This article originally appeared in our September/October issue of the Nonprofit Hub Magazine. Reserve your free copy today.

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Social media is something that started as a way for people to connect with other people, and which hasn’t changed. Instead, it has evolved to also become the most efficient and cost-effective parts of a marketing strategy. Across all platforms, there are several things you can do to make your social stand out.

1. Identify Your Target Market

Krista Vogel is the operations director for Hurrdat, a social media and content agency. She explained that the most consistent advice for stellar social media on any platform is that “it all starts from content strategy from the get-go.”

Who is your target market? Craft your message based on who you’re targeting. That means strategizing which platform to use, what message you want to send and how you say it. All the while, this message should play nicely with your organization’s overall communications strategy.

Segmenting your target audience by age can be effective—such as millennials vs. baby boomers. However, Vogel said she had found that targeting people based on their actions is more effective.

2. Set Goals

Once you have a set of people you want to speak to, decide what you want to accomplish with them. According to a report by Nonprofit Marketing Guide, nonprofits said the top communications goals for 2015 are engaging the community, retaining current donors and brand awareness.

Make sure that you have goals in place for your social media strategy so you have a purpose for each platform.

3. Get Organized

Create a content calendar. It will help you keep track of what you’re posting to which platform and better plan what you’re going to be posting in the future. It’s too easy to say “we’re going to post once per week” and not follow through. A content calendar will keep you accountable and organized with your social strategy.

Content calendars are the most effective if you decide how often you’re going to post to each platform and will help you work social media into your overall marketing strategy by focusing on the bigger picture. Fill your calendar with annual events, popular seasonal topics and obscure holidays to connect and engage with your audience in a current fashion.

Make sure that you only post if you have something to say. These are merely guidelines to help keep you on track:

  • Facebook: 3-10 times per week
  • Twitter: at least 5 times a day
  • YouTube: 1-4 times per month
  • LinkedIn: 1-3 times per week
  • Instagram: 1-2 per week

Depending on your organization and its mission, you might have completely different guidelines, and that’s okay. Find out what works for you.

4. Utilize Video

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the top three most important platforms for nonprofits and Instagram is making a charge to tap into the top three. As Vogel explained, video is the common denominator among these four sites being integral for nonprofits.

YouTube and now Facebook are the top two platforms for post-views on videos. Plus, Twitter is introducing their native video hosting and Instagram introduced a 15 second video feature just a few months ago. Even getting into Snapchat and Periscope, video is becoming one of the most important aspects of a social media strategy across all platforms. All that being said, video is an incredibly valuable tool for reaching millennials on social media.

5. Consider Paid Advertising

If you’re willing to pay for followers, pay for a targeted advertisement with a call to action to gain followers and likes for your page. Vogel said she would never advise any of her clients to pay a service for extra followers full of fake accounts.

Instead, pay to promote posts. It’s an effective way to gain followers and extend your reach without compromising integrity.

You want an audience that is engaging with your material, but you also don’t want to compromise and settle for a small number of followers. Sometimes it’s hard to have both a large audience and and engaged audience.

“People aren’t as fooled by the numbers anymore,” Vogel explained. Instead, followers are more focused on if what you’re saying is pertinent to them rather than how many digits are in your follower count. That’s why it all goes back to making sure you’re crafting your message based on what your target market wants to hear. With that said, it should be the goal of any social media manager to gain more followers and likes.

Remember that having a strategy in place is extremely important, but don’t get too caught up in the process. Social media should be as organic and human as possible. Doing something with your social media accounts is always going to be better than doing nothing, even if that means you make a few mistakes at first. Create a strategy and move forward with it, but never let it hold you back from just getting your feet wet and doing it.