The Secret To Social Media Engagement: Kiss A Squirrel! | Beth's Blog

The Secret To Social Media Engagement: Kiss A Squirrel!

Digital Strategy, Networked Nonprofit

I’m preparing for a webinar and with any training I begin the instructional design with surveying participants to understand their level, learning goals, and attitudes about the subject matter. Then I build out the content and discussion questions.    In reviewing the data and themes from the audience input, some terrific questions about engagement popped out:

  • How can we become better at using social media so that our channels experience more engagement and convert people to get involved?

  • How can we get people to talk to us? Even asking direct questions doesn’t result in replies.

  • What is the best way for a non-profit organization to engage the audience?

  • How can we turn our fans that we engage with on social media into financial supporters of our organization?

1. Engage around questions that are relevant, fun, nostalgic  or evoke emotions

I happened to stumble upon this funny tweet from Billboard that asks its Twitter followers to tweet with the hashtag #ReplaceGirlWithSquirrelInASong and gave the example “I kissed a squirrel and I liked it.”    This tweet got 71 Retweets and 65 favorites.  If you look at the replies, you can see that it also got about 30 @replies, including replies where participants played the game.

So not every nonprofit or social cause can employ humor in its tool box, but that is not the point here. Billboard’s audience, presumably, is passionate about songs and lyrics given it is the source for music charts, news, and events. This tweet is sparking engagement because it resonates with the audience and is also playing with nostaglia.

Nostalgia is much more than mere reminiscing; it’s a warm, fuzzy emotion that we feel when we think about fond memories from our past.    In a 2012 study, researchers discovered that nostalgizing helps people relate their past experiences to their present lives in order to make greater meaning of it all. The result can boost their mood and reduce stress. Nostalgia increases feelings of social connectedness to others and makes people feel loved and valued and increases perceptions of social support when people are lonely.

Here’s another example of how Billboard is using nostalgia in its tweets:


2.   Keep A Running List of High Engagement Conversation Starters and Use Them Regularly

If you want engagement on social media channels, identify good conversation starters that are relevant to your audience, will ignite their passion or nostalgia about the subject matter.  Conversation starters are questions, visuals, anecdotes, stories, or other snippets of content that you share on social channels to ignite engagement.    This list should be with you when you are planning out your content and engagement for your social media channels.

3.   Use Participatory Research Techniques To Discover Engagement Topics

How do you discover these nuggets?    If you don’t know already know what starts good conversations, go out do some interviews with your audiences or simple observation to find out.    You don’t have to do a comprehensive survey, you can use some participatory research techniques like interviewing or fly on the wall observation.  Or just keep your ears open.  Maybe your executive director or program directors are giving a presentation about your organization’s programs, take notes on the types of questions that come up from the audience.    A development director at a Food Bank who also did tours at the facility kept a running log of questions and comments that visitors made, including the fact that they were interested in the food donations and surprised that they food bank received donations of fresh fruit.  This lead to a regular content feature on Twitter and Facebook that shared a photograph and question, “What’s been donated to the food bank this week?”

Another place to look for clues is any formal audience research that your organization done.  You can also learn a lot from analyzing the email questions from your organization’s web site  general email address.     And, of course, don’t forget to pay attention to questions and comments that bubble up on your social media channels as well.

4.    Make it Buzzworthy

Here are five best practices from BuzzFeed and ten tips from Upworthy about how to craft engaging and “viral” content that can be applied to your nonprofit’s social media content.   The common tip?   Craft good headlines.  Here’s an excellent cheat sheet that can help you write more engaging headlines.     Here’s more tactical tips from Upworthy:

  1. Find or create great content. Apparently you can’t make crappy content go viral.
  2. Write at least 25 headlines—simply because your first one will likely suck.
  3. Avoid giving it all away in the headlines. Also, don’t give it away in the meta-description.
  4. Edit headlines and descriptions on Facebook, if necessary. For instance, you can change the photo that goes with your article. You can also edit the title and description—no coding required.
  5. Be visual. “If you aren’t making your images big enough to be visual, your content ranking will probably suffer,” according to the Slideshare presentation.
  6. Include a strong call to action (CTA). Do you want people to click? To share on Twitter? Nudge people to do something.

5.   Measure, Test, Refine

One thing you will also notice when you review the  Upworthy deck is that they also use measurement to improve their content and engagement.   They do a lot of A/B testing to figure out what headline, visual, or call to action works best.     Also, they make good use of their analytics, evaluating whether or not it drove traffic to the web site, resonated on Facebook by analyzing Facebook insights, or they were able to convert audience to an action or conversations.

Have you discovered engaging content that inspires your audience to an action that reaches your goals?    Do you use any of these techniques?

3 Responses

  1. Wendy Univer says:

    Hi Beth,
    Our organization has been asked to participate in a Thunderclap. Have you seen one of these in action? If so, was there any lasting effect for the (1) sponsor or (2) participants or was it more like a (excuse the pun) flash in the pan?

  2. Really useful post Beth. Love the tip about using participatory research techniques. Sounds like what we did at the Food Bank I worked at too! We also sent out funny photos of our fruits and veggies (sometimes we got some weird looking ones — too big or small or ugly to sell, but still perfectly delicious and nutritious).

    Thanks for all these great tips!

  3. Kirsty says:

    Love your first point here, Beth. I think people underestimate the power of nostalgia; it’s such a strong, beautiful emotion and can be triggered by the smallest of things!

    #FatBottomedSquirrels 😉