13 Nonprofit Social Media Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2015

How Charities Will Get More Sophisticated With Social Media

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  “The Only Constant Is Change.” – Heraclitus

Technology and digital marketing tools have changed so rapidly in the last few years that many nonprofits are scrambling to keep up.

How can social cause organizations compete for attention in our “info-obese” economy, where a shiny new tool pops up every day? How can we provide value to our constituents, donors and various stakeholders, without simply adding to the noise?

I have seen several distinct trends appear in the last year – many of which I hope will continue into 2015.

The overall shift in technology and digital marketing to become more human and less automated and robotic is encouraging, and I hope nonprofits will embrace these trends and add their unique perspective.

Here are my top 13 predictions for nonprofit social media trends in 2015:

1) Content will still be king.

But not just any content!

The best quote I have seen on the topic of content marketing trends comes from Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs: “…we’ll focus on being generously useful. 2015 really will be the year we create and curate content our customers will thank us for.”

Imagine that – creating a blog post, a tweet, or a short video for which your donors and your constituents will THANK YOU!

2) Your new social media mantra – Educate and Entertain. 

The brands and nonprofits that achieve high levels of success on social media are always thinking about their audience FIRST and their own agenda last.

When creating a Facebook post, blog article, video or tweet, always think – Who is this for?

Will it enrich them in any way? Will it compel them to share it with their network?

Social media content that educates and/or entertains – or both! – cuts through the online clutter of boring event photos, press releases and online advertisements.

3) All staff and volunteers represent your brand.  

There are no longer hard and firm boundaries between personal and professional identities in social media. (Were there ever?) Everything you do and say online reflects on your organization, no matter your privacy settings.

This is an important trend, because your donors want to give to people, not your brand identity or your logo. How can you leverage the inherently human nature of social media to encourage genuine connections with donors?

4) The focus will remain on great stories and eye-catching visuals.

Andy Goodman says that the stories are the gold – and the social media channels are the ways in which you mold the gold. If you don’t have the stories, social media channels will not work.

Across the board, the type of content that works best on all social media channels is visual – photos, videos and graphics. Experiment with Canva, the hot new graphic design program, to create great visuals with little stress, and turn everyone on staff into a graphic designer!

5) No more silos.

I have been preaching this for a while – the popularization of social media and the power of these tools mandate a breaking down of departmental silos in nonprofit organizations.

There is no marketing department, fundraising department and social media department. Everyone is working hard on overlapping goals and intersecting campaigns. The program people need to communicate stories to the development people, who then need to work with the social media people, and so on.

No one can do it alone. Social media created in a silo by one person will fail.

6) Humor and humanity are key.

We all need to stop taking ourselves too seriously. Yes, the work we do is very serious and the problems we are solving are vast and sometimes complicated.

However, we need to infuse a little humor and a lot of humanity in our social media posts.

7) Brand Ambassadors are the key to success.

Call them Online Ambassadors, Brand Champions and the like – you may have a better name for them – they are your key to social media success.

Getting your Online Ambassadors to spread the word about your campaigns and help you collect user-generated content (stories, videos, photos from your stakeholders) will save you time and get you more engaging content than you could create yourself at your desk.

8) Expect to engage more in real-time with fans.

Real-time engagement platforms – Google Hangouts, Reddit AMAs, Twitter chats – are exploding in popularity.

They are a fantastic way to build trust for your nonprofit organization and enhance transparency. Let people see behind-the-scenes and ask candid questions. 

9) Automation is useless.

Relevance and timeliness is key. If you are automating all of your social media content, it will fall flat.

You cannot just broadcast on social media. You must allocate just as much time for interaction (and I’m not just talking about the generic “Thanks for the RT” tweets). Follow trends and comment on them.

53% of those who tweet at a brand or organization expect an answer within an hour. If you open the social media can of worms, you must be responsive.

10) Facebook isn’t dead, but the free lunch is over.

Facebook has 864 million daily active users. 72% of online adults visit Facebook at least once per month. There are 30 million active Facebook fan pages.  

To get any traction on Facebook you need to have a budget for Facebook Ads and a strategy for using them.  

11) Video will continue to dominate.

According to Facebook guru Mari Smith, native video on Facebook is going to be huge. Native video is video uploaded directly to Facebook, vs. posting a link to YouTube or Vimeo. There are pros and cons to posting native videos or uploading to YouTube – ultimately it comes down to preference.

Micro-video sites like Vine and Instagram are growing leaps and bounds. SocialBakers reports that 28% of brands use Instagram to post videos, while only 7% use Vine.

12) Social media should not replace other strategies. (Ones that work, anyway!)

Having a comprehensive multichannel fundraising and marketing strategy is critical for your nonprofit.

You always want to be where your target audience is – whether it be volunteers, donors, students, animal rights lovers, etc. – and not where YOU want to focus your time.

Online consumers now expect that the information they want and need should be available 24/7, anytime, in any format. This is a trend that will only increase as the variety of places where people consume information increase – think Apple watches and Google Glass.

13) Less is more

Quality over quantity is always preferable, especially in social media. Brands and organizations that post once per day (or less) on Facebook, but create great stuff that their audience loves, enjoy more success than a company that posts 3x per day but is ignored. 

Organizations are creating fewer blog posts, but what they do post has more depth. They are making fewer videos, but are making videos that have more value

Create less content and promote it more. Join fewer social networks and cultivate deeper engagement.