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5 Ways to Use Social Media in an Equitable Way

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Social media is a powerful tool nonprofit organizations use to communicate with the public. It is important that we, as social media managers, think critically about the messaging we present through our organization’s social media feeds. While there is a constant change in social media trends and it can be difficult to adapt to each new app that becomes popular. When you are trying to keep up with everything, it is easy for equity to get lost. Today, I’m proposing five things you can implement across all platforms that will make your organization’s social media practices more equitable.

1. Don’t make it all about you

This is not a competition. Your organization’s social media feed does not have to be all about you. Instead it should focus on your mission and mission related issues. It should also highlight the work of your partner organizations. A good rule of thumb I like to use is the Rule of Thirds for social media. Steven Shattuck  suggests a three part system for nonprofits . This rule states that tweets, posts, and status updates should fall into one of three categories and be spread more or less evenly between each:

  • Appreciation – 1/3 of posts should be about you or your brand
  • Advocacy -1/3 of posts should be about your mission, with content from an outside source.  Especially focus on the work of smaller organizations who receive less exposure. Use your social media platform to lift up the voices of other organizations.
  • Appeals – 1/3 of your posts should be personal interactions

2. Share media content from People of Color led/ Ethnic Media sources

Here in Seattle, we are lucky to have a vibrant amount of ethnic media sources. The City of Seattle’s Ethnic Media program even provides an updated list of ethnic media outlets with contact information (thanks Joaquin!). These media outlets are usually community run and they provide news and events directly to their own communities. Once you have made connections with your local people of color led/ ethnic media outlets, begin developing a relationship with them. Building a connection with these media sources could lead to a broader awareness of your organization.

3. Avoid reinforcing the White Savior Complex

Think about how you are portraying the communities and people you serve in your posts. What words do you use to describe the people you serve? Are you using asset based language or deficit based language? If the only images people see on your social media feed are of white staff and volunteers posing with black and brown clients,  be aware of how this is a reflection of your organization.

4. Don’t censor your message in order to please others

It can be easy to want to avoid posting about difficult topics on your organization’s social media platforms. It’s important to not play it too safe and risk not commenting on an issue affecting the community you serve. Try not to censor your message on social media in a way that presents your organization as disconnected from issues. Posts that lead to constructive conversation can show your organization as a thought-leader in your area of focus. It’s important to give your online followers, both donors and others, a chance to engage in conversation around these difficult conversations.

5. Include the voice of everyone in your organization – not just your Development and Communication staff

Having your program team share their own success stories through your organization’s social media feed will help diversify the voice of your posts. Whether it’s through a shared instagram account or collecting posts once a month, try and incorporate the other departments in your social media.

I know many people who manage social media at small organizations are also responsible for communications, development, events, washing dishes, and maybe even making sure the communal fridge is stocked with hummus. So I understand if social media is not your main priority. Incorporating these five ways  in your practices will help your organization use social media in a more equitable way. I’d love to learn from your experience also. Please share your equitable social media practices in the comment section.

About the author: Jaleh Sadravi is the Communications and Development Manager at Rainier Valley Corps. She started her career in the nonprofit sector as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Columbus. She holds a Master’s degree in Digital Media from Valparaiso University.

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