February 20, 2017

How To Keep Up with Changes to Social Media You Already Use

Surprise! In the past few months, there has been a flurry of changes to social media platforms that matter to many nonprofits.

For example, Facebook made it easier for people to recommend Pages to friends. Twitter changed what counts toward its 140-character limit. Instagram is becoming ever more monetized. YouTube launched Creators for Change. Snapchat undid the mess that was Auto Advance Stories. Pinterest updated advertising options. LinkedIn…did nothing that notable for nonprofits (harumph). Medium improved how it displays and uploads images. Oh, and Vine is dead.

The thing is, this rate of change isn’t unusual. Social media companies have to continually increase user interest and open the wallets of new advertisers and investors.

Since social media is ever changing, your nonprofit’s approach to social media needs to keep changing, too.

I’m not talking about whether your organization should embrace new and emerging social media (I tackle that in another article). It’s a matter of how you can keep up with changes to the social media channels your organization already uses.

What can you do to future-proof your social media strategy and tactics? How can you know what social media changes lie ahead and be ready to pounce on new features?

Create durable social media guidelines and training materials

Every social media company has free online support information, packed with step-by-step how-tos and answers to common questions. Here they are for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Medium.

You shouldn’t spend your time duplicating what the companies already provide. Instead, include information in your social media guidelines and training materials that goes beyond generic advice. Focus what you create on what works for your organization. That way, while your organization’s guidelines and training materials may not be forever evergreen, they’ll stay relevant and useful for much longer.

Here are a few ideas of what to include in your social media guidelines and training materials:

  • Content, tone, voice, and style that appeals to your unique audiences, and what turns them off.
  • Social media features that your organization has decided to use and why, with a link to the company’s guide about how to use that particular feature.
  • Lessons learned and decisions made.
  • Metrics to measure, and why they matter.
  • Specific examples that can help your staff understand how to implement social media in ways proven to advance your organization’s goals.

Read social media product announcements

Knowing the changes on the horizon means you’ll be able to plan ahead. The social media companies are usually the most reliable sources for news about upcoming product changes. It’s unlikely you’ll get one-on-one support. Look to company blogs for useful tips, best practices, trends, bugs, data, case studies, resources, and trainings.

In addition, Marketing Land’s social media marketing stories and Social Media Today both cover social media product updates without the fluff and clickbait that plagues some outlets.

You don’t need to check each blog one by one. Simply add them to your favorite free blog reader, such as Feedly, and schedule time once a week to scan the headlines.

Regularly revisit your social media strategy

Your social media tactics are only as good as the strategy they support. If your social media strategy is too rigid—and the process to update it too bureaucratic—your organization’s approach to social media will stagnate. You could miss new opportunities to get your message heard and risk losing your audience’s attention.

It’s time to trash the idea of an unalterable five-year, three-year, or even one-year social media strategy. Devise a nimble and malleable social media strategy that can be refined when your nonprofit learns, adapted when your organizational goals shift, and evolved when social media changes and changes some more.

A version of this first appeared on the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog and is reprinted here with permission.

Lauren Girardin
I use my creative chutzpah to help nonprofits and foundations engage their communities and share their stories. I show organizations how to experiment bravely in their social media, blogging, content marketing, media relations, presentations, brand messaging, and other digital and traditional communications. My clients have included California Family Health Council and TeenSource, Caravan Studios, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, GovLoop, NGOsource, Points of Light, Rebuilding Together, TechSoup Global, YTH, and others. Get in touch at laurengirardin.com.
Lauren Girardin