A to Z of Social Media Marketing

A is for Algorithm

In social media, an algorithm is a set of formulas that determines what you see in your feed. Where feeds were once chronological, now they vary based on “relevance”—which is affected by the user’s usage, interests, interactions, and connections.

With the frequent algorithm changes, making authentic connections and encouraging interaction on your pages is more important than ever.

TIP: Here’s some useful and actionable info on navigating Facebook algorithms from Hootsuite.

B is for Branding

Branding is just as important in social media as it is in your print and online presence. Without consistent branding, your posts can appear scattered and not relay your intended brand messaging.

As I do with my other branding projects, I recommend creating a Social Media Brand Guide (or Social Media Style Guide) for your organization. It can be simple like the sample shown below, outlining brand fonts, colors and types of themes and posts.

Or you can go into more depth with specific guidelines for writing, grammar and voice, including sample posts. Here’s a social media style guide example that includes writing style from Buffer.

TIP: Creating a social media style guide is especially worth the time and effort if you hire subcontractors to write, design or manage your social media marketing, as it assures they will create content and graphics that are on-brand.

C is for Calendar

Every social media marketing strategy should be paired with a content calendar. A content calendar makes it easier to keep posts organized, on-schedule and spaced out appropriately. It’s also a good place to store links for curated posts. 

A content calendar can be simple or more detailed, based on your organization’s needs and strategy. I use Trello to create content calendars, here’s a great template to start with.  

TIP: Here’s a detailed post on creating a social media content calendar from Hootsuite.

D is for Data

If you are not tracking and analyzing social media data, you may be wasting your time. At the very least, you should track the most important metrics, such as engagement (likes, comments, shares and clicks) and awareness (impressions and reach) to see if your campaigns are reaching the right people and making an impact.

Keeping an eye on your social media data will also show you which campaigns are most successful, which can help in creating future campaigns (don’t reinvent the wheel every time!)

E is for Engagement

In social media, engagement refers to the likes, comments and shares on posts. It is not a one-time thing, it’s a relationship-building activity and should be incorporated into your overall social media strategy. 

For most organizations—because they are not selling a product or service—engagement will take the form of connecting with potential donors or supporters, creating something that stirs emotions and resonates with them and ultimately, causes them to take action.

And considering that 55% of people who engage with a nonprofit on social media are inspired to take further action (Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication) it’s worthwhile to pay attention to your engagement.

F is for Frequency

Over the years, I’ve read many articles about when and how often to post on social media—and they all seem to have conflicting opinions. My advice is to use suggested posting frequency as a reference (like this guide from Buffer) but refer to your analytics to see when your audience is most engaged with your posts. 

It can also help to do some testing: bump up your frequency to see if you get better results and vice versa. 

TIP: Once you’ve determined your ideal posting frequency, make sure to use a content calendar and social media scheduling tool to keep your posts organized.

G is for Goal

Like any other marketing tactic, your social media outreach must have goals. In order to be effective, it should be integrated and aligned with your organization’s overall strategic plan. For example, if one of your objective is to increase first-time donors, then your social media plan would be to attract and engage with this audience. 

Once you’re ready to develop your social media strategy, start by reviewing your organization’s overall strategic plan. Then, create related SMART social media goals, such as brand awareness, website visits, event signups, etc. Lastly, determine metrics to track each of the goals. 

TIP: Here are 9 social media goals and metrics you can consider for your organization.

H is for Hashtag

By now, I’m sure we all know about hashtags—but are you using them effectively? Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than posts without a hashtag (Later). By using them strategically, you can more easily reach your target audience. And because Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags on a post, you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity to connect.

Finding the right hashtag takes some research. It helps to see what others are using and which ones are popular. Some hashtags to consider for your organization are those related to your organization’s branding (#NewMomsEmpowers), mission (#familysupport), campaign (#BuildHope) or event (#NewMomsGala). For wider reach, you can also consider using a popular daily hashtag like #mondaymotivation or #tuesdaytip. There are also online research tools such as Hashtagify.me

TIP: You can track hashtag analytics right in Instagram by clicking “View Insights” under each post. 

I is for Influencer

Leveraging the power of social media influencers is an effective way to increase your reach—and it’s not just for for-profit brands. 

As with other social media outreach, get clarity on your mission and goals—and assure that the influencer is also aligned. 

Potential influencers may be closer than you think: look at your most-vocal donors and volunteers, as well as people who regularly comment on or share your posts. And don’t think you have to find big-name influencers: “micro influencers” can be more engaged with their audiences and easier to connect with. 

J is for Jargon

Just like other forms of marketing, there is a unique language associated with social media marketing. Learning the jargon will help you work more effectively with social media consultants or team members managing your outreach, as well as keep yourself up-to-date.

TIP: Here’s a comprehensive (and regularly updated) social media glossary from Buffer.

K is for KPI

KPI (Key Performance Indicator), helps you measure the success of your social media outreach. KPIs should be aligned with your social media goals and they should be SMART.
Here are 4 general categories of social media KPIs and how they relate to goals: 

Reach – awareness goals

Engagement – engagement goals

Return on investment – sales goals

Retention or loyalty – customer service or retention goals

For example, if your social media goal is to raise brand awareness then you would track audience growth, post reach, and number of mentions. If your goal is to increase engagement, you would track likes, shares, comments or other interactions with your audience. If your goal is return on investment, you would track lead conversions or revenue from events. 

TIP: Plan to revisit KPIs with your team at least every 6 months.

L is for Live Streaming

78% of people watch online videos every week with 55% viewing online videos every day (HubSpot) which makes for a great argument to add live streaming to your social media marketing mix. 

Many nonprofits are currently using live streams to share footage of events to help those who can’t be there in person still be a part of the experience. Some are even using it for fundraising, such as Direct Relief Gaming which uses livestream gaming events to bring in donations. 

Other ideas for live stream are interviews, behind-the-scenes, testimonials, Q&A sessions or “newsjacking” commentary. 

M is for Mission

You probably have a mission statement for your organization, but do you have one for your social media marketing? 

A social media mission statement helps you discover and express the WHO, WHAT and WHY of your social media: WHO you are speaking to, WHAT you are sharing, and WHY they should engage with it.

WHO: Who is your audience? Who will be reading what you share? (If you don’t already have an audience profile, now is the time to write one)

WHAT: What do they want to learn or read about? What can you share that will encourage them to interact? What will inspire them?

WHERE: Where can you find your audience? Which social media outlets do they use and how do they use them? 

TIP: Download my free Social Media Mission Statement worksheet

N is for News Feed

A news feed is where followers see your social media updates. News feeds used to be chronological, however now they are mostly based on algorithms. For example, in Facebook posts are currently shown based on who a user typically interacts with, the type of media and the popularity of the post. 

There are a few ways to work around the algorithms, such as starting conversations, posting when your audience is online (and more likely to see your content), sharing video content (which Facebook loves), and posting consistently (which is where your content calendar comes into play).  

O is for Optimization

Social Media Optimization is the practice of using social media platforms to grow your brand and strengthen your presence. It works in tandem with search engine optimization, driving traffic to your website.

By optimizing your social media content, you make it more likely to be found by—and connect with—people who are searching for what you are offering. 

Do keyword research and use it in your content. 

Optimize your profiles: make all photos, bios and descriptions consistent.

Create an effective content mix: consider the 80/20 rule of 80% education and 20% promotion.

Test different types of posts to see which ones resonate with your audience.

Post when your audience is online.

Keep track of your analytics data and learn from it.

P is for Patience

Like other marketing channels, social media results may not happen overnight. You have to be consistent, persistent and especially patient. 

In marketing, it’s been said that it takes seven “touches” before a prospect takes an action. Basically, you can’t expect someone to take action after their first interaction with you. It’s no different in social media—however you have the unique opportunity to make your touches more frequent.

Having a system to track social media analytics can help you be patient during the process, as you can visually see the progress you are making.

Q is for Quality

In my social media workshops, I always preach “quality over quantity.” Instead of obsessing over follower count, focus on getting the right followers—those who genuinely interact and engage with your organization. 

Also, you don’t have to be—and shouldn’t be—on every social media channel. It’s better to focus on a few channels and do them well.

Keeping an eye on your analytics can help determine which channel(s) are most effective and meeting your organization’s goals. 

R is for Response Time

What is an acceptable response time on social media? 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within and hour. 80% expect organizations to respond to their social media posts within 24 hours (Sprout Social).

Quick response times can elevate your organization’s online reputation, especially when relating to service-oriented questions or requests. 

It’s a good idea to assign a staff member to monitor and engage with comments and especially questions from followers, so that they are answered in a timely manner.

S is for Strategy

Like other marketing tactics, social media won’t work unless you start with a well-thought out strategy. First, review your organization’s mission, vision, strategic plan and overall goals. Use those insights (plus additional research, if needed) to develop related social media goals and KPIs. 

Your social media goals, target audience and messaging will likely be different for each channel, which is why it’s a good idea to consider this carefully and develop a documented strategy that can be shared with your entire team. 

It’s also a good idea to create a social media mission statement and social media brand guide for reference while creating messaging and graphics.

A social media strategy is not set in stone. You should review your plan at least quarterly and make adjustments based on analytics and observations.

T is for Trust

As the saying goes, “People buy from people that they know, like, and trust.” This is very true in social media, where people can make more personal connections than in say, advertising or direct mail. 

A few ways to help develop trust in followers is to provide useful information, share stories that resonate and make consistent outreach.  Gain the trust of your audience with social listening. 

U is for UX

User experience, or UX, is the process of creating a product based on end users’ needs or expectations. All of your social media channels will make up the user experience, so it should be focused, targeted and relatable. 

This is a good reason to have a social media brand guide—and ideally a brand guide for your overall branding—so that every print and digital interaction a user has with your organization is consistent and on-brand. 

V is for Value

In marketing and sales, it’s said that you must add value before you sell, i.e. don’t pitch someone before they are ready. 

The same concept applies to social media—and it might be even more important here because the interactions are so personal and immediate. Let your audience get to know you before you make your ask.

Some ways to add value is by sharing stories, statistics, tips, opportunities or resources that are unique to your organization. You can also provide value by responding to questions or concerns in a timely manner. Or you can provide a forum or community for people to meet and engage.

W is for Who

One of the first steps in developing a social media strategy is to determine your ideal audience, or who you are speaking to. Next, research which channels your audience follows and engages with. And lastly, learn what type of content they read and engage with. 

Keep in mind that each channel will have a slightly different audience, so make sure to customize your social media strategy for each audience (as it relates to each channel).

X is for X-factor

What is your organization’s X-factor (or point of difference) and how can you express this on social media? Social media is getting more and more crowded, so finding a way to stand out and be memorable is crucial. 

A few ways to stand out are using a particular style of image or illustration. Create a theme or hashtag unique to your organization. Write in a unique voice or perspective.

Y is for YouTube

Video posts are bigger than ever. They are easy to digest, entertaining and engaging. Undoubtedly, the most popular video sharing platform is YouTube. After Google, it is the second largest search engine. It is currently more favored than all other social media platforms (Hootsuite) and is the top channel for Gen Z

When creating content, it can be used similarly to other social media channels for campaign sharing, promoting volunteer activities, general awareness and other visually-engaging mission-based activities. 

Alsoif you have a Google for Nonprofits account, you may be eligible for the YouTube Nonprofit Program.  The program helps nonprofits connect with supporters, volunteers, and donors through specialized features. 

TIP: If you’re just getting started, check out Classy’s YouTube Cheat Sheet for Nonprofits

Z is for Gen Z

Gen Z, also known as “Philanthroteens,” refers to young people born in the late 1990s and later. This group has grown up with access to current events and social media, so they tend to be  well-informed, socially-conscious, and looking to make a difference.

Gen Z are fans of platforms driven by fast-paced visual content like Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, (Criteo). Social change activities and volunteer experiences are especially relevant to this audience as they build their resumes and seek out internships and jobs.

Since they make up the next generation of donors, Gen Z should definitely be considered in the planning of your social media marketing strategy