Non-Profit Storytelling Campaigns on Social Media

Having a social media presence is becoming almost mandatory for any organization of any size, whether big or small. In the last few years, storytelling has become an especially hot buzzword in the non-profit world—an essential part of social media outreach activities, communication tactics, and fundraising conversations for many organizations. Non-for-profits (NFPs) are now recognizing the importance of, and the need for coordinated and unified social media strategies, powered by storytelling to push and propel their organizations forward. While operating on tight-budgets, many NFPs now have the added challenge of developing and designing sustainable and effective social media campaigns that can have wider impacts and make a tangible difference for their cause.

On September 11, 2017, local industry, practitioners, and non-profits came together for the “Be Good Be Social GTA 2017 #BGBSGTA” conference to discuss how organizations can use social media networking sites in order to increase their following and improve their audience engagement strategies. The event combined networking, talks, and workshops and gave attendees a chance to collaborate and share insights with the greater Toronto community.

The Social Media Lab was represented by Kimron Corion, who recently completed his Master’s in Digital Media at Ryerson University. Kimron presented on his research project on “Storytelling & Analytics: A Multi-Platform Analysis of Social Media Outreach Campaigns”. This MITACS-funded project was conducted in partnership with Fernie Youth Services and supervised by Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd and Dr. Priya Kumar.

One of the main goals of the project was to develop a model (presented below) that NFPs can use to structure and execute their social media outreach campaigns. The resulting model is an extension of the previous work in this area by the Initiative of Georgetown University Center for Social Impact Communication and the Meyer Foundation. The model rests on five strategic pillars, these are the Campaign Architecture, Narratives, Platforms and Delivery, Third Party Resources and Social Awareness.

Storytelling-based Social Media Campaign Model developed as part of this research project

Guided by the proposed model, the study analyzed the social media outreach campaigns of three successful nonprofits: #NotaTarget campaign by Doctors without Borders, Sick Kids Vs. The Undeniable by Sick Kids Hospital and #Idefy by Planned Parenthood Association of America. In particular, the study undertook a comparative analysis and used empirical data retrieved using Netlytic to demonstrate how NFPs can use storytelling across different social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to increase online engagement, attract potential donors and boost fundraising campaigns.

Screenshot of the Skick Kids Facebook public page showing audience acting as both consumers and producers of stories

The findings highlighted two key types of storytelling that NFP organizations most frequently use for outreach: 1) big impact stories, that talks about the broader societal impact of a campaign by tying back to an overarching mission, and, 2) personal experience narratives, that highlight an individual’s story and experiences. Overall, these types of user-generated content campaigns bode well for non-profit circles looking to integrate social media into their engagement strategies. The results also tell us that visual, audio and text-based storytelling can use characters, metaphors, and symbols to help NPF organizations tap into the emotions of audiences, by holding their attention.

For more information please see the presentation slide deck below:

Written By Kimron Corion @KimronCorion, with contributions from Priya Kumar @link_priya