Building social media communities for nonprofits and social enterprises

Building social media communities for nonprofits and social enterprises

Have a limited budget? Stuck for time? But need to build an online community for your charity or nonprofit fast? If you’re nodding along, then the good news is that you’re in the right place! But we won’t pretend like this is going to be easy peasy lemon squeezy. You’re going to have to get cosy with the perilous world of social media, upgrade your skills so you can tap into all the features these channels have to offer, and dedicate precious time to growing your audience.

But fear not! Just think of us as your digital Sherpa. We’re going to take you on a journey, showing you stellar examples of how some well-known not for profits have optimised their social media campaigns to drum up awareness and get people taking action. For every social media campaign we reference, we’re going to share a key takeaway that you can incorporate into your own community-building activities. Imagine this blog is a digital marketing version of Less stress, more success. Yes, just like the leaving cert handbooks – only kidding, it won’t be that bad!

Nonprofit social media campaigns that really worked

Twitter – a global hashtag movement

The Me Too movement is an example of a global hashtag - Engage Content Marketing Agency Dublin

The campaign

With its relevance spanning every country of the world and directly affecting more than half of the world’s population, the #MeToo campaign was destined to be a Twitter sensation. Whilst it didn’t escape the attention of other social platforms, bloggers, and printed media – it definitely packed a punch at over 19 million hashtag tweets at its peak in October 2018. With the humble hashtag, this campaign managed to bring worldwide attention to a very personal issue in a simple but impactful way.

The lesson

Hashtags are an effective feature for spreading the word to the right people at just the right time. Some hashtags have longevity while others are merely passing trends, but both types of hashtags have power worth harnessing.

For example, pancake Tuesday comes around every year which means that, if you’re thinking ahead, you could plan a creative way to promote your message by jumping on the hashtag bandwagon. If your campaign is anti-animal cruelty, you might say Don’t forget to use free-range eggs when cooking up a storm in the kitchen today! #pancaketuesday. If your cause supports the elderly, you could say Share the love this #pancaketuesday by sharing a batch with your elderly neighbour.

We’re just spitballing here, but it’s this kind of outside-the-box thinking that can really make a Twitter hashtag campaign go viral. If you’re looking to build your understanding of campaigning on Twitter, follow their dedicated nonprofit account.

Instagram – mass user-generated content

keep a breast foundation campaign checkmyselfie - Engage Content Marketing Agency Dublin

The campaign

For Instagram, we’re going to go with American nonprofit, Keep A Breast Foundation and the “check myselfie” campaign. What is so clever about this campaign is that it involves users holding three fingers up to their upper chest region whilst taking a selfie and pledging to do regular breast health checks. Participants must use #checkmyselfie in order to get featured on their Instagram page. As we all know, people love a good selfie, and this is especially the case on Instagram. We love this campaign because it’s visual, it plays on popular culture and gets people actively involved.

The lesson

Instagram is all about the visual, so if you can spread your message effectively through images, then this is the social media platform for you. This campaign worked particularly well because it tapped into Instagram users’ love of selfies. This is very distinctive to the platform and although you’ll see the odd selfie on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, it is not used to the same degree as on Instagram. The real stroke of genius in this campaign is stimulating mass user-generated content. This is a clever strategy for the not for profit with limited time and budget because it uses the untapped resources of those passionate supporters. Not for profits are all about generating people power so if you see a way to do this on social media then go for it!

Youtube – triggering an emotional response

The Homelessfonts initiative from Arrels Fundacio - Engage Content Marketing Agency Dublin

The campaign

If a picture paints a thousand words, imagine what a video can do! Popular video platform YouTube lends itself to highly emotive and inspirational content; it’s a fantastic place to showcase long-form video content that takes the viewer on a journey into the heart or the humour at the centre of your cause. Check out the video below to see exactly what we mean. Homelessfonts is a brilliantly orchestrated campaign designed by the Arrels Fundació. The inspired idea that they came up with was to use the handwriting from the cardboard signs of the homeless to design fonts that can be sold to design agencies and corporations. This highly emotive content instantly captures the imagination of anyone who views it. The video itself was developed with a very specific audience in mind – their potential sponsors.

The lesson

Content doesn’t need to be relevant to everyone, but can and should be purposely designed to reach a specific audience. It is when you have a true understanding of your audience that your message can really pack a punch. The more people you try to appeal to, the more diluted your message becomes and the less engaging it is for those who truly care about the cause. Do your market research and harness that knowledge to design the type of video content that will make them stop to laugh, gasp, cry or get angry. If you can trigger an emotional response in the viewer, and the video storytelling format is ideal for this, you are very likely to inspire real action.

Watch their inspiring video over at (We don’t embed videos to protect your privacy. If you click on the link, a new browser tab will open YouTube, where your activity is tracked by Google as a means of compiling and maintaining your multifaceted user profile. Such profiles can be used to, for example, target you with advertising.)

Facebook – bringing like-minded people together

WWF World Wide Fund for Nature brings millions of people together on Facebook Engage Content Marketing Agency Dublin

The campaign

Creating online communities through Facebook is a great way to increase your number of supporters. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is a heavyweight champion when it comes to taking advantage of this nifty Facebook feature. With over 5 million supporters worldwide and over 1,300 projects in action, WWF proves Facebook is the perfect platform for community building.  Facebook pages or groups are easy to set up. Inviting members to join is simple and once they’re in they can freely communicate with each other. Unlike Twitter, groups tend to feel more private and they are generally better moderated. Facebook is also a great platform if you plan on having regular events because they have an event feature just for that.

The lesson

Facebook pages and groups are effective because they section off a corner of the internet just for you to engage with people about your cause. By attracting people’s attention to this one place, you can nurture a highly engaged audience. Across all social media channels, organic reach is suffering because there is so much content out there. So if you’re struggling to get your posts seen, a Facebook page or group is a good way to cut through the noise. Followers benefit because they now have a place to engage with like-minded people and we all know that it is these kinds of interactions that drive real action for not for profits.

Before you go…

As an advocate for awareness and change, it’s natural to want everyone to get on board with your cause; so you might be tempted to start voraciously posting and pitching on every platform possible. But in most cases, it’s best to start with the platforms that have active communities that will engage with your content.

There are a few reasons for this, the primary one being that it is more time efficient. If you spread your time too thinly the quality of your content is going to suffer, so it is better to focus your energy on a couple of key channels to start with. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking that one piece of content can be easily used across all social channels, because you’ll quickly find that there are strict formatting rules for each. If you are at all familiar with social media, you’ll also recognise that each network has its own personality and attracts certain types of people which your content should cater for.

So make sure to pick your social media channels wisely, basing your choice on what makes the most sense for your particular activism group or non-profit. If you’re hungry for more social media tips, why not skip over to What Is Dark Social? A How-To Guide For Marketing In The Unknown written by our very own social media guru, Justine!

Written in collaboration with our intern, Brooke.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsure of where to start? Maybe all you need to get started is a brainstorming workshop with the Engage team. Get in contact with us today, and we’ll be happy to answer all of your burning questions!