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New audiences with social media

West Norfolk Voluntary and Community Action explains how it used social media to extend its reach without becoming overstretched.

Background

This case study was produced as part of the BIG Assist programme.

West Norfolk Voluntary and Community (WNVCA) is a relatively small support and development organisation serving a very large rural area with a population of 147,000.

It provides voluntary sector services, runs the volunteer centre and delivers community capacity building projects.

We used post and email to communicate with the voluntary and community sector.

The issues we faced

We needed to find ways to broaden communication without adding to our costs.

We wanted to extend our reach beyond our traditional audience to those who may not have heard of our service and wanted help with their group, to take part in volunteering, or to help spread the word about our organisation.

The actions we took

We set up pages on Facebook and Twitter. The Facebook page is in the organisation’s name and we run three Twitter pages.

One is for the organisation and there are two additional accounts for individual members of staff.

For staff posts we use a social media management system, Hootsuite which allows us to post to multiple channels simultaneously.

Positive outcomes

Facebook

This is useful for the local sector which does not engage with Twitter. It is great for raising the profile of events and particularly for posting photographs.

We found that posting photographs from events that featured people from the local college resulted in them ‘Tagging’ themselves and their friends on your page and ‘Liking’ the organisation. These photographs would then be ‘Shared’ far and wide.

Twitter

We divided up the areas we would manage. The WNVCA account covers the general news in the local sector.

The chief executive posts mainly on national issues and engages with colleagues.

The staff member account has established local relationships, particularly with those outside the sector.

The greatest benefit of this has been a considerably improved relationship with the local media which has gone on to positively impact the local voluntary and community sector.

Negative outcomes

While Facebook is part of routine communications work, raising your profile on Twitter takes time. For the two members of staff at WNVCA tweeting it is often done outside of work because they enjoy it. Twitter requires someone who is interested in the medium. Do not assign the task to someone who is not interested, it won’t work.

Be clear about who will focus on what areas so people who ‘Follow’ more than one of your accounts avoid repeatedly reading the same tweet.

When social media is part of their work be clear about how much time you expect staff to spend. It can be a huge time waster and you can spend hours online.

Staff with personal Twitter accounts, who are posting on professional issues, will need to make clear they are tweeting their own opinions.

It’s useful if staff post personal views and interests as this appears more personable but the tone needs to be professional.

Lessons learnt

We increased awareness of the organisation with people who would not have known about us, particularly young people via Facebook, and with the local media. Twitter improved our connections with business and there were direct benefits as a result for the local voluntary sector.

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Page last edited Oct 05, 2015

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