Solid social media strategies make the difference between good and great nonprofit organizations. Unless you commit to a unique social media plan, your nonprofit runs the risk of losing supporters’ interest.

We’ve always been enthusiastic about social media and how it can bring your nonprofit marketing plan to life. But last week at the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference, we learned from so many inspiring speakers that our motivation to help you engage supporters online has only increased. Among the conference panelists was Cheryl Black. Black’s lecture, “Proactive versus Reactive Social Media,” really got us thinking.

It’s not enough to stay on top of questions or comments posted on your Facebook page, and uploading a bland YouTube video without promoting it on your nonprofit’s blog won’t do you any favors. Keep reading for our thoughts on Cheryl Black’s “Proactive versus Reactive Social Media.”

Proactive Means More than Planning

Some nonprofits see social media as an organic process they can follow willy-nilly. While social media is indeed a conversation, interacting with supporters online isn’t the same as reaching out to them in person. If you try to engage them as you go, chances are you won’t get their attention. So, you’ve got to set a goal and follow a plan to help you reach it. As Black advises, make sure it’s a SMART goal.

And don’t just set out to increase your followers or the average number of comments on your Facebook posts. Dig deeper. Think about why you need more followers—to promote a mobile fundraiser? To share pictures demonstrating your effectiveness? Each of your posts must contribute to your specific, ends-oriented social media goal.

Talk Back Like Black

As Black showed us, your nonprofit can also be proactively reactive on social media—and that’s a good thing. Proactive reactivity is the listening and responding component of the social media conversation. Notice how other organizations or individuals relevant to your mission use social media. Comment on third party blogs, and seek out opportunities to chat with supporters. Find LinkedIn groups where donors are—and if you have the answer, respond to posted questions.

Be Approachable

Initiating conversations is as important as participating in dialogues that others already started. Ask questions relevant to your cause, or survey followers using Survey Monkey or a LinkedIn poll. If you’re feeling especially approachable, host an online chat.

How to Make Social Media Delicious

The recipe for nonprofit social media success calls for actionable goals, timely responses and inviting conversation starters. Stir in a measurement tool that helps you track progress (we use Hootsuite and Timely to track ours). Add a bit of collaboration and your social media plan will be effective as well as proactive. For example, when goal-setting for social media, ask for input throughout your nonprofit. Board members, financial planners and part-time volunteers will likely have different—but equally valuable—ideas on how you should approach your social media presence.

Is your nonprofit getting lazy about social media? What can you do to be more proactive?