Social media presents the potential for you to expose scores of people to your charity. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly seven in ten Americans use social media. Nearly 68 percent of Americans spend time on Facebook.

However, your charity is by far not the only resident on social media. Your charity’s missions and calls for help compete for attention with content featuring vacations, graduations, political and social gripes, comments on sporting events and photos and videos of performances and celebrations, just to name a few.

In fact, the Adobe Digital Index reported that, in 2014, online searches drove four in ten visits to charitable websites. Only three percent of the traffic came via social media.

This doesn’t mean social media has no place in your charity’s strategy for fundraising good works. Its effectiveness depends on why and how you employ it.

Telling the Story

Ultimately, donors want proof or assurance of your charity’s positive impact.

According to Share America, public relations firm Waggener Edstrom found that more than half of online supporters of nonprofit were motivated by compelling stories. When crafting these narratives, your beneficiaries should play the leading role. For example, feature a homeless person or family who moves into a new home built by the charity. An animal shelter might show a disheveled, abandoned, sick dog being restored to health.

Words can communicate, but photographs and especially video carry impact. According to the American Marketing Association, video will drive approximately 85 percent of search traffic on social media sites by 2019. The power of visuals drives this search and viewing behavior. As reported by Nonprofit Technology Network, psychologist Albert Mehrabian’s study revealed that nonverbal methods account for 93 percent of communication. That is because your mind’s processing of visuals can run 60,000 times faster than processing of text.

Report and Interact

Users of social media can receive alerts and news immediately, directly from you and before it appears on some news service’s reports. In fact, your posts from a disaster area, a fund-raising event or other place where you’re in action can feed traditional media outlets. They can also motivate followers and viewers into action, especially if they see current or recent scenes of damage, victims or your staff or volunteers delivering relief.

With video or other messages, you can thank your individual volunteers and donors. These gestures, seen by their friends, followers and others, may motivate their continued efforts for your charity and those you help. You may even engage page visitors by responding to their comments, answering questions, or simply thanking them for their comments and visiting your page.

A Vast Network

With social media comes a ready audience for your content – “friends,” “followers” and others in your social media networks. Many in your network likely share your interests, views, passions and concerns. As a result, these social media relationships foster receptiveness to your charity’s message and calls for action.

Additionally, those with whom you interact can share your charity and its cause with their friends and followers, allowing your message to flow through many branches and travel many paths quickly. You might even start a Facebook “group” based on your charity or some special cause and encourage friends to do likewise.

Call To Action

To catch attention, employ direct, short, and specific calls to action. These may include, “Share this page,” “Purchase your tickets now” for the event you’ve described, “Drop off your coats at (location),” and “Donate now,” among others.

Track the responses so that you can update your calls. For instance, if you’re inviting people to attend an event, post the number of tickets remaining. For fundraising, inform viewers on the progress and the amount needed to reach the goal. You might say something like, “We only need $1,000 to cross the finish-line.”

Do not rely on solely or even mainly on social media as your portal for calls to action. Social media content should foremost cultivate relationships. That is, you tell the story of your charity and those blessed by it. Social media users learn about your charity’s call, values and plans.

Further, emails, in-person encounters, and other direct communications with donors may prove more effective in fundraising.

Ultimately, social media should constitute one component of your charity’s overall approach. In particular, recognize its power in building trust and relationships with the public. Don’t ignore, though, the other ways you can communicate and elicit support for your charity’s needs and those you serve.