Cosmic

Why Your Nonprofit Shouldn’t Rely on Social Media to Drive Supporters to Your Site

Social media shouldn’t be the main source of traffic to your nonprofit website. Instead, create your own digital hub where you can build community.

Eric Ressler
March 9, 2021
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Whether you prefer tweeting or posting, social media is the main tool you probably use to bring people to your website. It’s how most organizations spread up-to-date news, share campaign details, or invite action outside of their website.

But what if, one day, the social media rug was pulled out from underneath you, and your organization lost all its channels for quick connectivity?

Unfortunately, this is a reality your organization could face — and many already have. Facebook, for one, stopped showing all political ads in October 2020 but announced they’re lifting the ban. Political ads included social issues, meaning your organization’s content could have been affected. And as recently as February, many organizations in Australia saw the content on their Facebook pages completely wiped away, thanks to a controversial news ban Facebook instigated in opposition to paying for news content on their platforms.

These events made one thing obvious: the social media landscape as we know it could dramatically change any day. But you don't have to let Facebook or Twitter dictate how you connect with your supporters.

Your website is your digital hub, connecting everything in your digital and real-world channels into a unified machine. The possibility of losing social media as the driver to your digital hub stresses that you must do more than simply own your content. You must own how you draw people to it.

It’s imperative your organization stays aware of evolving policies and trends so you can plan and react accordingly — and not sacrifice advancement toward your mission.

On Social Media, Your Cause is on Shifting Sands

Our highly polarized society means lines between political issues and social issues have blurred into either red or blue. As heels dig in, this shift will continue, and your nonprofit will need to stay vigilant as to how this affects you. It may come down to knowing what you can and can’t post on your social media channels before it’s considered political material.

For nonprofits just trying to spread their message and increase awareness, social media has never been so complicated to navigate. What was once a straightforward way to draw people to your digital hub with the click of a “Tweet” has now morphed into a necessary evil.

On one hand, you need your social channels to rally your supporters to take immediate action, share important information, and attract new followers. On the other hand, the attention-and-algorithm economy sows disinformation and speeds siloism in such a way that only exacerbates the societal ills your organization is working to change.

When it comes to spending ad dollars on these platforms that add to society’s multiplying issues of disinformation and harassment, some progressive companies have had enough. Patagonia and The North Face are just two companies that pulled their ads in the 2020 #StopHateForProfit campaign. This campaign is an effort to hold social media companies accountable for the language and ideologies they allow to spread on their platforms.

Meanwhile, the cost of boosting posts and running ad campaigns on these platforms is rising. The cost to acquire new followers isn’t cheap, which may become prohibitive to your organization on its own.

The Biden administration brings the possibility of anti-trust initiatives against Facebook, Google, and others. And breaking up elements of data usage and personal privacy on these platforms could lead to more segmented and siloed audiences that your organization still needs to reach.

We’ve also seen the exodus of conservative groups from mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter after the former president was de-platformed. Their shift to Parler was short-lived as that site was denied a hosting platform. No matter what side of the political spectrum your organization is on, there is always the possibility of audiences leaving for other platforms based on how these companies choose to run their businesses.

All of this is to say — it is an uncertain time for messaging through social media. Tap someone on your team to stay up-to-date about each of the platforms you use and the wider conversations about it.

Are You Diversifying the Drivers to Your Website?

Use this checklist to regularly perform a holistic audit on how to best drive supporters to your digital hub.

7 Ways to Drive People to Your Website

Despite all of the uncertainty around tweets, posts, and followers, there is plenty you can do to ensure your nonprofit reaches — and draws in — your supporters.

Dig into your digital-first mindset and diversify the ways in which you drive engagement with your supporters. Here are practical tips for getting started:

  1. 1.
    Be your own digital media platform. Remember that attention-and-algorithm economy? Bust through it by consistently — and constantly — producing content on your digital hub. Post information, create a space for community building and give people a reason to stay engaged with the content you produce. Speak to your audience.

  2. 2.
    Create scroll-stopping content. Interactive digital experiences, short videos, and micro-sites all have the potential to reach people on a deeper level. Creating this scroll-stopping, compelling content means putting more money behind an immersive piece. Your goal should be to get earned media or even go viral. Whatever you do, it has to be worth sharing — to drive deeper engagement with your supporters.

  3. 3.
    Build relationships. If you want to get closer to achieving your mission, you can’t do it alone. Work with other organizations in your niche and cross-market with each other. What’s good for one of you will be good for the other as you gain larger audiences around your causes. Promote your content with their followers and vice versa. Share each other’s messages.

  4. 4.
    Leverage well-known supporters. Influencers and celebrities have big platforms that can spread your message further. Develop relationships with those who have a heart for your cause — and get them in on doing the work. Maybe they have a large YouTube following or a dominating presence on Twitter. If they do, they can draw attention to your site by promoting your content and events or creating exclusive content themselves.

  5. 5.
    Foster community. Connecting with one another has proven life-giving and life-saving. In such dynamic times, like-minded people need to find a place of community. Your organization should provide a sense of purpose for your supporters, leading to a strong and interconnected community. Those already within your community can tap others in their network to join your cause to expand your reach.

  6. 6.
    Take your analytics review one step further. Engagement in your email and newsletter is truly important. But you can’t get a good idea of whether or not your messaging is effective unless you dig into your analytics. Analyzing your data can help you hone your messaging and outreach approach to keep your contact list healthy with active supporters.

  7. 7.
    Create a membership model. A high-value, digitally savvy membership model does more than build support for your cause. It strengthens commitment and drives action, and importantly: it diversifies your revenue stream. There are no limits to what you can offer in your membership model. Get creative with your offerings and incentives — both your members and your organization will benefit.

Dig In: Transform Your Grassroots Into Digital

Before the pandemic hit, tabling at events, door-to-door fundraising, and events were the norm to get the word out about your cause. These efforts resulted in sign-ups, volunteers, and donations.

Bottom line: No screens were necessary for the advancement of your cause.

The caveat, however, is that these in-person efforts don’t always translate into digital. You need to re-examine your past successes and see what you can convert to digital. Choosing the right efforts to translate into digital will drive more people to your digital hub, grow your community, and maximize your impact.

No one can predict what social media will look like in the future for organizations trying to move their cause forward. But it’s clear that you must own your content, diversify how people find it, and not rely on Retweets and Likes to move your cause forward.

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