While there are many social networks available to nonprofit marketers to increase cause awareness, site traffic, and donations, only one corporate account can exist on each network. This limits your reach to however many brand fans and followers you can generate.
However, nonprofiteers can tap into a wealth of additional social media users that exist right under their noses: those belonging to the personal networks of their staff members.
Why Leverage Employees for Social Media Marketing?
Italian security researchers recently found that one out of every ten Twitter followers is fake, while video blogger Derek Muller reports that a majority of the Facebook followers on his brand page generated by paid ads are bogus.
Not only is it difficult to generate social media followers on brand accounts, it's even harder to ensure they're the people you actually want to reach. That's why it's so important not to rely solely on one set of social media followers, but to instead tap into as many unique communities as possible.
Savvy businesses understand the force-multiplier effect that their employees can have on content distribution through social media. Nonprofits can do the same by encouraging their employees to share brand messages through their personal social media accounts. Your employees likely already have established online networks of people who are empathetic to your cause, with the added benefit of credibility and an understanding of your mission.
Not only is there strength in numbers, but human profiles are free from the confines of brand voice and identity. It can sometimes feel odd to exchange tweets with a corporate logo, but completely natural to do so with a real life human. Plus, real people tend to get higher engagement than brands because their content doesn't feel like an advertisement, even if an appeal is involved.
Don't forget: board members, volunteers, cause influencers and even some donors are candidates as well. Major donors, in particular, may have high public visibility that you'll want to tap into.
Now that you're ready to enlist the help of your employees, here's a guide to get you started.
Explain Your Goals and Strategies
Before you put your brand messaging in the hands of non-marketers and non-fundraisers within your organization, it's important to explain to them how and why you use each social network. You'll want to maintain consistency, especially if your current strategies are working.
For example, if you typically post photos and videos on your Facebook page instead of company news, don't ask employees to post company news to their personal timelines, either. If you're not comfortable sharing content on your company page, you can't expect employees to want to, either.
Not only will you set up them up for success, but you'll also achieve buy-in and ensure long-term participation.
Facilitate Brand-Employee Alignment
An easy win that doesn't involve any posting at all is to encourage your employees to identify your nonprofit in their social media profiles. Facebook "About" sections, Twitter bios, and LinkedIn profiles are excellent places to list information about your nonprofit.
For example, ask your employees to include your corporate Twitter account username and website URL in their bios, if they feel comfortable. Be sure that all LinkedIn and Facebook job position entries have the same boilerplate description of your organization. It's a great way to generate referral traffic and protect brand standards.
Don't be afraid to ask board members to identify their roles on LinkedIn, too -- there's an entire profile section dedicated to listing volunteer experience and supported causes, in addition to individual positions. Individual donors might even add you, too!
When your team members are ready to post, it's important to coordinate their activity with that of your brand accounts. You don't want to have everyone post the same content at exactly the same time. It's likely that there's a lot of crossover between all of your followers, and posting all at once can look spammy.
Instead, I recommend you create a staggered schedule so that each person posts at a different time of day. That way, you'll reach followers that may have been missed by a previous account without overwhelming everyone at once. Multiple, repeat postings are okay, especially if you're promoting a fundraising campaign or special event.
Don't sleep on weekends, either. Saturdays and Sundays are excellent days for internal advocates to share your content, as data shows that engagement is high on non-business days.
Encourage Content Creation
Not everything that your employees post has to come from the marketing department. Encourage them to create and share their own content, even if it's as simple as a photograph from an event or a thank you tweet to a donor. The more original content employees create, the better -- it's the genuine stuff that really resonates.
Have a Crisis Plan in Place
Even charities are susceptible to negative social media firestorms. Now that your employees are visible and engaged online, it's important to have a plan in place should any negative PR or crises arise. You don't want to lose control of your messaging should one or more employees respond prematurely or inappropriately.
Nonprofit employees are perhaps the most dedicated and enthusiastic members of the workforce. After all, they wouldn't be a part of your organization if they weren't extremely passionate about the mission. Tap into that energy, and encourage internal social media advocacy.
Originally published Feb 20, 2014 4:00:00 PM, updated February 01 2017