03/05/2014 03:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Non-Profits & Social Media: Keys to Successful Content Creation, Tone & Approach


It's easy for organizations to say what they think audiences want to hear. It's even easier for them to say what they want audiences to know. But you know what's hard? Actually speaking to them directly.

When developing a social tone and approach, your organization has to determine not only what the message is, but also what actions you're hoping your audience will take. Your social media goals have to take precedence when determining the best ways to get your message across.

Four key questions
If you're creating a strategy, writing copy, designing sharable images, or producing content for digital engagement, ask yourself these four questions:

1. Is this on brand/on message/organizationally focused?
2. Which strategy goal does this touch on?
3. Why should the audience care?
4. Would my friend share this?

Going through these questions will help determine not only if the content is "on message," but also whether it's even worth sharing with fans/followers.

Additional ways to figure out what works
Perform A/B testing. In addition to looking through stats from past posts to see what your audience has engaged with the most (hint: it's probably great pictures and videos), do some tone and content testing. Do your fans respond better when you take an inquisitive tone over one that's more authoritative? Are questions in posts getting more shares/responses? Figure out what's working and then expand from there.

Create a content calendar. Don't post on social just to post on social. Organizations usually want content up, and they want it up fast. This is where the approach part of the guidelines is most important. Don't let the frenetic pace of social media dictate how often or how much you post: fans and followers will respect you more for providing thoughtful, useful content than overloading their newsfeed.

Consider the channel. Every social platform is different. A tone and approach strategy doesn't mean posting the same content across all channels. Actually, it's the opposite. People are using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for different reasons, so why would you assume they want to see all the same content? There will be overlap, but there also must be originality.

Considering your tone and approach has always been vital to creating effective marketing and advertising content. What's changed is that social media gives us direct, quick access to intel on what works and what doesn't, so it's easier to react to, correct, or completely change course content-wise. Not to mention, for nonprofits, government organizations, and NGOs, listening and adjusting your social media approach is simply a time investment -- a small price to pay for successfully reaching your audiences.

More tech and social talk here.