Formulating a Sucessful Social Media Strategy for Your Nonprofit

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On my last post “Making Social Media Work for Your Nonprofit”, we laid the foundation, or framework, for formulating a social media strategy for your nonprofit. The framework has 4 components: people, objectives, strategy and technology. On this post, we will delve in depth into the “people” component of a social media strategy.


By “people” I mean the specific group or target audience you are trying to reach — e.g., donors, volunteers, interns. To develop a strategy to reach your target audience, you first need to know:

  • Your target audience — who are you trying to reach and why
  • How people use social technologies, and
  • The age range of your target audience to predict their use of technology

In defining your target audience you should start asking a few basic questions. What are you trying to accomplish? Why should someone get involved with your organization? Who are your donors (average age)? What are your volunteers like (average age)? Are you trying to reach different people? If yes, what are they like? How does your mission meet or intersect with their interests and goals? The more specifically you can define your target group, the more tailored and effective your strategy will be.  Assuming that you have an idea of your target audience (#1), lets take a plunge into understanding how people use social technology.

The “Social Technographics” report, by Forrester Research, classifies social users into seven  levels of participation:

Level of Participation in Social Media activities
1. Creators Create content (writers)
2. Conversationalists Make frequent updates to their social networking profile
3. Critics React to content from others
4. Collectors Organize content for themselves of others
5. Joiners People who are in social networks
6. Spectators People who reads or watch the content that is created by others. They are the “consumers”
7. Inactive People who neither create or consume social content of any kind
Formulating a Successful Social Media Strategy for Your Nonprofit

The “participation ladder” shows that 24% of US online adult are “Creators.” They are at the top of the ladder. What do they do? They post blogs, videos or update their website on regular basis. I would fall into this group because of this blog. However, most people are either “Joiners” or “Spectators.” At this point, we have a good idea how people participate in social media. But to create a strategy, we need to look at one more piece of information, the age range of your target audience.

You need to take your target audience and learn how they are represented within the social media ladder. Once you do that, your organization can determine which strategy to use to reach out to its audience. Do not underestimate the importance of this step. Studies have shown that age is the most important variable in predicting the use of social media.

Again, we use help from our friends at Forrester Research.

Formulating a Sucessful Social Media Strategy for Your Nonprofit

So, what do these numbers mean for you and the people you are trying to reach? Let’s compare the 24-34 and 55+ age groups. On the 24-34 age group we find that 21% are creators and 58% spectators. In contrast, on the 55+ age group 5% are creators and only 26% spectators.

If your target audience is the 25-34 group, then by looking at their level of participation in the social media ladder, you know that they participate at an above average rate. If your nonprofit is trying to create something to reach out to this group, it would be reasonable to use social media because you may be able to reach more than half of them through the spectator end.

On the other hand, if you are trying to reach out to people who are older than 55, your resources might be better spent using other marketing and communication methods. At 26% participation level, your organization does not even have a chance to reach half of its target audience. My advice: don’t put all your energy into an online social media strategy for this age group.

Embedded below is a tool that will help you profile your constituent base. Give it a try as it is a valuable resource in helping you create a social media strategy for your nonprofit.

2 Responses to "Formulating a Sucessful Social Media Strategy for Your Nonprofit"
  1. Hey, Rosita! Just visited your blog today for the first time. SORRY it took me so long, this is a great site. Love the four topic areas, love the layout, love the content.

    Mine’s been dormant for about a year now; just getting ready to restart it. And now I have a “best practice” to benchmark against.

    Best wishes to you!

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