As a whole, social media helps us connect with other people in the world. It could be somebody we’ve already made a connection with in real life, or it could be a complete stranger that shares our same interests (or even someone who doesn’t). With social media, the possibilities are endless.

But when you take social media apart, every site is unique with its own inner workings. And yet, *exasperated sigh* too many nonprofits continue to treat each social media platform the same.

It’s kind of like this: just because you’re from the same family doesn’t mean you’re exactly like your siblings (trust us on this one, only children). So treat them like the individuals they are. These guidelines can help you decide what posts should go to which sites for a better nonprofit social media plan.

Facebook

Ten years ago, it was like the cool new kid that became insta-popular. And Myspace was totally jealous because they were cool first. But a decade later, Facebook is still going strong. So what works?

Captivating Imagery

We’re not talking about your average stock photos here. We’re talking about relevant photos that will move your constituents to act.

In August when wildfires ripped through California, the Red Cross put up this image:

Wildfire

We see streetlights, a home in the distance and a wildly burning flame all in one photo frame. The photo makes it easier to imagine our own home that close to flames, causing more people to act.

This image was posted last week by charity:water.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 4.08.03 PM

In itself, the image is powerful. But the caption adds a whole new dimension: “This shy 15-year-old used to walk hours each day to collect dirty water. Not anymore.”

Can you imagine? At only 15 years old, he has to spend hours of his day just traveling to find water. And then it’s not even clean water, it’s dirty.

*Added bonus: While you’re at it, add a link. With the new Facebook news feed algorithm, the more engagement the better.

Burning Questions

It’s all about getting people to interact. And if there’s a question that pertains particularly to your organization, put it out there. But be warned: your followers don’t want to answer a question that has nothing to do with your organization.

However, you can ask questions that are relevant with what’s going on in the world. Just be careful not to step on any toes or post something outlandishly controversial if you’re a conservative nonprofit. Know your fan base.

Questions work so well on Facebook because people have the opportunity to see what others have written and respond. Plus, Facebook recently rolled out the functionality to reply directly to a comment instead of wherever it falls in chronological order.

Things You Can’t Do Anywhere Else

  • Large-scale interaction
    OK, so you can get large-scale interaction elsewhere (think LinkedIn or Google+ where you can comment directly on the post). But, Facebook is the motherload of them all. There are 1.26 billion users and counting on Facebook, compared to 238 million and 343 million on LinkedIn and Google+ respectively. Your NPO has the opportunity to reach the most people, and be social.
  • Graph Search
    This fairly new search allows you to connect with constituents like never before. See what all the buzz is about.

Twitter

If Facebook is the cool kid, Twitter is Facebook’s just as cool, more simplistic sidekick. It forces your organization to really think about what you’re trying to say. You only have 140 characters, so choose wisely. Facebook is more visual, but Twitter is all about the words.

(Non-forcibly) Short, Witty Posts

You can’t teach somebody to be more witty. But you can encourage a responsive social media team. When something unexpected happens (and it will) be ready to respond. The rest of the world is, so why shouldn’t your NPO? Know when to post a *tasteful* joke, and when to tweet something serious.

Varied Character Counts

Sure, your limit is 140 characters. But that doesn’t mean you need to go to the max every time, or avoid using the maximum character count every time. There’s no set formula for your tweets to succeed. Sometimes the shorter the better. But if every word has impact, use all 140 characters. For the best results, don’t use the same count every time.

Things You Can’t Do Anywhere Else

  • Hashtagging
    Ok, so you CAN hashtag on Facebook. But not like you can on Twitter. The original hashtagging machine helps you connect if you’re at a conference or searching for people connected to your cause, but not your organization.
  • Lists
    Keeping track of your contacts has never been so easy. Divide your constituents up by demographic, volunteers or any other way you can think of. If you’re following them, you can put them into a list to easily reach them. They’ll never know they’re a part of your list (unless you want them to know).

LinkedIn

Think this site is just for jobs? Think again. There are tons of ways your organization can use LinkedIn. Connect with volunteers. Find new board members. Recruit donors. The possibilities go on and on.

Job-Related Posts

LinkedIn was created to help people find jobs. So if you’re going to post for your NPO on LinkedIn, post things like a list qualities you look for in volunteers, or tips to help people find the right organization. Always think of what people would want if they were on the receiving end of the post.

Things You Can’t Do Anywhere Else

  • Board Member Connect
    This function was created specifically with nonprofits in mind. When you need a new board member, search using Board Member Connect and find people who have the qualities and interests you’re looking for.
  • Networking
    Your connections have connections who might be great for your organization. And LinkedIn is the way to reach them. The social media site was built on the foundation that it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know. It’s the easiest site to keep up with connections that you might want at a later date.

Google+

Who rules the world? Google does (or so it seems). So why should you care?

All Blog Content

Normally, you wouldn’t want to put every blog post onto social media. But think about this—if Google is what you use to search, wouldn’t you want your content on a Google platform? We thought so.

Multimedia

This social media platform was made for all types of content. Whether it’s a photo, video of a Google Hangout or blog post, Google+ was built to handle it all.

Things You Can’t Do Anywhere Else

  • Circles
    Easily sort out your constituents with circles. Similar to Twitter’s lists, you share information with people in a list with the click of a button. Have a message for all volunteers? Just type it up and select your volunteers list.
  • Hangouts
    Whether you’re 1,000 miles away or in the next room, hangouts make it easy to meet up, swap ideas, and video interesting material for your constituents.

Pinterest

Craft lovers, rejoice. OK, so that’s not exactly what your nonprofit should be using Pinterest for. After all, it has evolved into so much more. However, your nonprofit might not need to be on Pinterest. Really think about your mission and decide if Pinterest could benefit your organization.

Things You Need

A great way for your constituents to get you the things your organization needs is to pin them. It’s a great alternative to accepting cash donations (which aren’t bad, might we add).

Videos that Wow

Pinterest is a great place for your NPO to store any and all types of videos in one place. Keep track of your fundraising campaigns, training videos or marketing materials. They’re all right there for the next time you need them (and to get the word out to others now).

Things You Can’t Do Anywhere Else

  • Secret Boards
    Pin before going public with something, or use it to plan your next fundraising event without everybody knowing what you’re up to. Because sometimes, secrets are more fun.
  • Pin Recipes
    OK, so we’re joking. You probably don’t need this aspect for your nonprofit. But it sure comes in handy when you’re in need of a dessert recipe.

Myspace. Wait, huh?

That’s right. The mighty had fallen. But now they’ve picked themselves back up. That doesn’t mean you need to rush to sign up (again, for some of you). But Myspace could be a major player in the future. Wait until the start of the year to see if it takes off for more than just music.

Sometimes, it’s not about what you’re trying to say. It’s about how you say it. So next time—think before you post.