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How to craft a data-driven social media strategy for your nonprofit 

Kate Meyers Emery presenting at the NTEN conference.

Creating a social media strategy can feel overwhelming. There is so much expert advice out there about how much you should post, what types of content are the best, and how to reach new audiences. The problem is, this advice is often aimed at organizations with dedicated social media folks, or even teams of them. 

So, how can your nonprofit create a social media strategy that you can sustain? The answer: craft your own strategy that uses your data, is customized to your audience, and won’t overwhelm your team (or yourself).  

Here is how you can craft a road map to social media success.  

1. Set the destination 

First, you need to know where you want to end up. In a year, what will success look like?  

As you define your goal(s), also think about how to measure it. Here are a few examples: 

  • Increase awareness and expand your audience: success is measured by an increase in followers, but you could also track things like shares, reposts, and retweets. 
  • Increase donations: success is measured by an increase in donations on the platform’s embedded fundraising tools, such as those on Meta or TikTok. 
  • Create an engaged online community: success is measured by an increase in engagement, particularly comments and re-shares. 

2. Do your research 

Now we need to figure out what content works for your audience. Instead of turning to expert advice, look at your own social media data from the past year. If you haven’t exported your data before, here are how-to guides for major platforms. 

Once you have exported data from the last year, sort posts by the metric you’re most interested in, such as engagement, reach, or link clicks. Then, pull the top and bottom 10 posts.  

Now, assess the posts to see what makes them similar and different, including the text, imagery, links, post types, timing, and platforms. You’ll likely start seeing some patterns that will help you craft a more robust plan. 

3. Create the road map 

Now that you have an idea of what your audience liked in the past, you can create a plan for future social media content. This is your road map.  

At this stage, you’re not writing the content, but you should be able to create a broad plan of what you will need to do every week. This includes what themes to hit and what type of content you’ll share.  

Your plan could look something like this: 

  • Share an educational tip with a Canva graphic: 1x per week 
  • Post a 59-second horizontal video sharing a behind-the-scenes look: 1x per week 
  • Serve a pop quiz about your impact or broader cause: 1x per week 
  • Post an impact story with a real photograph: 2x per week 
  • Tell a story about a staff member with photograph: 1x per month 

Now you have a plan and can start implementing it. 

4. Experiment with shortcuts and side trips 

There are a few reasons you may want to experiment. The big reason is if your current road map isn’t helping you reach your destination goal. You may also want to try out some expert advice or adjust to platform changes.  

Whatever inspires you, here is a general experimentation process for social media posting: 

  • Pick one thing you want to test at a time, like type of post, length of text, posting time, or something else. 
  • Set a time period for the test. Around 1-3 months is often enough time to get data you’ll need, but also not so much that it’s potentially wasting your time.  
  • Determine what success looks like, such as an increase in engagement compared to the previous month.  
  • Run your experiment. Then, update your roadmap by assessing the data at the end of your test. Keep the tactics that get you closer to your goal and toss out what takes you on a detour away from it.    

One important note: make sure to track your own time during the experiment. The results don’t matter if you or your team can’t keep up with the work.  

Here are two experiments we’ve shared as examples. You’ll see that one of the major deciding factors on next steps was the time it took staff to create content: 

Social media strategies are living documents. Your strategy is going to shift and adjust over the course of a year. By taking an approach that prioritizes data, you will be able to create a plan tailored for you and your audience.  

“A data-driven approach to social media strategy” was originally presented at the 2023 Nonprofit Technology Conference hosted by NTEN. 


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  • Assetou Djire says:

    May 2, 2023 8:51 am

    Very interesting