You’re online – your supporters, contacts, clients and customers are too.
You have the basic knowledge about why social media is important, but how can you manage this task as part of the day to day work that your organisation does? How you relate to them – online and offline – impacts on what they think of your organisation and how likely they are to donate, buy or get involved.
This beginner's guide will help you think about how you can use social media effectively.
Things you'll need
- a computer or smartphone
- internet access
When using social media, ask yourself…
- Do I have the time and resources to maintain a social media space?
- Is it for a one-off event or an ongoing initiative?
- Are my intended audience on-line? Which social network(s) do they use?
- What am I trying to achieve from it? Sign ups, donations, publicity…
Who will I talk to? Who’s interested? How do I find them?
You’ll have to go fishing…
1) pick your search terms e.g. "forget me not walk", walk AND charity, walking etc.
2) if your organisation has members, ask them which social media channels they use and if they are comfortable with your charity contacting them that way.
3) you can discover potential supporters and useful contacts by simply searching within Google, by exploring links and contact lists in Facebook or Twitter or for a more detailed search try SocialMention (free) or Keyhole (paid accounts).
4) make a table so you can keep a record of what you’ve found:
Web link to the group/account/site
email address (if relevant)
NB Tread with caution when you make contact with a group or individual you've identified from a search. It’s OK to contact a public group but try to engage in a conversation or reply to a question they have asked rather than jumping in with a Direct Message or push-y @reply about your latest campaign. Social media is a conversation, not a broadcast. Imagine how you would feel…
What are the basics?
- Management: at least one person should be responsible for each group/page/account. When they are away/ ill someone else needs to step in. Store all social media account passwords securely on-line (or off-line). A password known only by a single individual could leave your organisation in a difficult position if that person leaves and takes the password with them.
- Commitment: we should check accounts daily, ideally early. Use the alert features in Twitter or Facebook to receive instant notifications when your organisation or cause is mentioned.
- Review: check accounts periodically to determine if they’re needed/ active.
- Remember social media is a conversation. Be active and be responsive.
What will I talk about? How can I make it interesting?
- Make sure you’re relevant and appropriate. Please don’t use ALL CAPS!
- When talking about your organisation use the right name. Avoid old names or acronyms because they’re confusing
- Listen to and engage with supporters/ customers - encourage, offer help. If you have relevant knowledge or insight, share it. People will notice this and recognise your organisation as the authentic voice for your topic of interest.
- Share stories – interesting activities, stories, key facts, and showcase existing content on your website or your press releases
- Take it easy – if you need to mass upload lots of events, try doing it when your page isn’t published yet. Or – if on Facebook - upload them all and publish just one story. That way your supporters’ news feed won’t be bombarded
- Share interesting content – photos, video, quotes, links to your website – events, stories, research work
- Join in – set up keyword searches to find relevant people/tweets/posts
- Write notes. Say hello. Say thank you. Answer questions.
What comments will I get? How should I respond? Are there risks?
- Whether the message is encouraging or not, it’s best to try and be encouraging and positive in return. If you include a question or a little detail, this shows you’ve read the message and also helps to further an ongoing relationship.
- If there’s a question, try to find an answer but don’t be afraid to say ‘can I come back to you’ if you need to. In some cases, it’s best to reply offline or by private message, especially if it’s a sensitive issue.
- If someone has commented about something sensitive, very carefully consider what you say and how your words may make them feel. Acknowledge the situation, but consider holding back on any business/fundraising asks unless they’re seeking this.
- If there’s a complaint, try to be as open and helpful as possible. If the person is repeatedly abusive or inappropriate it may not be sensible to ‘argue’ with them or continue to reply.
- If you realise that you may have mistakenly provided incorrect information on social media which has resulted in negative comments never try to cover up your error by deleting tweets or blog conversations. Others will notice this and stir up the situation. Be brave. Admit you were wrong and correct the information. Be transparent.
- In rare cases, it is necessary to block people. Reserve this for when someone if obviously ‘spamming’ the page or group and when are repeatedly abusive.
Who should I follow – and not follow on Twitter?
- Follow people and search for hashtags that are openly talking about your cause, event or activity. Also follow anyone who writes on that subject or any partner organisations, suppliers and sponsors.
- If they’re openly talking about relevant subjects, feel free to tweet and reply. Look at other organisations who are active online to get a feel for how this is done.
- Browse through their followers, look at who follows them and search any public lists they have created. It's OK and not snooping! Twitter is an open community built on shared connections.
- If people are tweeting openly about your topic, feel free to reply to them if you can offer insight or add to the conversation. If you would like to know more about their work whenever they tweet an update then ‘follow’ them from your account. They will also be notified that you have followed them and then it’s their choice to follow you back or tweet you. Choosing to contact you means they are more likely to be engaged in the long run.
How can I keep it going, and keep an eye on what I’m doing?
- Content! Think about all the things you could talk about and plan what you’d talk about when. Develop a social media marketing calendar based around key events or fundraising activities your charity has planned.
- Social media should complement existing communications activity – so plan it into your wider communications plans. When you launch a new event or product, open entries or tickets, announce some news, share a great story then you can share this on social media as well as on your website or in a news release or e-mailing.
- Use pictures, video, quotes, stories and link to events or relevant news stories. Ask questions, do countdowns, ask for help, promote, share results, and statistics. Say thanks.
- Monitor people talking to you and talking about you. Check your page/group analytics in Facebook and Twitter and check your replies and mentions. Use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to set up search columns for your activity and cause.
- Have a plan for the social media tasks you will undertake daily, weekly and monthly. For example. Monitor Twitter and Facebook mentions of your campaign daily, post a blog updating supporters or your fundraising activities weekly and upload a video to YouTube each month showing a how communities have benefited from your efforts.
Promotions, shiny bells and whistles
- You can add social media buttons to e-newsletters (Mailchimp are kings at this).
- Add your social media pages to the relevant section of your website. Think of your website as the hub or your organisation with all your social media accounts as spokes radiating from it.
- Include links to your social media pages in your email signature.
- Don't forget to mention your social media channels off-line. Include them on posters, talk about them in meetings. Be known.
- Favourite other relevant pages/groups your organisation has.
- Consider publishing an RSS feed for your news stories and/or webpages.
- Link shortening services: there are loads of them but the best is http://bit.ly
- Link an RSS feed with a Twitter account or a Facebook page: http://twitterfeed.com/session/new
- Do clever things with a specific word/theme/account: http://tweetcloud.com/
- Follow a twitter conversation in a cascade with http://www.twitterfall.com/ as a Twitter chat with http://tweetchat.com/ or present a word cloud at an event with http://visibletweets.com/.
- Glitz your Facebook notes with this useful HTML cheatsheet.
- Check the reach of a tweet with http://tweetreach.com/
Learn how to make more of your social media presence with the Strategic social media course on KnowHow.
The Army's Reserves 10 rules for social media practitioners is worth a read.
Next, take a look at our How To guide about building your network using social media.