Your nonprofit’s online audience may be your organization’s most valuable asset. But once you create that community, how do you keep it engaged? Here are eight secrets we see effective nonprofit communicators use to connect with others online.

  1. Define your Audience

Get specific, really, really specific, about who you want to reach. The general public, and undefined groups like policymakers, foundations, and donors are not target audiences. Make lists with the names and contact information for the people and organizations you’ve targeted to add to your database. Set up personasideal representatives of your members—to help you understand where they gather online and what information best meets their needs.

  1. Solve Problems

Nothing builds a community like valuable content that makes your reader’s life easier. Yes, write about your organization’s services and accomplishments. But don’t only talk about yourself. Solve problems, too. Offer useful information like industry news, announcements about professional events and job openings. Follow the 80/20 rule: Make 80% of your content about your target audience’s needs, and 20% about your organization and its accomplishments. This will attract new readers and make your sites an online gathering spot in your sector.

  1. Promote Others

Share news, reports and other materials from other leaders and groups. This can be as simple as using your retweet button on Twitter or your social share buttons on Facebook and Google+. Doing so creates goodwill, grows and strengthen partnerships, and serves everybody in your community.

  1. Be Consistent

Once you’ve set your editorial schedule, stick to it. You want your audience to know they can expect to see your newsletter, blog posts or podcasts of whatever content you produce at a certain time and day.

  1. Ask Questions

Use questions at the end of a post on your blog or your social media accounts. It’s one of the best ways to spark online conversations. Everybody benefits when you ask others to share their own experiences and insights.

  1. Speak Up

Reply to every online comment you receive. This keeps the dialogue going and shows that you respect and value the opinion of others. Not responding to positive comments represents a huge lost opportunity and kills the conversation. Ignoring negative comments on Twitter and other channels, says online expert Jay Baer, only magnifies the complaints.

  1. Use Visuals

Good visuals engage readers emotionally. Pictures also rank higher in algorithms used by Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  Many free tools make it easy to include high quality images in your content. And even with tight budgets, many nonprofits have made Instagram a central part of their communications.

  1. Share the Spotlight With Others

Involve other members of your team in your online engagement. This helps others see that it’s just not you. It also gives your online presence a human face and helps your audience connect with you and your colleagues. 

What about you? What ways have you promoted online community engagement for your nonprofit?