10 strategies for how to grow your Twitter followers, Facebook fans and email subscribers

As the flurry of end of year charitable giving returns back to normal rates, the new year is a great time for nonprofits to renew their focus on growing their lists. Here are a few tips to help you expand your Facebook, Twitter, and email lists with the people who are likely to be interested in your organization:


  • Understand the FB algorithms: The default view on Facebook, Top News, shows only a small selection of posts from your friends (and pages you’ve “liked”). If you switch to the Most Recent tab you’ll see how much content isn’t included. Facebook uses a sophisticated set of algorithms to determine which content you see on the Top News tab. An important factor is the number of likes and comments the content has received, so you’ll often want to ask questions in your posts and phrase updates so that it’s more likely people will “like” your post.
  • FB Advertising: Facebook allows you to advertise either Facebook pages or websites that are external to Facebook. When you advertise your pages on Facebook, a “like” box will appear next to your ad, allowing people to become fans of your page with a single click.
  • Facebook tab as landing page: Since your primary goal on Facebook is likely not to simply increase wall posts, you may want to create a custom default landing tab on your page. Many custom tabs include an arrow pointing to the like button or a registration form (possibly with an offer to induce signups). It’s also possible to show different content to Facebook fans and non-fans. Exclusive content and special offers that are only available to fans can be a great way to induce people to “like” your page.


  • Following others: Twitter users will often follow you after receiving an alert that you are following them. When using this strategy you may want to target your universe by searching for tweets with relevant words or hashtags, or follow reporters, bloggers, and others who are influential players in your field.
  • Hashtags: You can tweet using relevant hash tags or use trending topics to increase the number of people who will see your content. You can also start a tag for a contest or conversation and encourage others to include it in their tweets.
  • Write for RTs: Tweeted responses (i.e. tweets starting with @name) only appear in the feed of people who follow both you and the person you are responding to. While good for relationship-building, these messages do not show up for your full potential universe. Retweets, on the other hand, will show up for everyone who follows the person who posted the RT. Encouraging responses through questions can be less useful than brief tweets designed to be retweeted (thought they can help to build relationships)


  • Petitions and letters to legislators: This time-honored technique can help you build targeted lists while simultaneously engaging in efforts to support your lobbying initiatives. An eCRM advocacy tool like CapWiz and Salsa can help strengthen your grassroots advocacy program and make it easier to manage. This is an especially good tactic if you are encouraging compelling actions since the new emails you get are likely to take action again in the future.
  • List acquisition: While blanket spamming can be counterproductive, acquiring targeted lists from trusted vendors like Care2 or Change.org can be a great way of expanding your audience. Be sure to segment your lists! Where it makes sense, you could also ask a strategic partner to send out an email to their list on your behalf, with a call to action that will help build your list. It’s recommended to use URL sourcing codes so you’ll be able to use your website analytics software to identify whether this tactic was effective (and should potentially be repeated).
  • Special offers: Providing special access information on your website (possibly in conjunction with search engine marketing) can be a great way to expand your email lists. You can offer white papers (targeted to strategically desirable demographics), or allow people to sign up for webinars once they have provided their email address.

Do you have other techniques that have helped you to build your outreach capacity? Leave your tips in the comments.

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