Growth & Customers

Seven steps to social media success for charities

Charities are increasingly embracing social media, with research showing that 94% of charities and social enterprises have a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Charities are also spending more time and money on managing their social media accounts, with 29% spending 6-10 hours a week on social media.

But for many smaller charities, it can be challenging to find the time to manage a range of social media accounts and to understand what will work. We look at some ways that charities can make the most of social media channels.

How social media can help charities

There are a number of advantages to social media:

  • Reach: it can take time to build up a network but social media can provide an audience that charities would normally struggle to reach without a significant budget.
  • Low cost: social media does need an investment of time but almost all activity is free.
  • Easy to get started: because they’re aimed at the public, social media channels are designed to be easy to use.
  • Two-way conversations: unlike traditional media, you can get instant feedback, see what people like and have real conversations. You can also let supporters spread the word.

The seven steps

With all the advantages, it can be tempting to rush in but a bit of planning can help. Here are some of the key steps to help you get the most from your presence.

1. Choose the right network

There are over 100 different social media channels, so it’s impossible for you to have a presence on each of them.

The first step is to find out which sites your supporters and beneficiaries use and how you could use them. You don’t have to be everywhere – choose to focus your efforts rather than spreading yourself too thin.

2. Know what your supporters want

It’s also worth taking time to understand what type of information your audience will want. Research from a recent Social Good Survey showed that the top ways that people wanted to get involved with a charity through social media were:

  • Staying up to date with what the charity is doing (30%)
  • Supporting the cause by signing a petition or sharing information (28%)
  • Keeping up with issues (22%)
  • Displaying my support to family and friends (20%)
  • Connecting with like-minded people (18%)
  • Making a donation (17%)

Do consider this when you’re deciding which social media channels to use, what to post and which formats might work best.

3. Integrate it in your business

Keep communications consistent by integrating social media into the strategy for the business. Get different departments involved, from campaigns and fundraising to communications and service delivery.

Make sure your social media activity is also integrated with your other digital activity. Stream your Twitter or Facebook feed into your website or allow people to pin, like or tweet straight from your site.

4. Get the right skills

Do you have the right skills in-house?

If not, you’re not alone: research by Lloyds Bank shows that 58% of charities lack basic digital skills.

There are several approaches to this – you can train your staff, recruit people with the right skills or outsource your social media. But before you do that, it pays to think about who will be managing your account.

Many charities have a team of people who post updates to give a range of content. And in some charities the Chief Exec joins in to share news or speak directly to supporters and beneficiaries. You’ll need to decide what works best for you.

5. Provide the right content

The first thing to do when you join a new social media site is to listen. This allows you to see what people are talking about, how formal or informal the conversations are and how people communicate. Once you’re familiar with the site, you can begin posting.

Try to find content that provokes a response – empathy, surprise, humour – as this makes the content more likely to resonate and be shared. Make the most of the opportunity for conversations – don’t just broadcast messages but engage with your followers to ask questions, gain insight or chat.

Many people recommend your posts are made up of 20% announcements and 80% conversations.

And don’t forget to think about formats. Some social media channels like Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest are visual sites. But using photos on Twitter and Facebook can also help. Research by Hubspot found that Facebook posts with photos get 53% more likes and 104% more comments.

6. Deal with negative comments

One of social media’s strengths is the ability for people to comment on your content or to start conversations.

Very occasionally, these posts may be inflammatory or negative. These types of comments need to be handled carefully. If people have posted genuine concerns, try to address them quickly and sensitively.

Don’t get drawn into detailed conversations – offer some support or information and then continue the conversation away from social media.

If the posts are very negative and you wish to post a response, keep it factual and don’t get drawn into an exchange.

On Twitter, you could post correct information in a separate tweet rather than replying, so you don’t highlight the original post.

7. Measure success

It’s important to know what’s working, so do monitor your social media channels. Look at:

  • Which posts gets the most positive engagement (e.g. Likes, favourites or retweets)
  • Which posts start conversations
  • Which time and day of the week gets the most engagement

Most social media channels have in-built statistics or monitoring, so it’s simple to gauge what works and adapt your strategy to suit.

Final thoughts

With the right strategy, charities can make the best of social media and forge stronger connections with supporters and beneficiaries.