We all have hundreds of ideas for content to post on social media… until it’s actually time for us to post something to social media. And as New York City Ballet co-founder George Balanchine once said, “My muse must come to me on union time.” We’re willing to bet that the NYCB digital team feels the same way, especially when it comes to getting the right content onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or any other social media marketing platform (we won’t judge you if you’re still trying to make Friendster happen).
If your muse is stuck in traffic, however, here are some of our favorite social media post ideas to get you started. The key with all of these ideas is to be human, and to look at your analytics to see what is working. Build on those strategies that are driving engagement and throw out the ones that aren’t.
1. Shareable Quotes
Create a template using Canva that you can use and reuse with multiple iterations for inspirational quotes. We love how quickly orgs like Stand Up 2 Cancer can turn these out on Instagram. A consistent look will help establish your credibility as a content producer. Make sure to include your logo or website URL so it can be traced back to your organization.
2. Stats and Facts
Get ready for another Canva template: Pull facts and stats from your annual report, recent research, or static content on your site and make a shareable image with a fact. Bonus points for adding visual elements like graphs to help drive the point home.
3. Be a curator
Make a Twitter list (hidden or not) of influencers like bloggers, journalists, news sites, and partner organizations who may share information that’s useful to your audience. This makes it easy to retweet or find new ideas for content that works well, and content that can be repurposed on other platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook.
4. Meet users on their (hashtag) level
Jump on existing trends, like #MotivationMonday, #WisdomWednesday, or #FridayReads — or other hashtags that you find trending on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Using these will give your posts more visibility. #ThrowbackThursday is the perfect opportunity for nonprofits to illustrate impact over time.
5. Create your own hashtag series
Create a custom series (like #ReadingRecWednesdays) and consistently publish content that users can come to expect. Lung Cancer Foundation of America does this with their #LivingWithLungCancer series, highlighting the human face of a disease they’re working to cure.
6. Curate content from underrepresented voices
Do you work in a field that works for the rights of a marginalized or underrepresented community? Amplify their voices on your platform. We love nonprofit literary magazine Electric Literature’s #ReadMoreWomen series for this very reason.
7. Fill in the _______.
Post fill-in-the-blanks and ask users to respond with their answer in the comments. These work best when you present them in a visual way, like a colorful image with text. If you’re less established and worried about no one responding, ask volunteers or staff members (and their friends/family) to get the ball rolling.
8. LOL CATS
When in doubt, integrate cat videos. But seriously – does owning a pet help people recover from a certain illness? Was there a recent news story related to dogs in your field? Again, points to LCFA for owning this idea with #CatsAgainstLungCancer.
9. Ask the audience
Crowdsource your content: Have users post their own photos to Instagram using a hashtag you create, and repost the best submissions. Or ask your followers what they’re reading/watching/listening to. This creates great user engagement, and also adds to your arsenal of content spread out over time. Another example from Electric Literature: They asked followers to share their literary-inspired tattoos, and even turned it into a website article (check out Account Strategist Whaler Olivia Giovetti’s Tolstoy and Milan Kundera-inspired ink).
10. Be alert
Set up Google Alerts on key phrases that are related to your organization so you’ll consistently get updates when your cause is buzzing. Respond in near real-time when people are actually having a discussion.
11. Share your website content…
But tailor it for the medium. Social media platforms prioritize content that keeps users on their site versus getting them onto yours, so consider ways of condensing articles as slideshows or Powtoon videos for Instagram and Facebook, curate a condensed Tweet-thread with takeaways and facts, or come up with an infographic for Pinterest.
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12. Bring people behind the scenes
Show your impact in action, but also consider your company culture. We love seeing Team Fox in action at the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
13. Make everyone on your team a photographer
Equip your team to take photos and videos at on-the-ground events whenever possible. Set up a Google Drive folder or an email address that your staff knows they can send footage to. For presentations, have speakers add a slide to their deck asking users to tweet questions, photos, and videos from the presentation. Make it as easy as possible for your staff to collect useful content.
14. Borrow like an artist
Steal content from your other platforms and see what similar organizations are doing to engage their audience. If a post did well on LinkedIn, make sure to tweet out an abridged version. Host your Youtube videos on Facebook to gain more views.
15. Livetweet conferences or other industry events
A quick burst of activity on your Twitter or other accounts like this can mean a lot of new followers and engagement, while establishing your organization as a thought leader in the space. Follow conference and event hashtags — and consider following those that you aren’t attending as well — you can still add to the conversation.
16. Quiz time
Ask quiz-style questions, and have users comment their guess in the comments. Follow up the next day with the answer. (Boom! Two separate post ideas in one!)
17. Make me laugh, clown
Don’t be afraid to keep it light! Find funny gifs on giphy, memes on memes.com, political cartoons, ecards, or make your own funny content from jokes or funny celebrity quotes. Search for “animated .gif” + your topic, or take a shot at creating your own.
18. Click around on Reddit
It’s one of the top platforms for user-generated content and there are constant discussions (ranging from serious to, er, very light) on a huge variety of topics.
19. Cultivate a community of guest bloggers
Getting people to write content for you is a win-win-win because it (a) helps their exposure, (b) builds their commitment to your organization, and (c) gets you free content for your site, which builds your SEO and gives you fodder for social media. Reach out to your extended network and build a list of volunteers who will write just for you.
20. Tap into FOMO
Frame content in a way that makes people feel like they are missing out on news or information everyone should know.
Can you illicit shock in your posts? Is this something you have to see in order to believe? Browse the titles of UpWorthy.com to see how they make ordinary posts into must-reads.
22. Be useful
Create content that makes people better at doing what they do as it relates to their jobs or relationships. What are some tips you can offer on a regular basis?
23. Incite controversy
Is there a hot-button issue or debate that you can play into or represent a devil’s advocate position? “You won’t believe Trump’s opinion on X” will sadly work for depressingly large range of issues.
24. Tap into the meme stream
Not just visual memes, either! Internet culture has its own lexicon of joke frames (think of it as the knock-knock joke but with even weirder humor). Crisis Text Line is a pro at this.
25. Stats + questions
Another great thing that Crisis Text Line does is use its Crisis Trends data on social media. Rather than just throwing up dry numbers, however, they then make it personal: “According to our Crisis Trends data, Mondays are the most stressful day of the week. What tips and tricks do you use to make manage Monday anxiety?” Asking open-ended questions also incites conversation, which will serve you well in social media algorithms.
26. Share, share, and re-share
You’re likely getting your content in front of less than 10% of your total followers. If you have an article or resource that you want to max on your social media, don’t be afraid to share more than once. Look at publishers like the New York Times, New Yorker, and Paris Review on Twitter and Facebook to see not only how they re-share content, but also how they test out different captions with each share to keep it interesting for those who may have seen it the first time.
27. Save the date
Content is especially relevant and re-relevant on holidays and anniversaries. Check out some of the spring and summer holidays we collected here, and also consider birthdays/birth-anniversaries, historical dates, or UN Awareness Days as opportunities to share something relevant.
28. Humans of New York
Highlight people in your organization, whether it’s your team or (even better) those who benefit from your services. What do your employees do outside of the office? How people been impacted by your services? Consider a Humans of New York approach.
29. Giveaways and contests
Contests and giveaways will drive action. Use a tool like Shortstack to run a content-locked download or a giveaway of merch or swag (this can also be a great way to collect email addresses from entrants).
Tell your history in real time — use #OTD (on this day) to share milestones from your org from the past, whether it was new hires, breakthroughs, expansions, or just that day that your colleague’s dog came into the office and made everyone’s day.
31. Go Live
Stream on Instagram or Facebook from a presentation, a practice session, or a demonstration (either of your work or a protest demonstration — it all goes in 2019).
32. Build your email list
An email address is far more valuable than a social media follower. Use social media like a more interactive pop-up and remind your followers (old and new) that there are more ways to connect with your nonprofit than social media.
33. Break up an image into a grid
This is especially fun on Instagram. Try taking one image and breaking it up into 3, 6, or 9 squares. Release over time so users can see the full picture (literally) as it comes together. Get more ideas for social media images with our social media graphics template.
34. Q&As and AMAs
Pair up with partners or influencers to host a conversation, AMA, or virtual panel — aggregated by a hashtag — around your work or cause space. Promote in advance and then consolidate into a Moment on Twitter so that people can follow from start to finish.
35. Ask an expert
Source questions for one of your in-house experts and have them answer over time, either as short-form videos, or as photos with the answer written down. Have fun styling these with props.
36. Make it personal
Why do your employees work for your organization? Highlight their stories on your social media — most likely they have some history with your cause which is why they work for you.
37. Hand over the keys
Host a takeover — perhaps every week another team member takes over and shares photos or updates from their day in the field, or perhaps it’s a partner, student, beneficiary, or donor who gives your audience a glimpse into their day. The Metropolitan Opera routinely has its artists take over their Instagram for behind-the-scenes looks at performances.
Inciting action on social media
Consider the emotion that your post is being designed to illicit in your audience. Aim for high-energy emotions because those are the ones that get people actually sharing or taking action around your content.
Ideas are cheap. Execution is what ultimately matters. Don’t lose sight of what matters with your social strategy. Are you trying to move people up an engagement ladder? How does your content support this?