You Are What You Tweet: Three Steps to Creating Social Media that Drives Engagement

by Paul Diaz, Vice President Policy, Public Interest Registry

Social media entrepreneur and Founder of Digital Marketing, Gary Henderson, put it well:  “Social media has become the most influential and important virtual space where the platform is not only used for social networking but is also a great way of digitally advertising your brand and your products.” Many mission-based .ORGs know that having an engaging social media presence today is a worthwhile endeavor. But they may not know exactly why or how to do it. 

Harvard Business Review answers the question of ‘why’ by asserting, “The data speaks for itself: The number of worldwide social network users is expected to reach 3.09 billion monthly active users by 2021, and global internet users spend some 136 minutes per day surfing social networks.”

According to Forbes, in addition to expanded potential reach, “Social media is an effective marketing tool for a nonprofit organization,” because:

  • Social media spreads the word about an organization’s mission.
  • Social media postings are free.
  • Social media attracts new donors and keeps existing donors engaged.
  • Social media assists in growing a network of volunteers.
  • Each social media posting can include a link to the organization’s donor page.
  • Interactive content posted to social media allows the audience to participate and feel more engaged.

The “whys” of social media are many— but how do we effectively encourage social media engagement? Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, says it succinctly: “Being effective at social media means capturing people who have short attention spans. They’re only a click away from a picture of a funny cat, so you have to make your thing more compelling than that cat. And that can be a high bar.” Basically, it’s your mission-based organization versus anything else that might claim your audience’s attention. How to compete?

STEP ONE to driving social media engagement is truly understanding what it is. According to Classy:

Social media engagement occurs whenever someone interacts with your social media accounts. On a more granular level, engagement translates to metrics like:

  • Follows
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Retweets
  • Likes
  • Click-throughs

STEP TWO: figure out the best approach.  The Harvard Business Review suggests asking these four questions as a thought exercise for generating social media that drives engagement:

  • What are your goals?
  • What platforms should we be using? 
  • What is your content strategy? 
  • Are you ready to talk with your audience—in real time

Remember, social media interactions go both ways. You want to create a relationship with your followers! Now for the nitty-gritty.  

STEP THREE: Determine the specific actions you can take to engage your social media audience. Some effective options are: using images in every post, employing hashtags to stay in the conversation, and leveraging video as much as possible. We’ll elaborate. 

Include Images  

According to Hubspot, “In an analysis of over 1 million articles, BuzzSumo found that articles with an image once every 75-100 words received double the social media shares as articles with fewer images.” The same research also found that “Facebook posts with images see 2.3X more engagement than those without images.” Photos of volunteers, beneficiaries of your work, and images of leadership and staff are some great places to start.


In “The Art of the Hashtag: How to Boost Social Engagement Through Tags,” Mondo offers three valuable pieces of advice:

  • Align your Hashtags with Your Brand. When it comes to boosting engagement, aligning your hashtags with your brand is an excellent strategy. Creative puns or a play on words, somehow relating back to your core brand message or motto, is an excellent strategy. 
  • Use Actionable Language in your Hashtag. By including a direct call to action (CTA), these hashtags encourage the audience to get involved and share their own stories or images online with the corresponding actionable hashtag.
  • Identify and Incorporate Trending Hashtags. Sometimes the best strategy when it comes to hashtags is to use ones that already exist. Identifying trending hashtags on various social media platforms will give you the opportunity to incorporate relevant tags to your posts.


Make ‘Em Video-Friendly

“Video is one of the most engaging content types that you can post on social media. Facebook reported that 50 percent of Americans who use the platform on a daily basis watch at least one video every day,” according to this piece on Classy. “Make sure to upload your video natively into the platform of your choice. This way, it will automatically play as people land on it while scrolling through their feeds, grabbing their attention. Lots of views can lead to increased reach, engagement, and exposure for your nonprofit.”

“You are what you tweet,” said Calm Founder and CEO Alex Tew. We hope these techniques help you drive social engagement for your mission-based .ORG!

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