The Guardian Voluntary Sector published an article by Matt Collins called ‘It’s time for charities to stop wasting money on social media’. It divided readers and generated a lot of reaction. Collins suggested that charities instead, should invest in other digital marketing tools such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and email. This got me thinking…
…are there benefits for charities or non-profits using social media?
In my experience it’s a definite yes. As with any marketing tool you choose to use, it’s about knowing why you are using it and what it will help you achieve for your supporters and in return, your organisation.
Here are 5 reasons I would recommend social media:
Social media provides the opportunity to reach people. It’s about being in the same space as those people you have or want to have a relationship with and lots of them are using social media:
– social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
– messenger/chat apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat
– image/video sharing sites like YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest
Globally there are 2.206 billion active social media users. In UK alone, out of a population of 64.1 million, 38 million have an active social media account and they spend an average of 2 hrs 13mins a day using social media. This includes many of your existing or potential supporters or service users.
This offers your organisation the opportunity to engage directly with people every day and build online communities.
Each social media platform has its own features or benefits and it’s important to choose the social channel(s) that your existing and potential customers, supporters, service users and fundraisers use.
If you are a small organisation or a small team, don’t spread yourself too thin – it’s not about being in every space but concentrating on those which enable you to reach your core audiences.
If you’re just starting out and don’t know which platform to start with, identify basic audience demographics such as gender, age, geographic location – use whatever is useful for you. Use this to decide which platform(s) offer you the best opportunity for you to reach your people. For example, if the people you want to reach are 18 – 24 years, try Snapchat or if they are 25 – 34 years Instagram.
#2 Listening and learning
Social media is a great way to find out more about your community. By listening to them you can find out what they like, what they need, what interests them and what their challenges are.
An example of an organisation doing just this is Marie Curie. They listened then learned that their supporters found it was important to share photos of their loved ones who received care through a Marie Curie service. Rather than let these precious photos drift away in a timeline, Marie Curie built a web platform for people to share their photos and their experiences. Helping their community share their stories provided the charity with real stories that they can use to demonstrate their services and ask for donations.
Look for themes that run through user generated content (UGC) – the content your audience produces and shares – it may gave your ideas for future content, campaigns, services or products.
It’s always good to remind yourself why people use social media. Sadly, it’s not to follow our great organisations but rather to stay in touch with what their friends are doing, keep up-to-date with news or even fill their spare time. You’re opportunity is to be able to talk directly to your audience and engage with them.
Remember that social media is always on. Your community doesn’t disappear when your office is closed. You have to decide whether it is acceptable to only be ‘social’ during office hours.
There can be significant opportunities for charitable organisations or non-profits to be socially active outside of the normal 9am to 5pm. Many Twitter chats (e.g. #educhat, #nhssm), retweets and Facebook messages happen in the evening or over a weekend. Don’t miss out on these important conversations or opportunities to engage with your supporters.
Most people don’t expect a solution there and then, they understand that it’s late or the weekend. However, a simple acknowledgement or pledge to help is often enough or more than they expect.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines social media as,
“Forms of electronic communication (as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)”
Social is about building communities; it’s about having a relationship with people and like any relationship, you have to work hard to develop it and it takes time.
If you are using the right platforms, listening to and learning from your audience, you have the opportunity to respond to their challenges and create content, services and even products that will help, inspire and entertain them. And, if they really like it or find it useful, they share it with others and your community grows.
Test, measure and learn! You can easily measure the number of followers you have or the likes you get but I would suggest the real information is in the engagement levels. What content are people really responding to and what insights does this provide you with? Social media provides you with an easy and cost-effective way to try new things. The data and insights will help you produce more of the good stuff so you don’t waste time crafting something you think is amazing but no one responds too.
#5 It’s where the magic happens
It doesn’t have to be something as phenomenal as #nomakeupselfies or #IceBucketChallenge. It’s those moments when one of your community shares a personal moment that they can’t wait to tell the world about and in some small or big way, you helped make this happen for them.
Social media can be a really powerful tool for charities and non-profits. It enables you to reach your audience, build communities and provides opportunities across your organisation to learn from and better support the people you serve.
I’d love to hear about your social media experiences, so please leave a comment…
Don’t restrict your social media to 9 to 5, Kirsty Marrins, Third Sector