Which Social Media Are Right for You?

The Magic Formula for Choosing Social Media


Dennis Fischman of Communicate! Consulting has generously shared the third chapter of his book, The No-Nonsense Nonprofit Guide to Social Media with Kayak Consulting GroupDennis is passionate about social change.  He left a senior management position at a nonprofit agency to help groups like yours tell their stories: in person, in writing, and through social media. As a Kayak Consulting Group associate, we look to him for insight on communications strategy, content, and social media management. You can read more expert advice on nonprofit communications on Dennis’ Communicate! blog.



People hear that I’m a communications consultant and they immediately ask, “What social media should I be using?”  Here is my single, definitive, expert and unalterable answer:

It depends.

Seriously.  And anybody who tells you different is wrong.  I’m sure about it!

What does it depend upon?  Before you decide which social media to use,  consider the following questions:

  1. Am I ready for social media?  
  • Is my website up to date, easy to use, and full of content people will want to see?
  • Do I blog?
  • Do I collect people’s email (with their permission) and send them information that makes them like and trust me?

If not, take care of that before you worry about social media!

2.  Are the people I’m trying to reach on social media?  Don’t assume they’re not–people over 65 are the fastest growing group on social media–but don’t assume they are.  Find out. If your audience habitually reads mail, or listens to Spanish-language radio, then maybe that’s where you should put your effort.

3. Which social media are they on?  We know some broad generalizations. For instance, LinkedIn is more male, Pinterest more female.  But those generalizations may have nothing to do with your specific audience.  Search for them online.  Do a poll.  Or just ask them.

4. What’s the best thing I have to share?  If you have a lot of great video, Youtube might be the way to go.  For photos, Pinterest, Instagram, or Tumblr.  Facebook is great for a mix of brief thoughts, links to longer posts, and images.  Twitter is fantastic for pithy saying and links to your blog posts (or other people’s content that you want to share).  Use what you have–or learn to create what you can use.


Let’s say you have already done the work.  You’ve made your website attractive and useful, cleaned up your database, and started sending regular email to the people on your list.  You’ve found your supporters online.  Now what?

Here’s what I think will work for you: start small.

Pick one medium.  Ideally, it should be the one your supporters use. If they’re on Facebook, choose Facebook.  If it’s Youtube, choose Youtube.  Practically speaking, you will probably pick the medium that your supporters use most which your organization uses already.

However you pick, do pick one, and only one–and then concentrate single-mindedly on learning how to use that medium better.

Give yourselves at least six months to become really good at connecting with your supporters on just one of the social media you use.


Magician poster

“Okay,” you say, “I’ll start small, but where do I finish?” You’re sure there’s a secret to social media for a small organization with limited time and money.  You twist my arm and ask, “What’s the magic formula?”

Listen closely: Facebook plus one.


For now, Facebook is still an essential part of your social media.  Yes, I know: it’s frustrating that people can “like” you on Facebook and still not see your posts in their news feed.

But there is nowhere online that you will find more people, and a broader range of people.  Grandparents are joining Facebook every day to see photos of their grandchildren.  Adults keep up with their friends on Facebook, even after they’ve moved to a different city or country.  Teenagers are still joining Facebook.  It may not be cool, but it’s a “have to have.”  My best guess is that it will continue to be for years.


Even if a lot of supporters are there, you should make sure not to put all your eggs in the Facebook basket.  It’s not free media any more.  You need a budget to pay for ads AND an expert to help you advertise effectively.  And it’s only going to get more expensive.

Plus, there may come a tipping point.  When enough people drift away from Facebook, a lot of people may decide to do so all at once.  You should be collecting their email addresses, so you don’t lose them altogether–but many people prefer to hear about you through social media.  When they go looking for an alternative to Facebook, you want them to find you there.


Think of three lines on a graph.  One: the social media platforms your audience uses.  Two: the one you find most comfortable.  Three: the platform that lets you use what you have–whether that’s writing, photography, or video.  Ideally, when you use Facebook plus one, that one is where those lines come together.

Twitter is growing fast. It forces you to be brief, but that’s good: you will catch people’s attention better that way. It’s ideal for sharing links to useful information, including your blog posts, and it’s recently become better for sharing pictures.

YouTube is the world’s biggest search engine, after Google.  If you have great video and would like to be found, YouTube is the place to go.

Google+ has also been growing. Unlike Facebook, everything you post shows up for everyone who likes you there (or “adds you to their circles,” in Google+ lingo).  Two big cautions, however: a lot of people are still not on Google+, and there are rumors that Google plans to make big changes to it soon.

Pinterest is clearly the best way to reach a female audience with photos.  Instagram reaches a more mixed audience, and people say it’s easier to use, especially from your mobile phone.

LinkedIn is the only social media platform that reaches more men than women.  LinkedIn Groups are a great vehicle for establishing your expertise in the field.

There are many other options, and feel free to choose the one that suits you best.  You may also want to create accounts on social media you’re not planning to use for a while, just to reserve the name you want (and not let some other group create confusion by claiming it).

You’re best off concentrating on Facebook and just one other form of social media, if you really want to work your magic.