When planning your nonprofit’s marketing communications budget, does ‘social media’ have a line? Is it time to start considering paying in order to reach and grow your communities on social networks?

We’ve (hopefully) moved past needing to make the case for simply having a presence on social media. But is it fair to expect to get the results we want on these networks without paying a dime? In a recent blog post about social media ads, Julia Campbell tells us that, “…nonprofits who do not budget some money for paid social advertising will get left in the News Feed dust.”

Nonprofits are already experimenting with social ads

Some nonprofits are definitely testing the waters. Imagine Canada used YouTube advertising to boost the reach of their A Charity Was Here campaign, successfully driving new visitors back to their website. And Jason Shim of Pathways to Education Canada describes that organization’s recent experiment with paying for social reach:

“For a voting contest in which dollars were allocated for each vote, our org ran a small pilot to ascertain whether or not it would be effective and when it was demonstrated that the ROI was positive, we ran with it and achieved results that were far better than what we had seen in the past with just an organic campaign.

We tried a bit with Twitter advertising, but for that particular use case, it wasn’t as effective.”

Advertising options on social media

Many social networks have created advertising platforms or options and here are just a few examples:

The benefits of paying for social reach

Obviously, paying for advertising helps get your messages in front of more people. But the real value comes from not just having more people see your content, but the right people. Many of these platforms allow advertisers to get incredibly targeted, allowing us to specify location, age, gender, interests and in some cases, even previous website visitors! Not to mention the fact that many social media advertising options are based on paying not just for visibility but according to whether specific actions are being taken – something we can’t even dream of when it comes to print or broadcast media advertising!

How can nonprofits use advertising on social media wisely?

If you’ve been paying for ads – or considering it – what’s the best use? Some options include:

  • Building and growing your followings – either online communities or email lists.
  • Getting the word out about programs or events
  • Boosting awareness campaigns
  • Asking for financial support
  • Recruiting volunteers

Has your nonprofit considered – or started – paying for reach on social media?

No idea where to start? There are many resources available on the subject such as Hootsuite’s helpful Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Advertising. But first, let’s explore the idea and tap into the wisdom of the community!

On what social networks do you already have a presence? Where and how might a paid boost help you to accelerate progress toward your goals? How can you test the idea of paying for social reach? Let’s explore these questions and share experiences at #NPMC chat on Thursday, June 25 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

This month, the chat will be facilitated by our friends at TechSoup Canada!

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira