Mark S A Smith

  Mark S A Smith


What’s worse: No social media presence, social posts that start and stop, or bad social media posts?

It’s a trick question. They’re all potentially damaging to your organization’s brand. If a substantial portion of your constituents consume and participate in social media, you’ve got to have a solid presence, one that has a cadence, relevance, and expanding value.

Yet how do you post, and tweet, and respond, with all the other tasks that demand your attention? Read on to discover how to make this work for you without killing you or your staff.

1. Start with a Strategy

Create a simple document that outlines your social media strategy, what you plan to do and why you plan to do it. One sheet is enough. Use this as a guideline for your team when posting to social media. Include the following questions and consider these likely answers.

What is the purpose of our social media strategy? Our social media presence supports our constituents and prospective members with content that aligns with our mission and vision. We routinely remind them of why we are here and what they can expect from us. We choose to be a meaningful part of their social media consumption, balancing the ubiquitous bad news with our relevant good news.

Why do we engage in social media? Recognizing that our constituents consume content through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, podcasts, and other social media platforms, we choose to be deliberate and intentional about our media presence and the content that we post. Effective social media reminds our constituents why we are here and what they can expect from us.

What do we publish? We publish relevant and meaningful content that entertains with new ideas and insights, engages through questions and comments, enlightens through observations and ah-ha! moments, educates with links to additional information, and occasionally offers supportive goods and services for sale. We showcase our best members and our best ideas and stories. We publicly thank those who support us, espouse our vision, and contribute to our mission. We recognize that in these times, a Facebook or Twitter mention is received as more appreciative than other, traditional methods.

What is the tone of our social media content? We recognize that our social media presents a public position, one that can be used for us by those who love us, and used against us by those who don’t agree. Therefore, we have a strict positive posting policy. We post ideas that promote our positive position in alignment with our mission. We avoid criticism that can be taken out of context or written attacks that can be unfairly used against us. We will never publish a statement that would undermine, embarrass, or obscure our position. Any official post that violates this position will be immediately retracted, a sincere apology published, and the guilty party fined (or made to clean the toilets).

How do we measure success? We measure success through the amount of content that our constituents and non-constituents share with their followers. We recognize that content relevance triggers sharing of our ideas. We will measure growth in the number of followers and the number of people who like, share, and comment. We understand that the growth will start small and accelerate over time as we refine our message and our constituent base grows.

You get the picture. Think through the identity you want to present that supports your organization’s brand, and design what you’ll present through social media.

2. Use the Right Media for the Message

Take a poll of your constituents to find out what social media platforms they are using. It can be as simple as getting people to raise their hands at the next meeting. It’s highly likely that your future constituents will be present on the same platforms. Using the 80/20 principle, identify the one platform that 80 percent of your constituents use, and start there. As you get more experience, add support for the next most popular platform.

Here’s a quick review of the popular social media platforms and what to expect from them.

Facebook: The largest community. Use it for community building and connecting with people you know. Good for short posts, simple video updates, and links to more material. Consider using advertising to reach new constituents. Posts have impact for a day or so. Highly targeted advertising is possible.

Twitter: Broadcasts to lots of people who can connect with your mission. Twitter is where you find future friends and quick news. Posts have impact for a few minutes unless people search for an included hashtag, but you can repeat the post throughout the day.

LinkedIn: The business watercooler. Use LinkedIn if you support businesses with relevant socialization, business news, and articles.

Instagram: Where people go to get inspired. Post motivating pictures and quotes. A Facebook property.

Pinterest: Similar to Instagram with more information sharing. Popular for how-to ideas, recipes, etc.

YouTube: The world’s how-to video platform. Share short videos explaining how to accomplish tasks, solve problems, or share passions. A Google property.

Your blog: An information repository that you control. How new constituents find you through search engines. Will still be there when the rest of the platforms morph to something different.

There are more, yet this covers 80% of the social media traffic you can control.

3. Create an Editorial Calendar

Create a spreadsheet with dates and events that you want to promote and highlight. Identify content that you want to create and publish in advance to round up interest, keep constituents alerted, and offer opportunities for people to share and repost, increasing your reach and audience size. This lets you know what’s coming well in advance to identify content sources, what can be recycled and reused, and what can be shared from other sources that align with your mission and vision.

4. Identify Your Hashtags

Hashtags help people find your content as they search on specific hashtags. Research the top ten hashtags for your constituents by finding what other, adjacent organizations use. You can create a list of relevant tags, including a unique one for your organization that your constituents can use when posting information about you. This is how you’ll be able to track your word-of-mouth power.

You can also do a web search for popular tags. See what shows up when you Google top hashtags 2018.

5. Write Social Media Content Once or Twice a Week

Sit down with a tasty beverage when you’re feeling fresh, and crank out postings that fit your editorial calendar. Total time: 15 minutes maximum.

Take five minutes to look for inspirational quotes that you can post. Find interesting pictures that you can repost. (Beware of using pictures you’ve found on the web for commercial purposes. You may be surprised with a large usage fee.)

Remember that you can recycle content as long as you routinely add fresh content. Use content from your publications, national association, newsletters, and meetings. You don’t have to come up with all new content for social media; use it instead as a new publishing platform.

Write enough for twice-daily posts on Facebook or LinkedIn (1,300 characters or so), enough for 10 – 20 posts on Twitter (280 characters), enough for 5 – 10 posts on other platforms (images with content; use PowerPoint or to make them). Keep in mind that these can be the same topics with content reformatted for the different platforms.

Once this becomes part of your routine, you’ll realize it is easy!

6. Use Posting Tools

Use publishing tools to schedule your posts. This means you set up when and where posts go, and the tool takes care of the rest.

Here are three that I’ve used with success, and a quick search will offer more options. Each has a free version that you can use to try it before you buy it. Monthly fees are about the same as hiring a minimum wage person for an hour or two. popular support for most platforms. Publishes on schedule. Aggregates content so that you can review other’s posts and comments and respond in one place.

Buffer: similar to Hootsuite with solid analytics. provides more posting options. Load evergreen (not time or date specific) content into Jukeboxes and it will publish in scheduled rotation. Also includes scheduling options. It has limited content analytics. This is my favorite publication platform.

7. Assign a Trusted Person to Respond

What makes social media work is that it’s, well, social. The most engaging social media provokes conversation, poses questions, and shares relevant content. You’ll need someone to check in once or twice a day to respond. It doesn’t need to run your life, yet you also must respond to requests to keep the social content going.

You’ll get nasty and negative comments. In social media, the unhinged have the same access as the genius. There’s always someone looking to be offended; don’t let them down. I recommend ignoring and blocking people making negative comments. Don’t feed the trolls; they thrive on conflict and move on when they don’t get fed.

8. Get Executives to Participate

When top executives engage on social media, your constituents take notice and get engaged. People love to interact with people whom they respect. Ask your execs to post and respond every day or two. In short order, they’ll find that it’s fun and provides interesting insights into your constituents and prospects.

9. Encourage Constituent Participation

Let your constituents know how to find you on social media. Publicize your hashtags and encourage their use when posting on social media.

During meetings, take 90 seconds to take selfies, post, and check in. The additional social media impact is worth that moment out of your program.

Read relevant posts during meetings and publish interesting social media content on your blog and newsletter.

Recognize contributors by shout-outs, posting your appreciation of their posts.

10. Review Your Strategy and Adjust

In three months, take a look at the results of your strategy, make any necessary adjustments, and celebrate the new success you’re enjoying because of your social media strategy.

Mark S A Smith works with leaders to predictably grow their organization through upgraded executive skills and effective customer acquisition systems. He hosts the periodic Executive Strategy Summit. If you want to up-level your business and executive acumen, plan to attend and leave with a Monday-ready business plan for your organization. Details at Connect with Mark at,, and

This article is reprinted from Issue #11 of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!

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