of their brand in terms of the impact it may have. For example Blake ( 2014) describes: ”…social media is revolutionizing the way we lead, the way we live and the way we connect with ourselves and others. It is changing the way we in the voluntary sector expect to achieve change and create the better world we seek. That makes it a big deal.” With the power of social media platforms authors such as Levinson et. al. (2010) suggests that nonprofit organizations need to consider opportunities to take advantage of this ability to spread information quickly. These authors advise:” Give people the content they need to pass on your viral marketing. Provide assets for your audience to make their own videos, allow them to put their pictures in an e-card, anything that helps to put them into the storyline and send to their contacts (Levison et al.,2010, p.199). This sounds like really practical advice, but many of the marketing professionals that I have even worked with might quickly sound the alarms about losing control of the brand if you do this.
Kylander and Stone (2012) have some very interesting perspectives on the role of brand for the nonprofit and how the paradigm may be changing . They explain:” . Although many nonprofits continue to take a narrow approach to brand management, using it as a tool for fundraising, a growing number are moving beyond that approach to explore the wider, strategic roles that brands can play: driving broad, long-term social goals, while strengthening internal identity, cohesion, and capacity (Kylander &, Stone, 2012). As leaders of nonprofits we think of brand in terms of its ability to support our fundraising efforts. These authors point out: “Brand managers in these pioneering organizations were focusing less on revenue generation and more on social impact and organizational cohesion. Indeed, some of the most interesting brand strategies are being developed in endowed, private foundations with no fundraising targets at all.”
As nonprofit leaders we have a high awareness that we need to continuously raise revenue and find new sources of revenue to continue to deliver our mission. It seems reasonable that we would consider the for- profit sectors use of brand to maximize revenue as having a good fit with our own organizations. Kylander & Stone (2012) point out:” The models and terminology used in the nonprofit sector to understand brand remain those imported from the for-profit sector to boost name recognition and raise revenue. Nonprofit leaders need new models that allow their brands to contribute to sustaining their social impact, serving their mission, and staying true to their organization’s values and culture.” They go on to elaborate:” A decade ago, the dominant brand paradigm in the nonprofit sector focused on communications. Nonprofit executives believed that increased visibility, favorable positioning in relation to competitors and recognition among target audiences would translate into fundraising success. Branding was a tool for managing the external perceptions of an organization, a subject for the communications, fundraising, and marketing departments. In contrast, the emerging paradigm sees brand as having a broader and more strategic role in an organization’s core performance, as well as having an internal role in expressing an organization’s purposes, methods, and values. “.
Having worked for nonprofit organizations for a few decades I wouldn’t completely disagree with the notion of making efforts to increase visibility having an impact on increasing fundraising revenue. I would say that I have seen this effect in action. However increasingly I wonder if our brand (s) can be leveraged to do more than just this. Can they be used to help us better deliver our mission and have this greater strategic role? I used to tell any of our volunteers and staff who would listen that regardless of our role or title we are all really on the fundraising team. I think now I would more accurately describe that we are all not only on the fundraising but also the marketing team. Our volunteers and our staff are really brand ambassadors. Today’s social media can make our volunteers and our staff ambassadors with a much broader reach. It would seem that Kylander & Stone (2012) would agree:” Increasingly, branding is a matter for the entire nonprofit executive team. At every step in an organization’s strategy and at each juncture in its theory of change, a strong brand is increasingly seen as critical in helping to build operational capacity, galvanize support, and maintain focus on the social mission.”
In part 2 of this article how to use your brand as a powerful tool beyond just increasing visibility for your charity
Blake,S (2014) Why social media is important for Chief Executives as retrieved from:
Kylander,K. & Stone, C. (2012) The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector: Stanford Social Innovation
Review; V34, Spring 2012, as retrieved from:
Levinson, J.C, Adkins,F. & Forbes,C. (2010) Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits: 250 Tactics to Promote,
Recruit, Motivate and Raise More Money: Irvine: Entrepreneur Press
It seems like good advice for charities always comes in “three’s”. Or maybe it is that good blog posts always come with three main points. It may just be that I have a short attention span and can’t attend to more than three main points, but I did come across a couple of blog posts with some good advice.
Amanda Quraishi in her blog post Three Essential Ways Your Nonprofit Should Be Using Social Media – describes that there are three main ways every nonprofit should be using social media. She suggests: Informing & Storytelling, Organizing and Fundraising as these three ways. So goes on to describe: “Building a case for support starts with telling the stories of the people you impact with your work. It also means giving prospective supporters facts and information that is compelling enough to move them to act. Social media can be a great way to share blog posts, info- graphics, and other data that people can immediately use and share online”. Posting content which is both compelling and easily shared makes it more likely that your charity will be able to take advantage of your followers networks or if you are lucky to have some viral “sharing” of your story. When you consider your nonprofits social media you may not immediately think of organizing as a role that these channels may fill. However social media can be a great way to find volunteers or participants for your events. Additionally it can be a great way to thank your volunteers and supporters. To this point Quraishi describes;” Not only that, but social media is a great way to share stories and photos, and to thank your volunteers publicly following your events. This contributes to building community and lets your followers visualize your mission in action, keeping your organization at the top of their mind regardless of what else they are doing on their own profile.”
For those of us who are charity leaders, raising funds can monopolize a good deal of your time each day. We cannot deliver our mission without generating revenue to cover costs. When deciding whether to start using social media or how much volunteer or staff time to devote to manage these platforms, leaders often want to consider how much money will be raised through or as a result of social media activity. Ironically how supportive these vehicles become in supporting your fundraising activities is related to how infrequently you use them as a fundraising tool. This may not seem intuitive however Quraishi explains;” Social media should not be used primarily as a fundraising tool. (After all, it’s hard to be ‘social’ while constantly asking people for financial support.) But that doesn’t mean social media can’t have a huge role in a successful fundraising program. As long as your organization is consistently offering more than fundraising on its social channels, the occasional ask will be well received. “
Shattuck (2014) has an interesting perspective on how to strike the right balance in using social media as a fundraising tool. He describes what the brand marketers refer to as the rule of thirds. Shattuck illustrates;” This rule states that tweets, posts, and status updates should fall into one of three categories and be spread more or less evenly between each: 1/3 of posts should be about you or your brand, 1/3 of posts should be about your industry, with content from an outside source [&] 1/3 of your posts should be personal interactions.”
Shattuck (2014) goes on to interpret how this rule can be applied to charities. For a nonprofit the “thirds” are:
Appreciation is pretty straight forward- use your social media to thank your supporters. “A primary focus of your brand’s social media accounts should be donor appreciation. Historically, donors could only be acknowledged through offline means: a phone call, a thank-you letter, or recognition at a live event. Social media allows for high-impact, low-cost public recognition that, when deployed strategically, can create stickiness between your organization and its supporters while generating new exposure (Shattuck, 2014).”
When speaking about Advocacy –he goes on to explain:” Every nonprofit has a mission and cause for which they advocate. Social media is an excellent outlet for sharing information that raises awareness and educates, outside of the context of fundraising.” Some nonprofit organizations primary purpose is advocacy and for these charities social media is a great tool. However most nonprofits can/should advocate for the cause they represent ( posting about their own organization and others doing similar work ) as well as advocating for the users of their service.
Like Quraishi , Shattuck advises balance when it comes to using social media for fundraising. He suggests: “No one will deny that social media has been a game-changer for online fundraising. There’s no reason not to solicit donations directly from Twitter, Facebook, and the like, provided your appeals occur proportionately to other forms of content.”
So to take this rule a step further if you plan to use your nonprofits social media to generate financial support for your charity, probably less than a third of your posts should be directed at asking for this support. At least two thirds of your posts should be created for the purpose of thanking and recognizing those who are currently helping you, or spent talking about what you are doing for your users and what their needs are.
Shattuck,S (2014) The “Three A’s” of Nonprofit Social Media Engagement; Hubspot as retrieved from:
Quraishi ,A. (2013) Three Essential Ways Your Nonprofit Should Be Using Social Media; NP Engage
website; as retrieved from http://www.npengage.com/social-media/three-essential-ways-your-nonprofit-should-using-social-media/
I find with my own posts I am always experimenting to try to figure out when the best time to post is. I used to do a lot of posts after 7:30 PM because I had read once that a lot of people sit down with their tablets and phones after dinner and dishes are done for some well-deserved down time. More recently if I put a blog post up I might tweet or post the link on LinkedIn at 12:30 in the morning as well as 7 to 8 Pm. This way I seem to get views from my followers in North America as well as followers in the UK and Australia. I tend to think of experimenting a bit with the timing of posts as a way to quasi scientifically figure out the best time to reach followers, but in reality this is probably just a lot of systematic guessing. I did find this interesting blog post by Shea Bennett that has some observations that are worth considering. Bennett posts an infographic from Fannit with some interesting facts and statistics. Personally and for our organization we don’t do a lot of posting on the weekend which seems to make sense for us. The infographic would suggest that for Facebook this would make sense –they suggest this is the worst time to post on Facebook. However Twitter engagement goes up by 30% on the weekend- so maybe we should be more active on Twitter during the weekend. The infographic points out that 80% of mobile users check their phone each morning, their advice is weekdays between 6am and 8am is a great time to post on FaceBook. They also go on to suggest that most people don’t check FaceBook while they are at work (probably because most employers would frown on this) so the best times to post are obviously before and after work. A suggestion that I suppose seems intuitive is if you ask for a Retweet on twitter you are more likely to get one. This makes a lot of sense but I have heard that this is really poor form on twitter. Not sure what I think of that recommendation-but if you give it a try, maybe ask for retweets sparingly. If you are posting on LinkedIn- the blog post suggests most people check their LinkedIn right before and right after work. So the best time to post on LinkedIn is 7-8:30 am and 5 to 6 Pm. A few of the nonprofit executives I know are not as keen on LinkedIn as they may be of other social media. LinkedIn doesn’t seem to be changing our fundraising world, but it sure has been a great tool to post our career postings on and to subsequently have a few of our staff team share the post. Another interesting fact Business people are most active on social media on Tuesdays and Thursday –so you know what days to post on LinkedIn .
Some interesting and useful tips in this article, however this is assuming that your charity is local and most of your followers are nearby. If you are a national charity or your follower base is more global you are going to need to do a little time zone math. As I mentioned above for myself this has meant doing some posting in the small hours of the morning Thank goodness for Hoot Suite and TweetDeck
Bennett, S (2013) The Best Times to Post on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pintrest: All
Twitter: The unofficial resource, As retrieved from;
Three years ago I was a social media skeptic. I couldn’t really understand what benefit social media could have for a charity, little own why their CEO should be engaged on social media. If you have read some of my other blog posts you can see how radically my perspective has changed. Now I view social media as an important tool for nonprofits and their leaders. A little while ago one of the radio stations I listen to was talking about job positions that are likely to go away in the future and “social media expert” was one of them. Initially I was a little surprised by this, and I am not sure that we will see these types of positions going away in the near future. The reporters rationale for this prediction was that soon professionals, spokespeople and leaders of organizations will really need to become their own “experts” and will need to become adept at managing their own social media for the benefit of their organization. Makes sense, I suppose you don’t see companies posting for email experts or telephone experts, and social media is after all becoming just one more way to communicate with your users and stakeholders.
Getting back to the skeptical about social media thing, since my perspective on social media has changed so much; I am always on the lookout for other charity CEOs who are active on social media. I am most interested about those who share their perspective on it. Now at times reading these blog posts can be a fairly biased study as CEOs who are not active on social media would not be blogging about it, therefore most are likely to view social media in a positive light. Nonetheless I did come across an interesting blog post written by Simon Blake. When describing how social media is changing our landscape Blake (2014) describes;” It shifts how we connect and communicate with those around us and has huge potential to amplify our voice with and on behalf of users. It has created new boundaries between us and our staff, trustees, funders, service users, friends and between our personal, social, private and work interests and lives. It makes us more open to scrutiny, challenge and praise. It potentially makes us ‘fair game’ for the media, for partners, our objectors and our supporters for more hours each day, more days each week and more weeks each year.”
Blake goes on to describe;” Social media also makes it less possible or desirable for us to rely on well-polished press releases, sentences well-crafted by others with perfectly formed opinions.” For the most part I would say I am a fan of well-crafted messages with polish and professionalism. However to Blake’s point there is something to be said about messages and interaction that is a little earthier. Many nonprofit organizations work very closely with and for people. I think there is something that inherently resonates with our stakeholders when they feel they are hearing the “real “story about what we are doing for children, or families. Not the polished messages are not the real story or the truth, but there appears to be an authenticity or a genuineness to content that does not feel so prepared.
Another one of Blake’s quotes that resonated with me personally is:”…social media is revolutionizing the way we lead, the way we live and the way we connect with ourselves and others. It is changing the way we in the voluntary sector expect to achieve change and create the better world we seek. That makes it a big deal.” I think he is right- it is a big deal. Being engaged in social media allows us to hear from stakeholders and amplify our cause’s message in a way that has not been available to us at any other point in history.
Blake makes the further points :”….that is why we must embrace social media as CEOs – leading our organizations to maximize the benefits it brings in helping us achieve the change we seek. Who better to experiment, make mistakes and give others in our organization the permission to do so themselves?” Clearly maximizing the benefits to our organization is an important reason a nonprofit CEO to engage on social media. Additionally as Blake points out, it is a new way to exercise leadership. Managers and leaders have known for some time that if you want your teams to be innovative you must create a culture that does not punish people for making mistakes. As soon as you become overly punitive of mistakes you will shut down any form of risk taking which essentially shuts down creative thinking and innovation. A great way to reinforce your teams willingness to think creatively about better ways to fulfill or maximize you mission is to model some of these things yourself.
Blake,S (2014) Why social media is important for Chief Executives as retrieved from:
If you are responsible for the social media posts for your charity- how do you determine how many posts per day do you do? On my personal social media sites I post a little more frequently than our staff post on our RMH social media sites. Jill who is responsible for our social media always says “only post awesome” –I on the other hand am a little more willing to post something that is a little less than awesome. How often you post on social media does depend a lot on which platform you are using. When considering Facebook Mansfield (2012) suggests;” Large national and international nonprofits with well-known and much loved brands have a different experience on Face Book from that of most small to medium sized nonprofits. They usually have lots of fresh content to share and their fans are much less likely to “unlike” their page if they overshare on Face Book. Small to medium sized nonprofits, should err on the side of caution. Less is more.” Mansfield recommends Facebook status updates of 1 to 2 a day or less.
I would tend to agree with her recommendations followers, on twitter seem much more tolerant of frequent posts than Facebook followers. On twitter higher volume seems to be a key. The social media expert who manages the site for our Global charity has told me that she tries to target about 12 tweets a day. Personally I have found the most growth and interaction on my personal social media when I am able to average about 20 interactions a day. Now keep in mind I don’t necessarily want to send 20 tweets a day out about our organization. I want some of those interactions to be mentions and retweets of other peoples content. Mansfield (2012, p.97) reminds us that: “Retweet unto others as you would have them retweet unto you is the golden rule of twitter. The more your nonprofit promotes others through retweets and replies, the more your nonprofit will in turn get retweeted and mentioned.” She goes on to advise:” Strategically speaking one of your primary goals on twitter should be to earn retweets and mentions by others because this is the fastest way to grow your follower base (Mansfield, 2012, p.97).
Twitter followers do have more tolerance for more volume –but a good portion of that volume can’t be about you or your organization. Think about any relationship –who wants a friend who only talks about themselves. On a personal level this is discipline that I struggle with. There are so many things about our organization that are cool that I want to push out there-but there does need to be balance. To be quite honest sometimes I am good at creating this balance, sometimes I am not. Kanter and Fine in their book The Networked Nonprofit, remind that:” The key ingredient for any relationship is good listening. Rather than just talking to, or worse at people on-line, organizations should first listen to what people are talking about ,what interests or concerns them and how they view the organization. Listening is a terrific way for organizations to orient themselves online.”
So I suppose how frequently or infrequently you post is important, but how much you listen and engage your followers is equally important. When someone who works for another charity is starting off on developing their social media sites and they ask me the question how often do you post? I usually suggest that they experiment with their own volume to see what works best for their followers and their charity. For my own social media my personal targets are 1-3 instagram posts a day, twitter 12-20 interactions a day and Linked In and Facebook 1 to 2 posts a day. I don’t always hit those targets although some days I post at a higher volume. Anyway your charity should test and experiment with different levels of posting, and as Mansfield suggests that with some platforms such as Facebook “less is more.”
Kanter, B & Fine, A,H. (2010) The networked nonprofit: Connecting with social media to drive change.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mansfield, H (2012) Social Media for Social Good: A how to guide for Nonprofits: New York: McGraw