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Salsa Blog

Nonprofit Social Media 101: Maximizing Your Online Influence with Limited Resources

by Alison Burke, New Media Coordinator, Alliance for American Manufacturing
Twitter: @aeburke

By now, it’s common knowledge that social media is powerful. It’s swayed elections, started revolutions, and reversed influential boardroom decisions. Yet, despite its pervasiveness and undeniable ability to mobilize and engage the public, some organizations (nonprofits, in particular) are still hesitant to take the plunge into the world of social media.

From skeptical leadership to staff and budget constraints, many nonprofits face barriers that they believe will prevent them from entering the online space in a meaningful way. To them, social media seems overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to be.

Even with limited staff and resources, an organization can develop a powerful online presence by following a few simple steps:

    1. Determine your online narrative

All too often nonprofits delve into the world of social media without any real sense of what they’re doing, or why they’re doing it. When developing an online strategy, it’s important to determine what story your organization wants to tell through social media. This “online narrative” should incorporate your organization’s mission and goals, and reflect the values of your target online audience.

Once you have an online narrative fleshed out, keep it in mind as you post on social media sites and interact with your fans and followers. In order to maintain a cohesive, message-driven social media campaign, everything you post should be a reflection of this online narrative.

    1. Choose your outlets

Though it may seem like there’s a new social media outlet popping up every day, there’s no need for your organization to create an account on every site. In order to launch a successful social media campaign, it’s best to go for the “low hanging fruit” and stick to the one or two sites that your target audience is already using, and that your staff is most familiar with. Facebook and Twitter are great places to start.

    1. Create an updating schedule

In order to ensure that your organization is posting meaningful content at regular intervals, it’s helpful to create an updating schedule. This document should include a list of content (news, reports, events, etc.) that should be posted over the course of the week, with corresponding staff assignments. This schedule can take the form of anything from an informal email to a collaborative spreadsheet or Google document—whatever works best for your team.

    1. Stick to the basics

Though every type of content under the sun gets posted to social media sites, when it comes to nonprofits, there are really only a few types of posts that you need to worry about:


  • New Website/Blog Content From Your Organization: Any new content published by your organization.
  • Relevant News Articles and Blog Posts: Content from outside sources that is in line with your online narrative.
  • Retweets/Re-Posts: Re-posts of content from supporters and partner organizations.
  • Calls to Action: Posts that alert fans and followers of action items (petitions, email campaigns, etc.) or upcoming events.
  • Response Posts/Tweets: Responses to questions, comments or statements from your fans and followers.
  • Discussion Starters: Posts that engage your audience. These can take the form of questions, humorous comments, etc.—whatever gets your audience excited about your content.
Topics: Marketing