Hands up if your to-do list currently resembles the opening crawl from Return of the Jedi. Somewhere along our evolutionary journey from smoke signals to TikTok, life got busy. Like, really busy. And let’s be real: sometimes social media can feel like both the cause of and solution to a hectic schedule. Thankfully, knowing where and how to use your time on social media can help make it feel less like a time warp, and more like the magical marketing force it has the potential to be!
Social media is nothing short of a miracle for the world of animal welfare. It allows us to reach whole new audiences, save lives in creative ways and maintain an affordable and effective marketing strategy while simultaneously transforming the conversation surrounding pet adoption into something more positive. But with great power comes great responsibility. And that responsibility probably looks like a frantic Facebook post between adoption applications or the occasional tweet while juggling coffee and a carrier of kittens.
Don’t despair. A study revealed that more than half of non-profits spend 2 hours or less per week on social media marketing (whereas half of for-profit businesses spend at least 6 hours per week). And if you’re connected to the world of animal welfare in even a roundabout way, you know that 2 hours is on the generous side of what can be spared by a shelter employee or volunteer with myriad and growing responsibilities.
So, it begs the question: how can those with tight schedules, hundreds of to-dos, and varying degrees of expertise in marketing make the absolute most of that (up to) 2 hours? Here are a few ideas.
FIRST THING’S FIRST: GET ORGANIZED
Ever heard the saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment’? It holds true for the development of marketing strategies, too. Devote a reasonable chunk of time to streamlining ideas, files, people, and goals now, and not only will everything run more smoothly as you power forward, you’ll enjoy greater and more long-lasting social media success.
CREATE A SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT PLAN
Knowing who does what and when is helpful in any field, but it’s vital when resources are limited. If you don’t already have a designated social media manager, it might be time to decide who could assume this all-important responsibility. The size, setup, and needs of your organization will primarily dictate what qualifies as a good candidate for the role, but consider that it doesn’t necessarily need to be a paid staff member.
Brands and organizations that maintain a consistent and cohesive ‘voice’ across their entire digital presence often secure the trust and support of the public more quickly. People like to know what to expect. To that end, put together a quick set of social media posting and communication guidelines so that everyone contributing to the strategy is on the same page about what language and tone are appropriate (and preferred), and the general dos and don’ts.
Once you have someone at the wheel of your social media efforts and a solid set of guidelines and policies in place, you can begin layering on supportive roles as needed. Got a volunteer who’s head over heels for Pinterest? Great! Assign them head pinner duties under the guidance of the social media manager. Is a shelter staff member the primary point person at off-site events and adoptions? Perhaps they’d be open to tweeting the festivities in real-time.
While having a paid full-time position devoted to social media is becoming more and more common (and warranted as social media marketing develops into such a dominant piece of the non-profit jigsaw puzzle), a lot can be achieved with a few carefully selected and well-informed people overseeing and contributing to the day-to-day.
MAINTAIN A MONTHLY EDITORIAL CALENDAR
That sounds a bit daunting, but it’s actually going to make planning out content a lot easier, and ensure that you don’t miss the opportunity to capitalize on holidays, events, and happenings that can help your organization glide into the public eye.
To get you on your way, we’ve built this digital, always updated content calendar! You can download this, sync it with your organization’s calendar, and add your own events, fundraisers, and goals, and you’ll already be halfway to a streamlined social media management plan. You’ll also notice they include some handy social media posting tips and popular holidays related to animal welfare that could provide little sparks of inspiration throughout the month.
WORK WHAT YOU’VE GOT
Social media has not only become an integral part of marketing strategies, it’s also at the epicenter of most of our personal lives. 4.62 billion people worldwide use it, in fact, so the chances are good that a few of those users are already helping your organization each week in other roles. They may not all be available to help with social media management tasks, but they definitely have special insight into the animals and people working and living within a shelter’s four walls. That knowledge paired with an understanding of social media can make them wonderful assets in generating content, and could lighten the load of a social media manager considerably.
Furthermore, if ‘social media’ is not already a skill or interest prospective volunteers can check when applying to help your organization, consider adding it to build your army of potential social media managers and contributors.
Set up a social media submission system to source content suggestions from those on the front lines of your mission. This could be an electronic form integrated into your volunteer software, or a good old-fashioned suggestion box in a common area. Either way — the ideas are out there, and you have the opportunity to gather them!
REUSE AND RECYCLE
One of the primary gripes of social media managers is how small a percentage of our audiences our content actually reaches. Facebook and Twitter algorithms are a whole other topic to tackle, but the silver lining of that limited reach is that repurposing content is a perfectly reasonable time saver. Reminisce about a special adoption or fun event via ‘throwback Thursdays’ (#tbt), reshare important info and updates via ‘ICYMI’, repost blog posts from your website using new images or excerpts, and educational pieces using new titles or call-outs. If it’s quality, people won’t mind seeing it multiple times.
CALL IN THE REINFORCEMENTS
Not all social media helpers are human! As social networks grow and new ones gain popularity, so too do the supportive tools that make managing them a little easier/less frustrating/more schedule-friendly.
FIND AND SAVE CONTENT FROM AROUND THE WEB
Ever scroll past a fascinating article, get two paragraphs in before having to step away, and then return only to realize it’s now lost to the depths of your newsfeed, never to be seen again? No longer! Install a comprehensive web bookmarking tool, such as Pocket or Feedly, and never see your inspiring content lost to the sands of time again.
CREATE FRESH, CUSTOM CONTENT
Peruse the HeARTs Speak artist directory for a graphic designer or photographer in your area, and let them help you with creating some top-notch visual assets that will set your organization apart in a competitive newsfeed.
Want to give it a go yourself? Check out Canva!
Publishing a week’s worth of content is considerably less daunting if you have some nifty scheduling tools to help you along — and there are a number that fit within a non-profit budget. Free, that is. Set aside 15 minutes at the start of your week to queue up some posts and tweets, and you’ll be thankful you did as your social media presence hums along while you’re busy tackling other tasks.
- Facebook provides an excellent, on-board scheduling tool that also offers some customizations in terms of geo-targeting and adding locations and tags (all helpful in getting your content seen)
- Tweetdeck is a free and easy-to-use tool for scheduling Twitter content. You can also customize your interface by adding columns to monitor various search terms, hashtags, brands, and users, making it a lot easier to manage and grow your Twitter community
- If you have a budget to play with and would like to invest in a more comprehensive and all-encompassing tool, Hootsuite, Loomly, and Buffer offer a discount for non-profits
KEEP TRACK OF WHAT’S WORKING
Slow and steady growth is the foundation of any social media development plan. Not to suggest we don’t hope you’ll get lucky and rocket to fame with a viral video — that is the dream after all — but for the most part, you’ll be digging in and letting consistency, research, and calculated adjustment form the basis of your social presence.
A quick 10-minute progress check each week is a sound investment, and can help you maximize your time investment in a meaningful way.
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest all have robust, built-in insight tools which you can use to identify the types of content that are most appreciated by your audience (and therefore most likely to gather more exposure for your cause). Do image posts, links, or video get you the most likes, shares, or comments? Post more of what’s working, and try creating some new content of that kind to communicate about your organization.
If something jumps out in your weekly metrics as having been particularly successful (perhaps a specific video share, infographic, or piece of language), use that information to inspire your upcoming week of social content. Introduce similar pieces of content gradually so you can separate the flukes from the fail-safes.
Tracking the performance of your content can also help you distribute your time and resources more effectively. If one of your social networks is suddenly growing by leaps and bounds and requiring more attention, refocus some more of your time there.
GET IN THE KNOW
Social media is an ever-evolving realm, and staying one step ahead means staying educated about updates.
SIGN-UP FOR EMAILS
Try signing up for email updates from social media marketing leaders like Hubspot, Socialbrite, and Nonprofit Hub, or following resources like Social Media Today and Mashable. There’s a wealth of information out there and having it deposited in your email inbox or newsfeed will save you the hassle of digging through websites and blogs for the latest.
GO STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE
Follow brands and organizations whose content you admire and enjoy, and who align well with your own organization. Not only is it good for your organization to develop social partners and collaborators, but you might feel inspired by their work or approach to social media marketing.
We’d love to hear what’s worked for you! Share your own tips for social media management on a tight schedule below.
(This blog was initially published in April 2016 and updated in August 2022)