Meeting your audience on their terms: the Match Game

Finding your way through the jungle of social media platforms can be tough, can’t it? As a nonprofit communications manager, you feel like you’ve just got the hang of posting and curating content to your community on one platform, when another springs up two months later. You don’t have time to manage a presence, develop and post content, build community, drive fundraising campaigns – and do it all at high quality – on seven social networks…

What’s a nonprofit to do?

Well, before you charge ahead and build out a presence on every single media platform, pause first to think about your audience. If you’re like us, you know enough about your clients to understand where they are in life and what sort of message is most likely to resonate with them. Such an understanding should drive which platform you use to push messages and interactive media out to your audience.

It’s important to remember that each social media platform occupies a niche: consumers go to that particular social media platform for a specific reason. Because of this, both the audience types and the context differ across social media platforms. As a result, consumers expectations vary and the types of content that perform best also differ between platforms.

Here’s our rough guide to the social networks out there, and which you should pick for your audience:

Instagram, Flickr

Format: Photos

Community: Instagram and Flickr are both platforms that grew up around photo sharing and are popular places for photographers (both amateur and professional) to share their work. Content is typically shared publicly and is found through use of hash tags or through connections with other users. Instagram has been growing rapidly, particularly with younger users.

Best for: Brilliant photography, very few words

Youtube, Vimeo

Format: Self-produced video

Community: Youtube and Vimeo are platforms designed to share user-generated video content, encompassing everything from “do it yourself” demos to video blogs. Content is typically available to a global audience and is found through searching for specific topics. YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine (after Google).

Best for: Short and highly engaging videos

Facebook, Google+

Format: Status updates and photos

Community: These platforms are based on engaging with real world connections and sharing specific, highly personal content with them. Content is delivered through a feed of information shared only with friends and direct connections. Brands can establish “Pages” and appear in the feed of users who have connected with them. The ability to Like, Comment, and Share makes it easy for users to engage with content. Facebook is the largest social network with a monthly audience of over 1.2 billion users.

Best for: Posting status updates, photos, and other content.


Format: A collection of links and images, gathered by a specific account.

Community: Pinterest is based on “digital scrapbooking”: collecting images and URLs from across the web. It is particularly popular with middle aged women and can be easily connected with Facebook to find friends or share collections.

Best for: Bringing together a collection of web content under a specific theme or genre.


Format: Short text content shared with followers in real-time.

Community: Twitter is a “broadcast” medium that enables accounts to share short text updates with followers in real time. The ease of forwarding (“retweeting”) messages can lead to the rapid dissemination of breaking news and other information, and the ability to reply to tweets can lead to conversations with followers. Content is typically public and tagged with hashtags. Twitter has a significantly smaller audience than Facebook but is heavily used by influencers in the technology, media, and entertainment spaces.

Best for: Real-time news updates to a specific community of followers.



5 thoughts on “Meeting your audience on their terms: the Match Game

  1. Nice summary of different mediums…. as you increase the level of granularity for each category you can note additional variation and features among them as well (Mobile access, community dynamics, types of user, etc… One thing that can be helpful to consume and contribute to multiple mediums simultaneously are tools like Buffer or Feedly. Check them out if you have second.

  2. This is great, Lawrence! So incredibly practical. In terms of your idea of discovering which niche can be found through each platform, I also like to consider demographics. Ie, if you are trying to reach Black teens for healthy eating campaign, which is best? If you are trying to reach white retired men for a heart disease campaign, which is best? I think that the Pew reports on the Internet and American Life are an excellent resource for figuring this out.

  3. Great summary. You bring up a concern I have had about the evolving environment and the challenge of keeping up to date. The younger members of my family long ago abandoned Facebook for Instagram so how do we know if the target audience is moving?

    • Hi Randall – that’s a great question. It can be tough to keep on top of the ever-shifting sands of social platforms. I was quite surprised, in researching for this post, to come across a Forbes article about marketing on SnapChat – a platform that I would NEVER have imagined would be amenable to marketing methods…(

      The good news is that there are tools out there that can help marketers track these kinds of trends. One free one (for people who use AdWords) is Google’s Display Planner. That tool lets you see the demographic breakdown of people who visit a site or who use a tool, so you can try and target your marketing. There are plenty of other similar tools that can together help inform marketers about where their audience’s eyeballs are online.

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