DO THIS FIRST:
How can place-based nonprofits best use social media to tell the stories of their impact? Step one: Your social media strategy doesn’t matter if your content has no heart.
Musician Mike Boston’s #BlackWithBlue movement started with a rap song coproduced by police officers and inner-city youth in a studio he’d rigged in the back of his truck, called Mobile Stü.
After the song’s music video and accompanying social content was released last November, it soon went viral — organically, with no paid media — to reach over 50 million impressions and counting, according to Boston-based ad agency Allen & Gerritsen (A&G), which helped form Mobile Stü’s social messaging. (Boston works as a facilities manager for the company in its, yes, Boston location.) The rapper has appeared on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and The Ellen Show to talk about the initiative, and he has a documentary series in the making.
What mattered here was the message, not the medium — people recognized the importance of Boston’s work in mending the tense relationship between cops and kids and wanted to spread the good news.
“It’s a meritocracy on the brand side,” said A&G principal Tim Reeves, who helped make Boston’s efforts national news. “For nonprofits, the stories that resonate with people are stories of mission, stories that have a noble pursuit” — and now, major brands are following that rule, too. “This is about having such a great story that it wins engagement.”
There’s a tangential lesson here: Have the people affected by your work be their own storytellers. Mobile Stü wouldn’t have taken off if A&G had been the driving force behind it; Boston was the one who had seen firsthand the tensions between the police and youth in his community, and he was the one to give a platform to both groups, who in turn shared their own stories. Nonprofits, invite those you serve to be the faces — or voices — of your campaign.
“There’s always a champion to drive a story forward,” said Comcast NBCUniversal’s community impact division, Kunal Gulati — such as, say, the young aspiring filmmaker who got to watch the NBC Sports team capture the Eagles beating the Patriots live while exploring a potential future career, thanks to the corporation’s joint program with the Boys & Girls Club of America.
The most important points for nonprofits to keep in mind when crafting a social message are emotional resonance and human connection, Gulati said. In other words, the stories must be relatable and shareable to make it past your immediate network. That’s the emotional resonance at play.
As for turning that story into a social presence? When it comes to the available media, “if you’re not using it to the fullest, it is sadly going to waste,” said Stephen Rapp, Arden Theatre Company’s director of marketing and communications.
Read more about how the Arden revamped its social media presence in the next chapter. First, here are the Arden team’s tips for making the most of the medium:
Connect with Tim Reeves for further advice on building a story worth telling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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