Nonprofits know that Facebook is important. It’s the primary place for people to connect, get news, and learn about the organizations and causes that matter to them. Americans spend an average of at least an hour on the site every day — meaning that they look at more than 250 stories daily!
To grow your following, build energy around your cause, and ultimately create real-world impact, it’s critical to ensure that for as many people as possible, one of those stories is yours. But with limited time, resources, and staff, it can be hard for nonprofits to know where to begin. In fact, 80% of nonprofits post to their Facebook pages less than once a day, and 37% post less than once a week.
We’re here to change that.
ActionSprout is a smart story network, and it’s now 100 percent free for US-based nonprofits. Our constantly refreshed feed of curated, searchable content makes it fast and easy to schedule engaging stories that will expand and energize your digital following. Here’s how to start using ActionSprout to maximize your Facebook footprint.
A story a day keeps supporters engaged
When you post a story to your page, Facebook doesn’t automatically place that post in your followers’ feeds — it chooses only the content its algorithm considers the “best.” Data from your page plays a significant factor in that calculation, and a big part of it is the frequency of your posting. Best practices show that to have the greatest chance of any one of your posts actually making it into your followers’ feeds, your organization needs to post at least one story to your Facebook page each day.
This might sound daunting, but the good news is that the top-performing posts for nonprofits are almost always stories curated from other sources. This means you don’t need to create an original post every day — you just need to find relevant stories to share and add a bit of text for context, based on your organization’s particular focus and area of expertise. And with ActionSprout, finding high-quality, relevant content is fast and easy.
Go into the stories area of your ActionSprout account and make sure you’re subscribed to all topics that relate to your organization’s mission. We currently curate content on over 300 topics — and if an issue you need isn’t there, just contact us using the chat bubble on the lower right corner , and we’ll work to add it.
Your personalized feed will include all content related to your selected topics, so you can quickly scan to find new stories that your supporters will be interested in. And you don’t need to do this every day, because with our scheduling tool, you can program content to roll out across the week in just one sitting. The program will automatically suggest the next best day and time to post a story — you just need to add the contextual message and hit schedule.
All content in the feed is curated, but for the highest-profile topics, such as climate, education, and healthcare, our story experts and partners give daily recommendations on stories that we think are the best of the best — and exactly how to get the most mileage from them. For instance, a recommended story on water pollution might come with information specifying that it generated exceptionally high numbers of comments when posted by environment-focused pages with audiences in the Midwest.
When you post a steady stream of quality content, you can build a virtuous cycle of growth: As you post consistently and garner engagements, Facebook’s algorithm will display your posts more frequently and more prominently — leading to new followers and even more engagement!
Facebook ads: A big bang for small spend
Facebook ads are one of the most inexpensive ways to reach new supporters. These ads let you pay to place a post of your choosing in the news feeds of a group of people you’re interested in reaching — and you can define this group very specifically, based on things like demographic information, geographic location, political leaning, and interests. The exact pricing varies, but it’s typically extremely cost effective: For example, it would not be uncommon to put your story in 6,000 people’s newsfeeds with a spend of just $20.
But while they’re very cheap and effective, Facebook ads can be tricky to run and confusing to manage. That’s why we built an intuitive integration of this valuable tool into the ActionSprout interface.
To use Facebook ads through ActionSprout, first go into your Facebook ad account and set up a few saved audiences. These should describe different segments of potential supporters you’d like to reach, defined by the geographic region where they live and the interests that define them best. We recommend breaking your supporters down into at least 3 different saved audiences. This will help you learn more about those segments and promote the right types of stories to each of them.
Once you have a few saved audiences, you’re ready to jump in. Go to the Timeline section of your ActionSprout account and find a recent post that has gotten some good organic engagement. Hit the promote button below the story and choose a few saved audiences to test the story with. If you’re just getting started, we recommend that you select at least 3 audiences, run the ad for 3 days, and choose $3 as your daily budget for each audience.
As your ad runs, keep an eye on the data it generates. By thinking about which audience performed better in areas like engagements, page follows, and shares, you’ll get a better idea of which demographics are ripest for recruitment, and what kind of stories are most energizing to them. With a good story targeted at a receptive audience, you should see growth in your following — which means more people will see, share, and talk to their community about your mission.
NOTE: If, like most nonprofits, you’re posting stories about issues of national importance, Facebook will consider your ads to be “political.” Make sure you get approved to run those ads, and check the political content checkbox when you’re creating your ad.
Be proactive: The power of invitations
As your posts reach new audiences through ads or organic spread, you’ll find that many people who react to your stories haven’t yet liked your Facebook page. These people have already demonstrated their interest in what you’re doing, but they need an extra nudge to get fully on board. So don’t be shy — send them an invitation! The payoffs are impressive: We’ve found that about 70% of the people you invite will end up becoming fans of your page. If you’re actively promoting posts to new people, this opportunity is too big to miss.
To do this, hit the Send Invites button at the bottom of a recent post in your ActionSprout Timeline. You’ll get a list of the people who reacted, with a button next to each name that says either “Liked” (if they already follow your page) or “Invite” (if they don’t yet follow you). The icon at the bottom right of the user’s photo indicates what the individual user’s reactions was (like, love, angry, dislike, etc.). Just hit “Invite” for all users who reacted in a constructive way, and watch your following grow!
Build your email lists through social actions
You can build a lot of energy with your Facebook following, but at a certain point, your organization probably wants to convert that following into an email list that can be used for direct communication, especially for donation appeals.
That’s where ActionSprout’s social actions come into play. They let you create and share petitions, polls, and even donation requests that are precisely optimized for Facebook. This means that people can complete them with a single click and without leaving Facebook’s platform. This frictionless process leads to an average conversion rate of about 30% of the people who click through to view your action — and many organizations consistently get over 60% conversion rates.
The names and email addresses of everyone who completes an action can then be exported as a contact list, and even synced in real time with many CRM and email systems. This means that these people are automatically on your contact list and ready to receive your next email. Since this group has already proved its willingness to engage by participating in the social action, they should prove valuable, active members of your direct communication cohort.
But don’t take our word for it: Read about how one nonprofit used ActionSprout’s social actions to get a quarter of a million signatures to fight for the health of babies and new mothers.
Conversations build community
Comments are incredibly important in changing people's perceptions and deepening their connection to an issue — and comments also boost your post’s ranking in Facebook’s algorithm. The more people comment on your posts, the more widely those stories will be seen.
There are three essential things you should do every day to foster healthy conversation on your Facebook posts. We know that many nonprofit staffers are constantly on the go, so we recommend using the Facebook Pages Manager mobile app to keep up with the following tasks.
We all know that online comment sections can get nasty fast — so the first step in creating a healthy space for productive dialogue is making sure that trolls don’t take over. This is achieved by quickly hiding comments that are toxic and prevent others from joining the conversation. This doesn’t mean you should hide every comment that disagrees with your position: Civil opposing comments can be great openings for your community to engage and persuade. But noxious, demeaning, and attacking comments will simply discourage others and end the conversation, so it’s best to hide those as efficiently as feasible.
Through your page’s account, like all productive comments. Those people will receive a notification that their comment was appreciated, and they will feel more connected to your brand and be much more likely to comment again on future posts.
Also through your page’s account, publicly reply to as many comments as you can. If people are asking questions, answer them. If people share new insights or information, thank them. When you are a present and active participant in the community, you set a tone of genuine, good-faith conversation and create an example for others to follow.
We’re working on making these things even easier: Soon you’ll be able to quickly manage comments directly through the ActionSprout interface and even automate some critical tasks like hiding toxic comments.
When in doubt, just ask!
With these simple steps, you should be well on your way to building your following and increasing your real-world impact, but if you have questions or are looking for further information, don’t hesitate to reach out to us through the live chat bubble in the lower right corner.