The advent of social media has resulted in charities trying new ways of communicating with their key audiences but before you decide to bombard cyberspace with tweets, blogs and comments, there are a few things that you should consider:
1. Work out what you are trying to achieve.
It may seem as though everyone is on Twitter but does that mean you should be? It is an effective way to get your message across in bite size chunks but just because it’s quick, free and effective, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan your strategy and think about what you’re aiming to achieve before you get started. Are you trying to drive people to your website? Or perhaps change perceptions about your charity? Maybe you want to reach a new audience or build your email list? Twitter is a great way to get messages in front of your target audience instantly; to continue to raise awareness and to give your charity a personality. You can use it to publicise new campaigns, direct people to sign up forms on your website or to show your support for other organisations. Whatever the reasons, what matters most is that you know why you’re using social media in the first place.
2. Be consistent.
Don’t be tempted to change the central message of your charity just because you think it’ll be more readily accepted by the online world. You shouldn’t necessarily just regurgitate your offline marketing content and use it online – and in fact, it is good to use social media to communicate differently. Social media provides another opportunity to communicate with new audiences and let them understand what your charity is all about. It also gives you the chance to be creative, using video, podcasts and blogs to enrich your message. But make sure that you don’t lose the central message of your charity.
3. Decide who is responsible for social media in your organisation.
You may have different people tweeting and blogging on your behalf but you should have a policy that everyone adheres to which sets out clear objectives for your social media activity. And these objectives must be communicated to everyone using social media on behalf of your organisation. There are benefits in asking others to contribute, adding value and different perspectives to your messages – but it is important that they are consistent. And please, please make sure that personal social media activity isn’t confused with that carried out in your charity’s name. Where employees do have their own social media accounts, if they make any reference to working for your charity in them, it’s good practice for them to state that any views given are their own and not yours.
4. Encourage your Board to use their online networks to your advantage.
We all ask trustees or board members to network on our behalf offline, so why not online? This isn’t an area that has been hugely exploited but it’s bound to become of increasing importance in the future. And it certainly won’t do your organisation any harm to be among the first early adopters, will it? Ask your Board to use Linked In or Facebook to promote their involvement with your charity. And if you know that they are on Twitter perhaps they can be encouraged to tweet to their followers on your behalf?
5. Use social media as part of your overall communication strategy.
Social media is part and parcel of a good communications strategy. Used well it will drive traffic to your site, raise awareness of your campaigns and help to reach new audiences – but, even if it is good value for money, it isn’t the only method of communication that you should use. For example, a successful direct mail campaign shouldn’t be replaced with a Facebook page but you could enrich your message by using Facebook to inform fans about your campaign – and vice versa.
Social media is a good, low cost, effective way to reach new audiences but remember: it is only one platform for communicating with your audience. Above all, social media gives you the opportunity to be creative and reach new audiences in new ways, so use it to your best advantage.