Because of its popularity and relatively low cost, social media is frequently used by different types of organizations as a marketing tool. In order to develop course materials for my CMN6040: Consumer Behaviors in the Online Environments and social media courses in our Corporate and Organizational Communication Graduate Program, I conducted an online survey (N = 115) to compare business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), and nonprofit (NP) organizations’ use of social media marketing from a global perspective.

My research findings suggested that different types of organizations (e.g., B2C, B2B, NP) may customize their social media marketing goals, platforms, and content based on their organizational missions and target audiences.  Specifically, NP’s social media marketing goals are very different from B2C and B2B organizations.  For example, more NP than B2C and B2B organizations use social media to increase donation and to encourage event participation.

What distinguishes for profit (e.g., B2C, B2B) and nonprofit organizations?  As noted in this article, for profit and nonprofit have different structures and desired outcomes.  In contrast to for profit organizations, nonprofits’ revenue is geared toward the public and the organization’s mission.  Nonprofits receive funding in the form of grants, sponsorships and donations.  Examples of nonprofits are social advocacy groups, charities, foundations, trade or professional associations, religious groups, health organizations, and educational organizations.


How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media

The questions I frequently hear from nonprofits are: What are the effective social media marketing strategies for my organization?  What is the step-by-step guide?  Based on my research and consulting experiences, I would like to make the following suggestions.

First and foremost, align your SMART social media marketing goals with your organizational missions.  As Rachel Krug noted, the SMART framework can help organizations set clear and actionable goals.  SMART refers to specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.  You need to be clear about what are the goals you would like accomplish from your social media marketing campaigns.  Generally speaking, the most popular social media marketing goals for nonprofits are increasing awareness, building online community, increasing donation, encouraging event participation, recruiting volunteers, and sharing news/updates.  If your social media marketing goal is increasing donations, your SMART goal can be: Increase monthly donations via social media sites by 20% by May 31, 2021.  You can track the donations obtained from social media sites and see whether the goal has been achieved.

Choose the Platform that is Right for You

Second, choose the appropriate social media platforms.   The 2020 Global Trends in Giving Report Infographics suggested that Facebook is the most frequently used social media by nonprofits.  As the numbers in the Infographics suggested, 25% of donors worldwide said that social media is the communication tool that most inspires them to give.  About one-third (32%) of donors said that they donated through Facebook’s fundraising tools.  Of those, 89% said that they are likely to give through Facebook again.  Among all of the social media platforms, Facebook has very diverse user demographics (e.g., gender, age, generation, ethnicity, country). Therefore, many nonprofits use Facebook to reach diverse audiences, to increase awareness, and to raise money.  If your NP collects donations, you can add the Donate button to your organization’s Facebook page or next to your posts.  With this button, your supporters can easily click it, enter the amounts for donation, and provide their credit card numbers.  In addition, you can check and see whether your NP is qualified for Facebook’s fundraising tools which are available for nonprofit or charitable organizations in certain locations.  If you are eligible, you may enroll as charitable organization with Facebook payments.

Other than Facebook, you can definitely use other platforms, such as blogs, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok for your organization depending on your social media marketing goals and your target audience.  For example, LinkedIn is the most popular professional network site.  If your target audiences are mainly working professional, you may use LinkedIn to raise awareness for your organizational mission, establish credibility and trust, reach target audiences (e.g., donors, volunteers, and corporate partners), and drive actions.  If your target audiences are the younger generation, Generation Z, you may consider using Snapchat or TikTok.

Third, post great content in different formats on your social media sites.  You can post articles, blogging content, photos, podcasts, and videos on your social media sites.  My survey research findings suggest that more NP than B2C and B2B organizations use visual content for social media marketing.

You may post event pictures that tell stories and show donors’ and volunteers’ help and involvement.  When donors and volunteers see themselves in the photos, they may be inspired to continuously engage with your nonprofits.  In addition, you may produce videos.  One video worth 1,000 words.  In order to increase awareness about your nonprofit organization’s mission and causes, you may post videos, such as introductory videos, behind the scenes videos, event videos, and Q&A videos, on YouTube.  You may also consider live-streaming, because this method is trending amid the COVID-19 pandemic  If you are hosting a live event that would generate interest by the public, it wouldn’t hurt to announce it on your channels in advance and to set up YouTube Live account or use other platforms.  For example, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have livestreaming features and functions.

Don’t Forget to Engage

Fourth, engage with your online community members.  It’s very important for you to interact with your supporters, donors, and volunteers in your online communities.  Establish long-term relationships with your community members by continuously letting them know how your organization is contributing to our society and you are more than interested in fundraising.  Be open, engaging, friendly, responsive, timely, and personable in your communications.  If your community members ask you questions, please definitely answer their questions in a timely manner.  By doing so, you can foster enjoyable interactions online and positive electronic word of mouth (eWOM) for your nonprofit.

Finally, include a Call to Action (CTA).  Action speaks louder than words.  As a mission-driven organization, you want to let your supporters know how can they take actions to support your organization.  You can include sign-up forms for volunteering/attending special events on your sites and a Donate button/link.

To spark emotion and immediate actions, you will make your CTA statement simple, direct, and easy for your supporters to understand what kinds of actions do you want them to take.  Some examples are: (1) Donate now; (2) Sign up to be a volunteer; (3) Learn how you can help, and (4) Attend our special events.  If your CTA is fundraising, you can partner with other companies or organizations on this.  I would also recommend that you periodically host enjoyable and meaningful events.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, large scale onsite events are prohibited.  However, ou can still host online events, such as or Zoom meetings or virtual conferences.  By doing so, you can provide your key audiences opportunities to interact with your organizational leaders, employees, and one another.

In conclusion, social media can be an effective marketing tool for your nonprofit.  Setting SMART goals, choosing appropriate platforms, posting relevant content, engaging with your community members, and including a Call to Action (CTA) on your social media sites are the keys for success.

Posted by Ming-Yi Wu, Faculty