(Story)Tell it like it is

By Tarah DeSousa

Employ these simple tips to engage your social media audience

In an article about improving your social media “rates” (number of “likes,” ” shares,” “favorites,” “+1’s,” comments and replies), engagement blogger Scott Ayres lays out a scientific formula for attaining  followers:


While numbers are important, engaging stories are the candy that lures potential donors into your shop.  Use the above formula to track your progress, once you follow these tips on social media storytelling:


1.) Conversation is like a tango: it takes two 

To have people comment on and reply to your posts and stories, you have to knock down the social barriers inhibiting them from doing so.  Don’t be stuffy or overly-scientific in your approach to storytelling.  Everybody likes to talk to the person who is open, honest and fun, so adopt that person’s voice in your writing.  Be friendly and interactive.  Ask questions whenever possible and ask readers to share their own stories on topics you are confronting in your posts.


2.) Pictures, please!

The old adage could never be truer in a world of increasing imagery.  Find pictures that evoke strong emotion–from surprise to disgust–along with happiness, sadness, anger and fear.  Don’t be afraid of openness when it comes to the gravity of situations like homelessness or domestic violence.  Of course it is important to be sensitive when discussing touchy subjects, but in order for followers to understand and connect the “known” with the “unknown,” you need to be clear and open in your storytelling.  Make content relatable through pictures that resonate with the masses.  If your message is intense, and contains an evocative image, you are setting yourself up for a captivating story.


3.) Acknowledge the accomplishments

For some organizations, the thought of patting themselves on the back online seems incredibly superficial. But fear not, for self acknowledgement is not only accepted in today’s digital world, it is highly encouraged!  Followers like to know that your organization can get things done and enact real change in the world, so what better way to show them than by sharing your success stories?

Link your readers to the larger issues at hand by taking a story from the micro-level (within your organization) to the macro-level (outside of your locale).  And while you’re thinking big-picture, don’t forget to share the success stories of organizations around you that are also doing good work within your community or your nonprofit’s niche market. Demonstrate how an issue you are dealing with on an organizational level is actually a community or national issue.  But don’t go overboard with facts and figures.  Instead, stick to emotional appeals whenever possible.


Remember: Follower numbers are telling, but ultimately, the stories in your posts become the pathways to donor action.


About the Author:  Tarah DeSousa is a junior studying Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa.  She is also pursuing a minor in English and a Certificate in Writing. When Tarah isn’t reading or writing for class, she is working at the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center as a communications intern.  In her free time she enjoys rowing, running, shopping and spending time with friends.


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