Social media 101


Why Use Social Media?

The main goal for most non-profit organizations on social media is to build a thriving support community. As a non-profit organization, having a dedicated, active community of supports and advocates is one of your most valuable assets. It gets the word out about the purpose of your organization, the local events you are hosting and/or attending, but most importantly, what you can do to improve their lives, your supporters and volunteers, and the surrounding community. A presence on multiple social media platforms also allows like-minded individuals and organizations to connect with you easily. The sites get urgent messages and opportunities out more efficiently and effectively due the ability to share through the click of a button. You can share content and ideas back and forth from basically anywhere and anytime in the community to provide a more efficient presence.

The six most popular social media platforms in Canada are:

Facebook 71%

YouTube 49%

Twitter 27%

Pinterest 23%

Instagram 20%

LinkedIn 12%

Source: 2016 Canadian Social Media Use; Statistics Canada

The popularity of the platform is something to consider when deciding if the platform is the right fit for your organization. There are easily over a hundred social media platforms and so knowing which are the most popular will let you reach the most amount of people in the most effective way for your organization.


Choosing the RIGHT social media platform involves considering time, resources, knowledge, and audience.

Time: How much time can you devote to a social network? Plan on at least an hour per day per social network, at least at the start. (Once you get going, tools like TweetDeck, Hootsuite can help you save a bit of time.)


Resources – What personnel and skills do you have to work with? Visual social networks like Pinterest and Instagram require lots of images and photos. Social networks like Google+ emphasize quality content. Do you have the resources to create what’s needed?


Knowledge – What will be the learning curve for you for a given social network? Are there ones you’re quite familiar with already? Getting up to speed might be a factor to consider here.


Your audience – Where do your potential customers hang out? Which social network has the right demographics?


Things to consider when developing social media for your organization:

  • Be consistent – post regularly and about topics related to your organization
  • Be Clear – make sure your message is clear and to the point so you do not loose your audience
  • Be Concise – people have a short attention span when looking at social media and will move on from content that is too long

Summaries of the most popular social media platforms and how to use them:



Facebook is the most widely used social media platform in Canada and it an important way to keep supporters up to date on what is going on within the organization. It is the most versatile of all social media networks as you can post events, photos, videos, take polls and link information. This platform would likely be secondary to your website because you can share the most information with your supporters. There is also the ability to add a “Donate Now” button to your page making it even easier for people to financially support you. Something to note about Facebook is that it prefers content that is linked or embedded on its own website, specifically when talking about videos. When you are trying to decide whether to upload a video to Facebook or YouTube – do both. The reason being that videos uploaded directly to Facebook have at least 7x More Engagement Than sharing a video uploaded to YouTube or another video platform.



Twitter is beneficial for businesses because it allows them to frequently engage their followers frequently with short clear messages. ”Tweets” are 140 character messages that can contain text, photos, links, and videos. Organizations that have a presence on  can be tagged in posts with an “@” symbol. These organizations will see you posting about them and will be able to measure it. Hashtags (# symbols) are used to show a message or a specific topic. They are indicated by a pound sign. These specific topics become “active” when you preface them with the hashtag (#) – for example, if tweeting about an event in London tagging it #LdnOnt makes it appear with all other tweets tagged #LdnOnt.



Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing and video-sharing social media platform. Users can share their content privately or publicly as well as on other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Instagram uses the same “@” and “#” symbols as twitter. It is important to note that videos shared on Instagram can only be a maximum of 60 seconds long. Instagram is a way to connect with your younger audience. It is especially useful if your organization does a lot of storytelling through pictures.



YouTube is a video sharing website. Organizations can create channels and post videos they create and people following them or searching similar videos will see them. These videos can also be embedded into other websites, power points, etc. This platform is useful if you are already making videos of what your organization is doing.




LinkedIn is a social media platform aimed at professionals to help them connect and form networks with other professionals they know and trust.

This social media platform is useful for your employees because having a presence on LinkedIn allows your employees to affiliate themselves with you. It is also a good way to find potential candidates for new openings.

I have content to post, so I can just post it, right?


It is important to know the best time to post on various platforms. Posting within these times will give you the highest engagement from your followers. However, what is possibly more important is the deadzones that you want to avoid posting in at all costs. These zones will have the lowest engagement – if you’re posting outside of the ideal zones on the right, you should try and avoid those on the left. These times aren’t set in stone though, it is important to also keep your audience in mind and think about how their lifestyle will impact when they are checking social media and therefore, when it is best for you to post.




Tools that make posting to social media easier and better timed:



Allows you to schedule all of your social media from one place in advance, there is an app that allows you to manage your scheduling from your phone. Their basic plan is free for up to three social networks with basic analytics. Note: As with all services that schedule Instagram, the post is not posted automatically, your phone will notify you to complete the post.



Tweetdeck is a social media dashboard that allows you to manage multiple twitter accounts at once. With Tweetdeck you can see all of your tweets, replies, interactions, as well as your timeline of the account’s you follow and what they are tweeting. With Tweetdeck you can schedule tweets to occur at certain times and dates – meaning you don’t have to worry about tweeting about a certain event at a certain time, just schedule it to be posted and tweetdeck takes care of the rest.

Establishing A Social Media Guide for your Organization


Establishing a social media guide for your organization generally, or for specific programs, will help ensure that you stay consistent. This is especially important if you rely on volunteers to do the bulk of your social media posting, if you have cyclical programming (makes sure you don’t forget to do things), or if you want to make sure that whoever takes over the program knows what you’ve been doing. For your guide, it is important to list your platforms, and then each program or event that you will use each of them for. Then make sure to list a timeline for each event or program and how often you want to post about it on each platform. Finally, you can either write out an example or what you want the focus of these posts to be. It is also important to include hashtags that you will use across your platforms to ensure consistency. It might also be helpful to include the online presences of your sponsors so they can be thanked.  



Now you have consistent and concise content, posting at the right times, and you are updating your accounts regularly, you can dust off your hands and let the engagement roll in… right?


This is just the beginning young social media padawan


With any part of anything you do, tracking your social media metrics is essential to seeing your success and how you can get better.


What should you track? Well, it’s truly up to you, but LEN has created a basic social media analytics spreadsheet that only has to be filled out once a month.


Access the spreadsheet here: Social Media Analytics for Members

Evaluation is not something that should be done at the end of any project, and social media should be treated the same. Evaluation is an ongoing and iterative process if it is to give you results.

Arguably more important than tracking for the sake of tracking, is the fact you will most likely need those numbers in the future for annual reports, and more likely – grant writing. It is far better to be proactive and have the numbers ready when a funder asks for an update, or a grant pops up and you can spend your time writing and not searching for numbers.

It is also important to understand that the types of content that you put on each of your social media accounts should differ, and there are best practices for each of these that should be followed to ensure your organization’s time is not wasted when you are posting.


The 80/20 rule, what it is and how to use it to make your social media grow 


If you have a social media account, it might be safe to assume that you should be promoting and posting about your organization in all of your posts….


But you need to ask yourself, what value does that add to your followers lives and what  benefit do they gain from your organization talking about themselves all day, every day?


People follow accounts, stay following accounts, and engage with them if they are  receiving things worthy of value from those accounts.


Speaking on that, let’s introduce the 80/20 rule, and why it is beneficial to follow it on your social media accounts.


80% of the content on your accounts should be to interact, educate, inspire, entertain, and connect with your audience (source)


20% should be about promoting your organization or brand (source)


Making 80% of your content that adds value to your follower’s lives makes them want to share it with their followers, expanding your reach and engagement. If you are only sharing information about your organization, you will not receive the same engagement as sharing resources and information with your followers.


People generally have social media to grow their own followings and influence others, and sharing your event information does not achieve that for others. When posting something, ask yourself “would this add value to someone else’s social media page by sharing it”?


In conclusion….


Only use the social media platforms that you have applicable content for and the time to use well. Nothing looks worse than linking to a poorly managed facebook or twitter page on your website or business cards. It is better to use fewer platforms great than to use many poorly.


Would you want to volunteer for or financially support an organization that can’t even take the time to update their social media?


Be sure to be clear, consistent, and concise. Post often and remember it’s not all about you, its about your audience. Always think about whether or not your content is adding value to their lives.