23 Ways to Get More (Real!) Followers on Social Media

Social media for nonprofits has changed since the early days of Twitter and Instagram. In order to combat #FakeNews, platforms have gone from a reverse-chronological display of all content from accounts that users follow to prioritizing an algorithm that filters out genuine human interaction. According to M+R Benchmarks, organic reach for social media posts made by nonprofits continues to drop. In 2017 and 2018, the average reach for a Facebook post made by a nonprofit was 7%. In 2019, that reach is now 4%. The solution to this drop in reach: Get more followers on social media.

In 2017 and 2018, #mrbenchmarks showed 7% organic reach for nonprofit posts on Facebook. In 2019, that reach is now 4%. 😬 Click To Tweet

While it’s more difficult now for orgs to build a social media audience without paying for it, platforms are adding value for nonprofits in other ways. While only 4% of a nonprofit’s Facebook fans may see a post, 29% of the audience reached by that post aren’t following the organization.

Nonprofit social media statistics

A few other key takeaways from the 2019 M+R Benchmarks:

  • Instagram is on the rise: In 2018, nonprofits increased their Instagram followers by an average of 34%. Their Twitter followers increased by an average of 26%, and their Facebook page audiences grew by 6%.
  • The Email/Social connection: For every 1,000 email addresses on their lists in 2018, nonprofits had an average of 806 Facebook fans, 286 Twitter followers, and 101 Instagram followers.
  • Facebook Fundraisers is delivering value beyond Likes: In November 2017, Facebook announced that it would no longer charge a transaction fee for donations made to nonprofits via their fundraising platform. In 2018, that led to $1.77 raised through Facebook fundraising for every $100 in direct online revenue to nonprofits. Many of these donations come via Facebook birthday fundraisers.
  • Bonus: In 2019, Instagram rolled out Donate Stickers, which nonprofits can leverage through their Facebook for Nonprofits accounts to collect donations from users via Instagram Stories.

Our recommendation: Grow your audience, but also remember that the ultimate goal is to get them to engage at a deeper level as email subscribers or donors. These platforms ultimately have control over who follows you, who sees your content, and who doesn’t. Consider social media, then, as a dating app: You use them to make the connection, but after that, bring your relationship into the real world.

Nonprofits: Stop 👏🏼 keeping 👏🏼 social 👏🏼 media 👏🏼 relationships 👏🏼 exclusive 👏🏼 to 👏🏼 social 👏🏼 media. 👏🏼 Nurture those relationships offline as well! Click To Tweet

So how do you grow your following on social media in order to reach more potential supporters, volunteers, and donors? More importantly, how do you get more followers that are actual humans? Read on for our tips on how to increase your social media following.

23 Ways for Nonprofits to Get More Followers on Social Media

1. Cross-promote your channels

Include calls-to-action on your email signup confirmation pages, in your welcome series, as a P.S. in your email marketing, and in the footer of your website. Ask your Facebook users to follow you on Instagram, or Tweet a link to your Youtube channel asking people to subscribe. The more your accounts are seen, the more chances you have of attracting new followers.

2. Badge it

Add Like, Tweet, Follow, and Subscribe buttons help visitors follow all of your social accounts without leaving your website. You can even install a page badge to share your Facebook page on your website and affiliated blogs. Unlike widgets, badges are simply images and will load much faster. But be careful: The design may not play well with your website layout.

3. Talk to other accounts

It’s called social networking for a reason. Build partnerships by actively commenting and liking posts from related organizations to increase the exposure of your own handle. Repost their content when applicable. Follow hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that are relevant to your mission or industry and engage with users and other orgs that are contributing to this conversation. Social media is like one big, ongoing cocktail party. Your mission is to mingle and join conversations.

4. Speaking of hashtags…

Pew data suggest that 69% of Americans feel social media platforms are important for getting politicians to pay attention to issues. How are those issues aggregated? Hashtags. Organizing your own hashtag campaign around a key issue can also be useful for building your audiences. If done well, chances are more people will know about a campaign like #KnowYourLemons than your organization, giving you the opportunity to engage with new fans who already know your work. Make sure you include the hashtag in your bio as well.

 5. Assemble your ambassadors

 People are often more likely to trust (and engage with) a human versus a brand. Ask staff members to follow your social media pages, invite their friends to follow, and to like, comment, and share your recent posts. This is the strategy that Human Rights Watch followed, boosting organizational visibility through the personal accounts of its employees and becoming one of the most popular nonprofits on social media. Consider also asking the same of board members and your super-fans. Don’t forget to have all employees include your social media handles in their email signatures. 

6. Incentivize follows

Use a service like Shortstack or ViralSweep to set up a giveaway where each user gets an entry for each platform they follow your organization on. This can be used for face-time with an honoree at your next event, organizational swag, or anything else you’d consider in a basic raffle.

7. Build influencer relations

You don’t need to have a full nonprofit influencer strategy. Consider the leaders in your cause vertical or your existing followers with the largest followings. Ask if they would be willing to re-post something from your organization, or give you a shout-out or retweet/regram on their channels. Consider how you may even @ them with relevant content. For instance, Power Poetry noted with its Poetry Genome that it covered a range of poets and rap artists, from Kendrick Lamar to poet Kaveh Akbar. This little bit of wordplay was augmented by tagging Kaveh’s Twitter account, leading to Kaveh retweeting it to his thousands of followers, including a number of people influential in the poetry scene.

8. Use pop-ups

You already use popups to drive email signups (right?). Flip the script and consider using popups to drive followers. Check out our guide on pop-ups for nonprofits.

9. Tag your followers

If you host or attend an event with your supporters, make sure you tag them in any photos you share to Facebook or Instagram — or ask them to tag themselves if it’s a large gathering. Friends of those followers will see this in their feed and be more likely to check out your page. For events and galas, also consider a photo booth that allows attendees to get their photos taken for instant sharing (tagging your account, of course).

10. Post good content, and post often

Sharing other content and engaging in conversations is important. Equally important is having your own unique content to add to the mix. Stuck for inspiration? Here are over 37 social media ideas for nonprofits.

11. Follow other accounts

It takes follows to make follows. Search for relevant accounts by hashtags, look for accounts that other organizations or influencers in your field follow. Many will follow back.

12. Host a takeover 

Having a well-planned social media takeover by a beneficiary of your organization, a staff member, a board member, or a celebrity partner will bring their followers to your page. The Metropolitan Opera does a great job of this with its Instagram takeovers, which give singers the reins during a performance or rehearsal and brings their international fanbases to the Met’s Instagram.

13. Host a livechat

Partner with another organization or special guest for a Twitter-based AMA. Make sure they @ you in every response.

14. Respond to your comments

Everyone who has commented on a Facebook post gets a notification when someone new comments. Users are notified of similar replies on Twitter and Instagram. Commenting on popular posts (especially ad posts, which are primarily reaching new users) will trigger a notification to anyone else who has commented, and possibly bring in their friends via feeds.

15. Join the right groups

Join relevant Facebook groups and share helpful content on their pages for more targeted reach to a captive audience. Find pages with missions or followers similar to yours, and offer to share their page in exchange for them sharing yours.

16. Invite People Who Like You

On Facebook, you can pull a list of people who have liked or commented on your recent posts: Facebook will then give you the option to invite them to like your page, which will convert people who have already shown interest in your content into fans.

17. You can’t buy friends…

…But you can run page promotion campaigns to boost your followers. Here’s our guide to successful social media advertising on $100 a month.

18. It Never Hurts to ask

At the end of relevant content, such as an awesome blog post about social media, include a call to action linking readers to your profile.

19. Keep Lists

On Twitter, make and subscribe to public lists. You can follow a user’s public list without following that user. Adding a user to your list will give them a notification so they will be exposed to your account, and following other lists will give you awesome theme-specific feed information, as well as exposure to the list owners and participants.

Twitter lists by the Sierra Club

Twitter lists by the Sierra Club

Twitter lists by the Sierra Club

Twitter lists by the Sierra Club

20. Connect to convert

Share your Instagram photos on Facebook and Twitter to convert followers on those platforms to follow your Instagram account.

21. Share your location

Use geotags whenever you can. This will broaden exposure for your posts.

22. Know the key(words) to success

On YouTube, the right keywords in the video description will help build your followers. Use your Google Analytics, Search Console, and Google Ads data to see what words and phrases give your site the most traffic and incorporate them into your video titles and descriptions.

23. Use in-platform analytics to know what’s working

Facebook and Twitter analytics will show you which posts are bringing in new followers and/or engagement. Subscribing to a service like Sprout Social will aggregate all of your channels onto one dashboard and let you go a bit deeper on other platforms with weaker in-app analytics (like Instagram). Once you know what’s working, do more of that. It seems simple, but this is the most effective way to find a strategy that works for you.

Get the Nonprofit Social Media Guide

Not every platform is created equal. What are the best platforms for your organization, and how can you leverage them for greater impact? Learn more with The Nonprofit Organization’s Guide to Social Media.