Thought Leadership

Social Media is Changing

How Nonprofit Content Can Meet the Moment


I’m seeing an exciting trend amongst nonprofits. I’m seeing some nonprofits rethink how their social channels serve their organization. For years (dare I say decades?), most nonprofits have used their social channels as promotional vehicles–a scrolling billboard for whatever initiative, campaign, or event they need to promote. And for a while, this worked–which makes sense–this is how the platforms started. This is when they operated as they were originally conceived–which was a platform for building and connecting with different micro-communities that we’re all part of. As an example, I joined Facebook during my freshman year of college at NYU (back when it was only open to college students) to put names with the faces of people who lived in my dorm, sat near me in class, etc. It was a delightful utility that accelerated my acclimation to college life.

This is no longer the case today. These are mature, publicly traded companies that represent–in the case of Meta alone–20% of digital ad spend in the US. These companies are no longer just organic platforms for friends and family to stay connected. These platforms are still used to grow organic communities, but our methods look different now because the algorithms serve our content continually to new people, as opposed to solely our existing communities. At their core, these mature, publicly traded companies are built to help drive business growth for their customers. You too can access this growth by paying “competitive rates” based on cost-per-click or cost-per-impression of the content you want to make sure your community sees (also known as your “ads”).

Sometimes it feels like we’re using these social platforms’ new “ways of doing business” to chase an older version of their product. What happens when we stop trying to look back and we accept the platforms for what they are today?

As an agency, we have found some solutions and best practices to the common challenges that nonprofits face when they try to invest in their social media strategy — but we’re never done learning. That’s why we’re surveying dozens of nonprofits across the country on how they use social media here. We will analyze and anonymously share our results in a webinar with you in the coming months. So if you’d like to learn more about how nonprofits can leverage social media for growth, fill out this survey, and send it to five colleagues who work in nonprofits.

In the meantime, take a look at some of the best practices put together by Town Hall’s Social team:

  • Challenge: “We’re already short-staffed and with more budget cuts looming, it’s overwhelming to think about how to change what we’re doing on social.”.
      • Many nonprofits are reluctant to invest in social media due to resource constraints. Organizations often think that any social media work requires a large team with many years of expertise.
  • Solution: Start small. 
      • Many content creator accounts and successful social media accounts are run by one smart, engaged, and creative person. It only takes one team member to get craft, think outside of the box, and repurpose old content. While it does require expertise and a large team to maintain an account at a very large scale, by starting small you can enter the space with fewer resources to become a part of the conversation.
  • Challenge: “We know we need to post more video content, but we don’t have the budget to increase our video output significantly over time.” 
      • Now that vertical video is king — both from a user perspective and in terms of what gets boosted by the algorithm, many nonprofits feel they cannot engage with video content because it requires a larger production studio and budget than static assets did.
  • Solution: Lean into organic and unpolished.
      • Lean into first-person video content, in-office content, or a content series shot and edited on a smartphone. Not all video content requires a large production budget and in fact, the more organic home-grown content is often prioritized by the algorithm.
  • Challenge: “There are so many platforms to manage today, do we have to have a presence on all of them?”
      • For some nonprofits, choosing the right social media platforms that align with the company’s goals, target audience, and industry can be challenging, as each platform has its own unique features and audience demographics.
  • Solution: Go where your audience is. 
      • Use the data that you have to determine where your current audience/fans are and where the audience you’d like to build a relationship with is. Almost all platforms have an element of discovery to them now, so your content will very likely be put in front of people who don’t know your organization no matter which platform you choose. Go for quality over quantity.
  • Challenge: “We’re competing for our community’s attention against much larger organizations–not to mention commercial brands with commercial budgets.” 
      • The social media landscape is highly competitive, with countless nonprofits and causes vying for attention and engagement, making it difficult to stand out and capture the audience’s interest amidst the noise.
  • Solution: Post consistently and hone your brand voice. 
    • The organic social space is more of an even playing field now than ever for smaller organizations. Whether or not your content is served in the feed is no longer about the size of your following, particularly on TikTok! Two elements will help drive your success: The first is consistency. Make sure you are creating consistent, engaging content month in and month out and tracking what works over time. The second key ingredient is your unique brand voice: What does your nonprofit offer (both as an organization and as a content creator on the platform) that no other organization can? There are a million valuable social media lanes, from educational to humorous. Find and own yours.

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