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Facebook content lessons from nonprofits

5 min read

Brands & Campaigns

After working with dozens of nonprofit organizations to help them strategize and improve the overall performance of their Facebook efforts, I’ve come to understand what successful pages have in common: Content that not only helps their target audience tell their story through engagement, but also adds real value to their news feed and their friends’ news feeds.

It’s not enough to post high-quality content that informs your target audience. Nor is it enough to post content that your fans enjoy consuming. For your content to be shared, it must be something your fans want to be personally connected with as it becomes part of their online personal narrative. As a result, page managers must create content that helps their target audience express themselves to their friends. In my experience, successful page managers repeatedly use these five strategies to create content that people want to engage and be connected with – and you can, too.

1. Bring a smile

While we all love a post that makes us smile, marketers often feel pressure to stay on message, which translates into being serious because organizations fear that making light of something could cheapen their brand. If you’re creating content for an organization with a serious mission, look for tasteful ways to inject humor into your Facebook posting regiment and you will find that overall reach and engagement will go up. For example, this post performed 3X better than the average post on this page.

2. Be Inspiring

Look for content that will inspire hope or other positive emotions. Inspiring content consistently does well because Facebook users want inspiring content to be part of their personal narrative. One way to inspire people is to celebrate success.

The Sierra Club’s “Thank the California Fish and Game Commission for Protecting the Gray Wolves” post celebrates success and inspires hope while providing fans a way to inspire their own friends. As this post performed well organically, Sierra Club chose to promote it as well, which resulted in a very high return on investment: over 1600 people signed up to receive email communication from Sierra Club from this post.

3. Help your fans be a trusted source of information

It’s long been known that one of the best ways to build a large and loyal network on Facebook is to be the trusted source of information on a topic which people care about. The real magic here is about fans wanting to be the trusted source of information to their friends, which leads them to share your content with their network. Infographics with interesting facts and figures are a good example of posts that typically outperform average content as they help fans show their friends they are a trusted source of information.

4. Empower people

Roughly 10% of people who engage with a given Facebook post that includes meaningful content are willing to do something beyond like, share or comment. Because fans almost certainly view your organization as working to bring about change they want to see in the world, they are willing to take an action that results in greater viral sharing and in the process sign up for email communication.

Posts that empower people to make a difference help them show others who they really are. Simultaneously, these posts work to deepen relationships as people sign up for future direct communication. A great example of sharing and engaging deeper is a recent series of action related posts by the Sierra Club that gave people a way to “Tell the EPA to take action to protect bees.” A high percentage of the people that engaged with these posts by liking, sharing or commenting went on to complete the “tell” action. In doing so, they also joined Sierra Club’s e-mail list.

5. Run special offers that align with your mission

Contests and drawings are proven strategies to boost engagement. To avoid engaging with people more interested in the value of the offer than your organization’s mission, I recommend offering the potential to win by taking an action (whether it’s simply clicking like or signing a petition) to tap into the power of offering something of small monetary value (e.g. your organization’s t-shirt) while still keeping it relevant. This keeps both engagement and quality high. The most effective of these campaigns make your fans feel like they are doing their friends a favor by inviting them to participate, too.

While no two people are exactly alike on or off Facebook, it’s no surprise that people are far more likely to engage with content that expresses a positive image of themselves. As you develop your content, be sure to always ask, “By taking this action, what will it say to my fans’ friends?” and “Does that message align with what I believe my fans want their friends to think of them?” Step into your fans’ shoes for a moment and you will be sure to boost your Facebook engagement and reach.

Drew Bernard is the founder and CEO of, a Facebook app that empowers nonprofits and political campaigns to engage supporters beyond like, share and comment. Drew has been helping organizations build productive relationships with supporters online for over 10 years.

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