Social Media for NGOs: time to re-think your strategy

Over the last 10 years, social media has given NGOs the chance to promote their cause and interact with their supporters at a very low cost. But things are changing.

With 2 billion users on Facebook, and a few less on the other social media platforms, it has become increasingly difficult to make yourself noticed.

In fact, it has been pointed out that most NGOs invest a considerable amount of resources (money and time) into the implementation of their social media strategy. And the results are not the ones they would expect.

Is it time to abandon social media? Experts don’t think so! However, it is time to re-think your strategy, taking into account a few good recommendations.

  1. Social media are just one aspect of your NGO’s communication strategy

Do not focus all of your attention on social media! Even if they are a very powerful tool to get your message across and to engage with your fans, they are not the only communication channel you have, nor the best one.

Consider having a good mailing list. People who signed up to receive news from you are much more likely to engage with the content you are sharing.

And what about people that find you as a result of a related search on Google? They are very likely to have an interest in your work or projects! That is why charities should start worrying about their SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as a part of their comms strategy. Having  a good SEO strategy means you will appear as one of the first options when people do a related search on Google!

As you can see, social media is not the only way to get people to know you, or to engage with you. It is recommendable to make sure you have a diverse communication strategy where all channels are connected and work towards the same goals.

  1. You need to know what you want to say, and who you are saying it to

A fundamental part of your social media strategy is setting goals. If you have the right objectives, you will find a way to get there. Generally speaking, NGOs’ goals tend to follow under one, or all, of these categories:

  • Brand awareness
  • Fundraising
  • Volunteers’ recruitment

Goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) and they reflect the overall organization’s strategic plan. You need goals to define your communication strategy.

Another element that is key to the definition of your strategy is your audience. Who are you talking to? General public is not good enough. You need to know where they are from, what language they speak, when they are mostly online, etc. A brilliant exercise is to create a persona, an imaginary individual that sums up all of the main characteristics of your audience.

  1. You need to check your progress on social media, especially engagement

Once your strategy has been defined, based on goals and audience, you need to understand if it’s working or not. That’s why you will need KPIs and other indicators telling you if you are moving in the right direction.

Indicators can be quantitative (such as a growth in the number of followers) or qualitative (engagement sentiment). Either way, you need to monitor them, as you would with any other indicator in your M&E strategy.

A very important indicator will be the engagement rate. Whether you monitor likes, retweets or comments, find a way to measure how much people interact with you. Social media is a two-way communication and you need to encourage people to talk to you, and about you.

A good way of doing it, is to stop sounding like a corporation and act like a person. Also, don’t be afraid of telling them to click, share or like. People are more likely to do it if you let them know how important that is to you.

  1. Don’t try to be on every social network, choose those that work for you

Apparently, more than 90% of NGOs globally is on Facebook, less on Twitter and even fewer on Instagram. This doesn’t have to mean much to you. Find out what works for you and do not waste energies on something that doesn’t produce any result.

The choice of your ideal social media is influenced by many factors, including your audience: did you know that the majority of Instagram users are younger than 30 and women?

  1. Have ambassadors that repost your content

Get yourself some influencers! What you publish on your social media shouldn’t be limited to your channels. It needs to be echoed by your fans so that it can reach a wider and new audience.

The easiest way of doing it is asking employees, volunteers and trustees to share and comment. They should be your first ambassadors!


Was any of these tips useful to you? Would you like to hear more about social media? Please let us know with a comment!

International volunteers' management & Co., Resources in English

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