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5 social media strategies for government and nonprofits

When Shama Hyder wrote her master's thesis about Twitter, in 2008, she initially thought people went online to connect with others and feel a sense of community. Instead, she learned that most people use social media to express their own identity.

That insight has helped Hyder as she went on to create the Marketing Zen Group, a global digital marketing and public relations firm, win numerous awards, write two books and become a frequent keynote speaker.

During a recent Chase for Business webinar for government and nonprofit organizations, Hyder shared other key insights about social media marketing.

"Marketing" often suggests selling or attracting customers, she explained, but it can also mean creating awareness or spreading messages. Governments and nonprofits, in particular, can use it to fundraise, recruit volunteers, or publicize services and events.

Here are five ways to use social media to promote your organization:

1. Make your campaign about the user

"It's not so much what your brand says about you," Hyder said, "but what interacting with you, what engaging with you, what volunteering, or giving back, or actually connecting on a civic level with you, allows an individual to say about their particular brand."

The best social media marketing lets audiences say something about themselves through their online interactions, with the organization running the effort.

The ALS Association took advantage of this principle with its 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge. Rather than simply talking about its mission, Hyder said the campaign allowed people to tell a story about themselves while connecting it to the fight against Lou Gehrig's disease. The entertaining campaign went viral and the association raised $115 million.

2. Collect and organize content

Searching online for information can be overwhelming because there's so much material available. But governments and nonprofits can use social media to become trusted sources of wisdom for their audiences by cutting through the noise.

The Dallas YMCA, a Marketing Zen Group client, worked with Hyder and her team to share messages related to swimming safety and become a leading voice on the topic. They posted infographics, blogs, and Instagram photos to provide their audience with essential, potentially life-saving, information.

3. Use video

"Video, in general, is such a powerful tool," Hyder said. "It's the closest you can get to actually seeing someone face to face."

She advises governments and nonprofits to incorporate video into their social media campaigns. Users are more likely to share, comment on, and "like" video content, according to a recent study by market research company Usurv.

Facebook Live, which allows users to live stream videos, is a simple tool Hyder especially likes. It's easy to use, works on smartphones and, Hyder notes, live videos are even more engaging than static ones.

4. Let data guide your decisions

For successful social media marketing, Hyder recommends using numbers to guide decisions.

"The idea is not to go with things just because someone likes it," she said, "or, hey, you've always done it this way."

For example, an organization can use Google Analytics to determine how much traffic it's getting from users on mobile devices. If it's a high number, but that organization's website isn't optimized for mobile phones and tablets, there's a missed opportunity to attract larger audiences.

5. Leverage the power of influencers to reach your audience

Hyder's last tip for governments and nonprofits is to engage influential people popular with their target audience. Whether it's mommy bloggers, YouTube stars, actors or politicians, these individuals can amplify the reach of an organization's message.

Comic Relief Inc., a nonprofit focused on reducing childhood poverty, did exactly that with their Red Nose Day fundraising campaign, Hyder said. By spotlighting well-known celebrities —who wore bright red clown noses while telling stories about themselves—the organization raised $34 million in 2016.

Have a long-term strategy

Hyder said the best social media marketing starts offline. Rather than sharing as much and as quickly as possible, Hyder encourages organizations to spend time crafting a unique campaign before posting anything.

She also advises consistency.

"It's the least sexy word, but it's so important," she said, noting that just one tweet or newsletter won't get results. It can take weeks or months of posting for success. "It's consistency that's going to win the game for you."

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