Social is Here for Good: Girlstart


"... Leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today—especially in science, technology, engineering and math."

— President Barack Obama, September 16, 2010

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education is a national priority. STEM education for girls is becoming a priority. Today, only 24% of the STEM workforce is female. Enter Girlstart, an Austin-based non-profit that focuses on STEM education for girls.

As part of our #BeNiceAndSocial Holiday campaign, I recently spoke with Girlstart’s Julie Shannan to learn how they are using social media to start and participate in conversations about getting more girls interested in STEM. Unsurprisingly, they have it down to a science.

At a high level what is your strategy for social?

We are trying to reach people that care about STEM education for girls, whether that is professionals, corporations, educators, or parents. We provide programs for girls in first through eighth grade, but you’ll notice that we do not target or message to the girls. Most of them aren’t old enough to participate on the channels where we are present. We are committed to being authentic in that regard, so while we want to connect with girls, we always go through the adult in their life on social media. 

What are your goals for your social programs?

We have a few goal sets:

Fundraising (in a limited capacity.) We run a “Send a Girl to Camp” initiative three months out of the year where we drive towards a peer-to-peer fundraising site to raise scholarships that allows girls to attend our summer camps.

Thought Leadership. While we share STEM content year-round, we actually have a big push underway right now with DeSTEMber. For 31 days, we share hands-on activities that educators and parents can use in the classroom or at birthday parties. We see a lot of activity on Pinterest—it’s actually the number one source of social click-thrus to our blog.


Funder Appreciation. We provide shout outs for funder participation, but we also try to amplify the relevant STEM conversations that they are having. 

We recently spoke at Dell World, so we shared a lot about that. Conferences are such great opportunities for exposure. We have an email alias for our social team and we encourage and empower our employees to send photos or quotes when they attend a conference and we share them in real time.

Awareness. (For Girlstart and for the STEM conversation at large.) We do Tweet-outs at our own conferences where we let girls write out on paper something like what they want to be when they grow up, or their favorite part of the event, and then we Tweet on their behalf— teachers and parents love to see that.

Between big events and campaigns, we maintain a Content Calendar that helps us play in the sandbox and share content that inspire and motivate people to think about STEM on a daily basis. We don’t want to just talk about ourselves.

Speaking of editorial calendars, you guys are really consistent. How do you keep up a steady stream of diverse content?

It takes having a dedicated person monitoring all of this. Our part time social media manager is an essential piece of this puzzle. We also use Spredfast. The thing I love about Spredfast is that even though we only have a part-time resource for social, it seems like we have a much larger team—we can stay on top of social all the time instead of just when she is available. 

We schedule content around ongoing themes like #motivationmonday and #cornysciencejoke that are fun ways to keep our audience engaged when we aren’t talking about specific initiatives.

How do you think about your audiences on different channels?

It’s so important to know your audience. At the beginning, we made the mistake of posting, Tweeting, and Pinning the same piece of content. Now, we try to mix it up and create a different feel on each channel.

For example, our Google+ audience is more academic than our other channels, so the conversations we have there are much more high-level. This may come as a bit of a surprise, but we have over 550,000 followers on Google+. (For reference, that’s more followers than Dell). We grew that audience to about 150K followers initially with help from Google+ around our DeSTEMber initiative, but it has continued to grow exponentially ever since.  

You have been pretty thoughtful about how you’ve grown Girlstart’s social programs. What advice would you give to a non-profit that is trying to build its own social presence?

My number one piece of advice is to drive people to your website as often as possible. That’s where they’ll find out how to get involved, how to donate, how to participate. Our goal is to keep our audience engaged with great content on social but when they do click through, we want to bring them where they can learn more about us and what we do. 

Girlstart is one of five featured organizations in our “Social is Here for Good” Holiday Campaign. Vote for Girlstart and they could receive a donation and day of service from the Spredfast team.'s picture

Courtney Doman

Courtney is the Content Marketing Manager at Spredfast. She focuses on sharing smart social ideas and insights to transform the way companies connect with consumers. Courtney is a passionate football fan (supporting Arsenal and the USMNT), curious traveller, and ambitious home cook.