The question is not if a large number of nonprofits will try to emulate the success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s when.

There will always be theories on what makes content go viral, whether it’s a blog post, video, infographic or a simple image. While virality is almost always elusive, there are some data-driven tactics that can improve the visibility of your online content.

Recently, BuzzSumo and OkDork teamed up to publish a study on what makes content perform well on social media. If you want to know how to get your nonprofit’s posts seen and shared, follow these five tips:

1. Longer Articles Are Shared More Than Shorter Ones

It shouldn’t be a surprise that longer articles are perceived as being more valuable than short ones. More is more when it comes to educational or entertaining content. There are, of course, outliers – like in the case of Jeff Brooks or Seth Godin. However, if you can, try to top at least 1,000 words for your blog posts.

Average Shares by Content Length

2. Always Include At Least One Compelling Image

Your blog posts should always have at least one image. That image should be compelling and enticing.

One Compelling Image


Think about how a blog post appears when it is shared on Facebook. You usually see the article title, a brief description and a thumbnail image.


This image is what entices clicks the most. Without it, it’s just a block of text. Make sure the image is relevant to the content of the article, and bonus points if it illicits an emotional response.

3. Bring Human Emotions Into Play

Emotions are a critical aspect of effective storytelling. Remember, all of your content should tell a story. If it doesn’t, no one will feel compelled to share.

Popular Emotions

Nonprofits have an unfair advantage compared to businesses and other organizations when it comes to emotional storytelling. Your nonprofit surely has numerous stories that involve any and all of the emotions above!

4. Lists And Infographics Are Shared More Than Anything Else (Even Video)

Blog posts that are formatted as lists perform very well on social media. The content is often easily digestible for the reader and easier for the writer to compile and communicate.

For example, if your nonprofit is involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s, you might create a blog post like “5 Alzheimer’s Warning Signs” or “7 Tips for Caregivers of Aging Parents.”

Shares by Content Type

Infographics also perform well, due to their visual and often fun nature. If you attempt to produce an infographic, be sure to leave it in the hands of a capable graphic designer. A bad infographic isn’t better than no infographic.

5. Tuesday Is The Best Day To Publish Content

There is no shortage of data when it comes to when the best time to publish or post content is. According to this particular study, it’s Tuesday. With any of these studies, it’s important to remember that past performance is not always indicative of future results.

Total Shares by Day of the Week

While you can use this as a jumping off point, be sure to experiment with publishing date and times to find out when your community is most engaged.

For most nonprofit executives, social media and content marketing is still an unknown wild, wild west. The unbelievable success of the Ice Bucket Challenge will now move this largely untapped communications vehicle to the forefront of many discussions.

Since social media can now make a huge difference in many fundraising campaigns ranging from peer-to-peer events to future “challenges,” – as well as be a primary driver of website traffic – the research facts shared above should be considered.

There is much more research to be conducted and data to be analyzed. I personally encourage every nonprofit, no matter what your size, to begin the discussion. Perhaps your content will be the basis of the next big case study!

To begin measuring the effectiveness of your content, be sure to download our free Social Media Performance Scorecard.

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