You’re online – your supporters, contacts, clients and customers are too. 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?
- 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
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 please tread very carefully when you make contact. It’s ok to contact a public group but not really ok to contact an individual’s Facebook profile or @reply someone on Twitter if you don’t know them, especially if they are speaking about a sensitive situation. 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.
- Commitment: we should check accounts daily, ideally early.
- Review: check accounts periodically to determine if they’re needed/ active.
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
- 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
- Be clever. When your Facebook page has 25 fans, snag a nice username for it at www.facebook.com/username
- 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.
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 who are openly talking about your 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.
If people are tweeting openly about your topic, feel free to talk to them. If it’s a sensitive situation, instead of tweeting to them publicly, you can ‘follow’ them from your account. That way, they hear of you indirectly and then it’s their choice to follow or tweet you. Choosing to contact you = likely to be more 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.
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, link to events and relevant news stories, ask questions, do countdowns, ask for help, promote, share results, stats and thanks.
Monitor people talking to you and talking about you. Check your page/group and your replies. Use twitter search and set up search columns.
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 the website.
- Include links to your social media pages in your email signature.
- Favourite other relevant pages/groups your organisation has.
- Consider an RSS feed for your news stories and/or webpages.
- Services that tell you when you have a new Facebook and/or Twitter message: http://hyperalerts.no and https://nutshellmail.com
- Link shortening services: there are loads of them but the best is http://bit.ly
- Track a conversation between two twitter accounts: http://www.bettween.com/
- Link an RSS feed with a Twitter account or a Facebook page: http://twitterfeed.com/session/new
- Automatically link a justgiving page and a twitter account: http://www.justtweeting.org.uk/connect.php
- Do clever things with a specific word/theme/account: http://tweetcloud.com/ and http://www.twitterfall.com/
- Glitz your Facebook notes with this useful HTML cheatsheet.
- Stop a dodgy URL infecting your PC by checking it here: http://longurl.org/
- 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.