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New Media Newsletter

March Newsletter

Setting the Groundwork:  How NAMI Has Built a Community Online

More and more organizations and brands are utilizing social media to reach out to and engage with their audiences online. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to compete and break through the noise, but, with a clear plan, organizations can create and maintain an engaging social presence. Keep in mind that when engaging – whether in person, on the phone, or online – consistency and a deep understanding of your audience is key. 

In the prevention, treatment, and recovery community, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great example of how organizations can successfully build and maintain an active and effective social presence. It starts with realizing your organization’s boundaries. Some nonprofits face the challenge of a limited staff responsible for building a social presence. In order to overcome that obstable, consider focusing on one or two channels at first. For instance, NAMI concentrates its efforts on the three most popular social platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The next step is setting expectations for your community. Many organizations develop a social media policy that outlines how the organization will use social media channels. NAMI clearly displays a portion of its policy, its community standards, in the “About” section of its Facebook page. These guidelines refer readers to Facebook’s community standards, which can serve as a good starting point for organizations looking to draft their own social media policy. Twitter and YouTube also provide rules and community guideline resources.

After you have determined the best channels to reach your target audience and have set clear guidelines for how your organization will engage on each platform, sharing meaningful content becomes the focus. One of the many ways NAMI has built an active community online is by regularly posting a variety of content, including timely news and research, resources, and engaging content (e.g., calls to action, personal stories, and pictures). In addition, joining, hosting, and co-hosting various Twitter chats positions NAMI as an expert in the mental health space and provides an outlet to chat in real-time with others who have similar interests.

To date, NAMI maintains high engagement levels on the NAMI blog and has gained a following of more than 32,000 individuals and organizations on Twitter, 108,000 likes on Facebook, and 452,000 views on YouTube. These numbers demonstrate the success of NAMI’s social media strategy and represent success in its mission of supporting those with a mental illness.

For more examples of recovery-focused organizations who have built a strong and engaged presence on social media, connect with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Phoenix House or The Partnership at online.



The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ social presence is a strong example of how planning, consistency, and a creative touch can help an organization spread its message online. Below we share tips to lay the groundwork for a social media plan that can help your organization build – or continue to grow – an active and engaging social presence.

  1. Create a plan that will work for you: Sit down with your team to decide how often you will post, what the content review process will look like, and who should have access to publish content once it’s approved. At Recovery Month, we plan content a month in advance to ensure that we post a variety of content and that reviewers have ample time to approve.

  2. Monitor your channels frequently: Regardless of your posting schedule, be sure to regularly monitor your accounts’ activity for opportunities to connect with your audience or to address comments that may be negative, but do not violate your policy outright. At Recovery Month, we set aside a few minutes each day to review our channels, retweet important content, and respond to comments from the community.

  3. Know your audience: Plan content that is important to your community and post when they are most likely to see it. At Recovery Month, we often schedule content to go out during lunch hours and later in the evening, as data shows that these are the times when our audience is most active on social media channels.

  4. Be smart about security: Choose a complex password with letters, number, and symbols, and change it regularly. In addition, always make sure you are logged into the correct account before posting. At Recovery Month, we make sure every piece of content is reviewed by at least two team members before it is published.

Additionally, Facebook and Twitter share platform-specific best practices to help guide organizations looking to develop a social media plan of their own.


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