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9339573214_470797dd46_mSocial media listening has proven itself as a strategy in the commercial sector – especially with retail and entertainment brands. But what about in the nonprofit sector? Can nonprofits benefit from social media and audience marketing?

Absolutely yes.

C’mon in, the water’s freezing

If any campaign proved the use case for social media by nonprofits, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge did. The “break-the-Internet-phenomenon,” according to Time, generated a record $115 million in donations. For any nonprofit, that’s a result impossible to ignore.

Yet according to Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ), not all nonprofits are taking advantage of the full potential of social media. Citing a study conducted by the Case Foundation and Social Media for Nonprofits, NPQ noted that “74% use social networks as a megaphone, announcing events and activities and sharing organization-centric info. Only 53% actually follow the best practice of posting issue-centric content to establish thought leadership in their nonprofit’s area(s) of focus.”

Posting issue-centric content is certainly vital to relaying the importance of an organization’s work. As is NPQ’s advice to “start a conversation” instead of simply using social media to amplify your messaging. It’s all about approach, and likely where nonprofits are getting hung up.

Retail brands have the same challenges, actually – but both can benefit by focusing on what consumers (or in this case, donors) want – because they’re the ones in charge now.

Sentiment vs. guilt

Let’s start with what consumers/donors don’t want: sales pitches. In the nonprofit world that can translate to guilt-inspiring, overly manipulative “sob stories.” Yes, striking an emotional chord is crucial to motivating donors – but that doesn’t have to mean tugging at their heart strings in a manipulative way.

Instead it can mean using audience marketing to identify the people on social who are already passionate about giving back, and getting to know them even better. What moves them, what causes do they support and why?

Flipping the script to put donors before the cause is how nonprofits can build trust and enlist social users’ support.  These are the people who – when authentically engaged – will amplify your message for you.

A dimensional view of donors

Engaging authentically requires drilling deep and using social media sentiment analysis to find common interests among those in your audience. From there you can create multiple segments to target with individualized messaging. Much better than a generalized, megaphone-like blast to everyone on social.

Our Audience 3D™ tool is designed to help brands and nonprofits alike identify and target these multiple segments – which brands like 7-Eleven have used to great success. Here’s how to put these insights to work:

Personalize messaging and incentives. Instead of one large audience of people who love helping animals, the ASPCA, for example, could have segments of:

  • Dog lovers who play Halo
  • Cat lovers who watch The Big Bang Theory
  • Bunny fans who can’t resist Doritos

Each of these segments would receive messaging tailored specifically to them, human-to-human instead of appearing as a desperate nonprofit pleading for money. And having this kind of insight about potential donors means you can make your incentives super on point as well.

Look at your competition. You can learn a lot about strategies you haven’t considered by looking at how other organizations are approaching their social media engagement. How does their messaging go over (or not) with social users? Maybe your organization would be a better fit for some users. Don’t just look for mentions of your own nonprofit. Think bigger, and take advantage of the data on offer.

Avoid missed opportunities. Nonprofits thrive on the support of major corporations and local businesses alike – but it can be easy to assume certain companies might not be willing to help. Until you see them helping another organization.

Instead of assuming, apply the strategies above to find potential corporate sponsors as well. Analyzing a brand could lead you to more individual donors, or vice versa. Don’t get hung up on demographics that divide based on old-school metrics like gender, age, or, in this case, person vs. business. Look for the common interests and engage based on what matters to the people behind the brand or business.

When it comes to social engagement, nonprofits and commercial businesses want the same thing – to reach social users and inspire them to take action. Using an audience marketing approach that is personalized and human is how they can do it – no matter what they stand for.

To learn more about how to engage social media audiences, download our latest white paper, The New Normal: Audience Marketing in the Age of You. Or reach out to let us know how we can help you start engaging more authentically today.

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