Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

8 Social Media Predictions for Nonprofits in 2014

December 30, 2013

This year has seen truly fantastic coverage of humanitarian work around the globe on social media. I am rather happy about this because I get all of my news via social media these days anyway. I don’t know when that happened, but, alas, it has. Nonprofits and NGOs have kept supporters, donors, the press, and fellow humanitarians abreast of first-hand accounts of the tragedy in the Philippines and subsequent aid relief as well as humanitarian efforts from medical care to food distribution that are currently keeping people alive in Syria, the Central African Republic, as well as South Sudan. 

 One of the things I believe more nonprofits will realize – no matter their size – is that social media must be a two-way conversation.

Continuous coverage is being sent out across social media concerning constant challenges like maternal health and vaccine administration. While social media played a pivotal role in sharing stories across the web this year, 2014 will dictate that those stories become even more shareable and engaging to make an impact. 

Here are my nonprofit social media predictions for 2014. Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments.

  1. The same old, same old with a few exceptions: Let’s be honest for a moment: the nonprofit sector doesn’t typically push the social media creativity envelope these days. We tend to see the most creative campaigns come from brands that have big budgets and cutting edge marketing teams behind them. But there have been some nonprofit social media campaigns that have caught my attention because they have forged different ways to connect with online supporters.

    Take the ONE Campaign’s recent Resolution Roulette microsite. ONE effectively merged funny gifs with actionable social shares all while driving new member sign-ups. Additionally, Water is Life created one of the best nonprofit videos of the year by thinking outside of the content box with its bucket list video with a four-year-old Kenyan boy. It was both moving and different than many videos you see. 

    Beyond campaigns like these, I honestly see few extremely creative nonprofit social media campaigns that think outside of the box and engages supporters in unique ways in 2014 if trends remain consistent.

  2.  Social media conversations will become two-way dialogues: One of the things I believe more nonprofits will realize – no matter their size – is that social media must be a two-way conversation. If you take a look at some of the largest and most influential entertainers in the world (screenshot), you will see that either they or their social media team does a lot of retweeting and talking to their fans. Make no mistake about it, they understand that social media is a two-way conversation. Why? They realize that with every quick retweet they post their fans will take that sentiment and spread it to their own networks whether that is on Facebook or Instagram or in a text or on the phone or in their friend’s face. Simple retweets or comments to fans grow legs quickly and spread. While celebs, brands, and nonprofits are all different the social media skills remain the same: if you engage you build relationships.

    Take a look also at this screenshot from @NoKidHungry. For every thank you they tweeted to supporters they have created a digital relationship that will last far longer than the second it took to send a quick tweet and likely will last for years. It’s that simple, really. I predict in 2014 more nonprofits will realize the subtle art of building online relationships with real supporters instead of simply talking at them. 

  3. More collaborations and partnerships: There are already quite a lot of smart social media collaborations that amplify like messages and partnerships. I love seeing how maternal health organizations and global nutritional NGOs, for example, come together to spread the message about the importance of said causes. Collaborations create an easy way to spread messages far and reach more people. That’s the goal, right? Look for even more collaborations in the nonprofit sector in 2014. 

  4.  An increase in smart visual storytelling: Everyone has been talking about an increase in visual storytelling on social sites especially when Pinterest came on the scene a few years ago. But few people admit that the quality of the storytelling must go up a notch in 2014. It’s not going to cut it to simply splash social media with photos. People are busy and engagement is difficult. Rather, nonprofits are going to have to choose to share photos that tell a story quickly and that people understand with a quick glance. Although these first two images aren’t from nonprofits, I want to show you what I mean. This photo, for example, tweeted by @ESPN tells a full story; no questions asked! Plus, it’s a photo most people haven’t seen before and so they engaged with it and shared it en masse. Also, consider this photo from @Starbucks. It takes Starbucks’ #redcups to another level of creativity and makes it shareable, even “pinnable.” Finally take this comparison photo from @WFP. It also tells a complete story and elicits a powerful engaged sharing response.

    In 2014 it’s not going to be good enough to simply share photos, it’s going to be about sharing really good photos that tell stories.
  5. Utilizing closed networks to forge insider connections: I see a steady trend on social sites where users can increasingly opt to share photos and videos with chosen friends instead of with the public. Think about the ability now to DM photos on Twitter via your mobile phone or using Instagram Direct where you can share photos and videos with certain friends instead of with the general public. If Instagram makes it easy this year to share content with a easy-to-create customized list  instead of with the public I foresee Instagram Direct being an ideal way in 2014 of sharing “insider” content that nonprofits can use to engage their most ardent and dedicated supporters. 

  6.  A nonprofit will really figure out Snapchat: Snapchat is a conundrum for a lot of us. We’re still trying to figure out whether we should use it or even if we want to. That said, brands like IHOP and MTV have already started tinkering with Snapchat in order to reach the highly influential youth demographic that is increasingly fleeing from Facebook. I predict that nonprofits will figure out a way to use Snapchat in 2014 that makes sense and engages its users. It’s not going to be easy because how do you tell stories on a medium where your messages disappear? But the sheer allure of the millions upon millions of users will entice someone to figure out a smart way to share and engage on Snapchat about causes young people care about. 

  7. Increased use of Spotify: Did you know that brands have already created branded playlists on Spotify? Look at Coca-Cola for example. They have over 30,000 followers on Spotify and are engaging customers through music, one of the most powerful tools in the world. Coca Cola has sought the online interest of music lovers and has banked on them sharing their playlists on social media. Just take a look at this real-time Twitter search to see how enthusiasts are taking to Coca Cola's playlists. I predict that nonprofits will increasingly enter into the Spotify space. If Spotify makes sense for your nonprofit, especially in the world music genre, go for it! Music can give a background theme to nonprofits. Plus, it’s fun. 

  8. More nonprofit flipboard magazines: Earlier this year Flipboard engaged with major nonprofits like UNICEF USA and Doctors Without Borders in its “Big Ideas” section to create digital magazines about worthy causes that users can easily skim or read in-depth on their mobile devices and share as they wish. Now, Flipboard has made sharing photos even easier which is essential in this visual-heavy social climate. When you share content you can choose the image you would like to accompany an article and you can also change the cover photo of your digital magazine. With over 100 million users, Flipboard is a really easy tool to grow a user base of supporters. I foresee more nonprofits using Flipboard to share photos and video largely because it's simple to use and not staff intensive. 

    These are eight of my social media predictions I think will come down the pipeline in 2014. What are yours?
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