We know that our partners are familiar with social media as users. Most American adults – across all age groups – use at least one social media platform, and most social media users report checking their preferred platforms daily. Because of this, organizations can leverage their social media presence to reach their communications goals.
Setting up a social media profile for your organization, however, is different from setting up your personal account — whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Instead of immediately diving into social media by making profiles for each platform, consider selecting one or two that best fit your current strategy and needs. This will give you more time to engage meaningfully with your profiles once setup.
In this post, we’ll walk through how you can select the best social media platform to meet your communication goals.
- Identify Your Goals
- Consider Your Audience
- Know Your World
- Understand the Format
- Plan for Posting and Participation
- Make Your Decision
Step 1: Identify Your Goals
Facebook page? Check. Instagram profile? Check. Twitter? Check.
No, creating a social media presence for your organization is not as simple as setting up the accounts and checking each platform off your list. It’s worth it to take time to carefully consider the purpose of your profile. This goes for any platform.
How will using social media contribute to your communication goals? Think carefully. Although increasing your number of followers can be a valuable tactic in your overall strategy, it’s not an end in itself. Instead, your goal could be to:
- Heighten awareness of your organization by getting information in front of your target audience.
- Build community with your audience by connecting with your followers or providing customer service through messaging functions.
- Generate leads by sharing the benefits of your organization and connecting your profile’s visitors with steps to purchase, donate, or register.
Step 2: Consider Your Audience
Where your target audience is should drive which platform(s) you decide to use. Although the most popular social media platforms are used across all age ranges in the United States, there are some general trends that can help you narrow down the best fit for your goals:
- Facebook is the most popular platform in the U.S. across all age groups. The most represented age group is 30-49.
- Twitter’s user age range is narrower. Most users are aged 18-29, and only a limited number of users are 50 or above.
- Instagram, like Twitter, is most popular with teens and young adults aged 18-29.
- LinkedIn is where you’ll find professionals, with most users aged 30-64.
Your profile will be most effective if it is on a platform your audience uses regularly. For example, an education-based nonprofit may connect with current students on Instagram or with alumni and potential donors on LinkedIn. But an organization working with people with developmental disabilities might reach its audience more easily on Facebook.
You can learn more about each platform’s demographics in Pew Research Center’s Social Media Use in 2021 report.
Step 3: Know Your World
Just as you go where your audience is, you will also want to go where conversations important to your field are taking place.
Search for similar organizations on different social media platforms. Find out where they are getting the engagement and what types of engagement they’re getting. What are they posting on their profiles?
Our work with a regional disability nonprofit found that their clients were most engaged on Facebook and Instagram while the donors we were targeting were more regularly on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Step 4: Understand the Format
Users on each social media platform expect certain types of content. Your organization’s profile will get more engagement if the content you post is designed with the platform’s format in mind.
Here are the types of the posts generally found on each platform:
- Facebook posts often include links or images and should always have a short description (generally limited to a few sentences or a paragraph). Visitors can engage in comment threads on posts.
- Twitter posts (called “tweets”) are limited to no more than 280 characters and make use of hashtags to connect with trends.
- Instagram posts rely on images or videos, which can include brief captions. Successful content is creative and eye-catching.
- LinkedIn posts more frequently feature longer written content than you might find on other social media platforms. Content is professional and relates to the career-oriented perspective of the user base.
Step 5: Plan for Posting and Participation
Based on your understanding of the platform’s post format and your audience, make a plan that is sustainable for how often you will post and participate on your selected platform(s).
No matter which platform you decide to use, you must commit to participating regularly. On all of the most common social media platforms, the most recent post appears first when a user visits your profile. A profile perceived as out-of-date will not have as much value to your audience.
Make a calendar and commit to updating regularly and responding to comments so that this doesn’t happen to your profile.
Step 6: Make Your Decision
Based on your insights, select the best social media platform(s) that will help you reach your communications goals. This may only be one or two platforms, and after connecting your decision to your overall strategy, it may not be the platform you initially expected to use.
Once you have made your decision, engage meaningfully with your profile once you have set it up. Each of the above platforms includes analytics features to help page administrators learn more about their page’s performance. Moving forward, you can use this data to inform what types of content you post, based on the engagement you previously received.
Used wisely, social media can be a powerful tool for your organization to reach its communications goals. You and your audience will benefit when you take the time to choose the best platform before you get started.