Facebook content lessons from nonprofits

Your fans want to feel involved and altruistic, and so do many of their friends. Tap into that benevolence to engage—and expand—your loyal audience.

Successful Facebook page content can help nonprofits tell their story through engagement and can add significant value to their news feeds and their friends’ news feeds.

It’s not enough to post high-quality content that informs your target audience. Nor is it enough to post content that your fans enjoy consuming. For your content to be shared, fans must want to connect with it as part of their personal online narrative.

Page managers must create content that helps their target audience express themselves to their friends. Successful page managers use the following five techniques to create content that people want to engage and be connected with—and you can, too.

1. Bring a smile

We all love a post that makes us smile, yet marketers often feel pressure to stay on message. This translates into being overly somber, because organizations fear that making light of something could cheapen their brand.

If you’re creating content for an organization with a serious mission, find tasteful ways to inject humor into your Facebook posting regimen, and your overall reach and engagement will go up.

2. Inspire

Look for content that will inspire hope or other positive emotions. Inspiring content consistently does well, because Facebook users want inspirational content to be part of their personal narrative. One method is to celebrate success.

The Sierra Club‘s “Thank the California Fish and Game Commission for Protecting the Gray Wolves” post celebrates success and gives fans a way to inspire their own friends. As that post performed well organically, Sierra Club chose to promote it, which resulted in a high return on investment: More than 1,600 people signed up to receive emails from the group.

3. Help your fans be a trusted source of information

A great way to build a large, loyal network on Facebook is to provide information of interest, leading fans to share your content with their own networks. Interesting infographics, for example, typically outperform average content, as they help fans bring compelling information to their friends.

4. Empower people

Roughly 10 percent of people who engage with a meaningful Facebook post will go beyond a “like,” share or comment. Because fans almost certainly view your organization as working to bring about needed change in the world, they are willing to act toward greater viral sharing—and sign up for emails.

Social cause posts empower people to make a difference while showing their benevolent side to others. These posts also deepen relationships as people sign up for future direct communication.

A great example of sharing and engaging more deeply is a recent series of action-related posts helping people to “Tell the EPA to take action to protect bees.” Many people who engaged with these posts by “liking,” sharing or commenting went on to complete the “tell” action. In doing so, they joined Sierra Club’s email list.

5. Run special offers that align with your mission

Contests and drawings boost engagement, but you should avoid engaging with people more interested in the value of the offer than in your organization’s mission.

I recommend offering the potential to win by taking an action (whether it’s simply clicking “like” or signing a petition) to tap into the power of offering something of small monetary value (e.g., your organization’s T-shirt) while keeping it relevant. This keeps both engagement and quality high. The most effective campaigns let your fans feel that they are doing their friends a favor by inviting them to participate.

Though no two people are exactly alike-on or off Facebook-most are likely to engage with content that expresses a positive image of themselves. As you develop your content, ask, “By taking this action, what will it say to my fans’ friends?” and, “Does that message align with what I believe my fans want their friends to think of them?”

Step into your fans’ shoes, and you will boost your Facebook engagement and reach.

Drew Bernard is the founder and CEO of ActionSprout.com. A version of this article first appeared on SmartBlog on Social Media.

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