Why Being Practical is Just as Important as Being Creative
by Heather Stewart
Following on from my last post about using online communications to fundraise, a few folks have said ‘all well and good but we’re a small charity, where do we start?’ so I thought it might be useful to bring together a few practical essentials.
First of all, this is not an absolute definitive guide to fundraising online but gives a few ideas that you can implement without becoming totally overwhelmed by social media in the process.
1. Decide what you want to do. Are you going to set up a blog like this one, for example? Or would you rather just stick to your static page website and use social media tools? Personally, I’d recommend blogging as search engines love content that is refreshed AND it’s a great way of keeping your followers up to date with everything you’re doing but it depends on whether you think you’ll have the time to keep blogging which can be a challenge.
2. Decide which platforms you want to use. Once you’ve decide WHAT then you need to consider HOW. So, there’s WordPress and Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google+, Pinterest – and a whole plethora of social media tools out there that all add value and help you to reach new audiences. But, if you’re anything like me, the thought of them all will probably send you running for cover and, head spinning, you’ll end up not using any of them. So, make it easy on yourself. Pick two or three and get started with them one at a time. I started off with my WordPress blog, a Twitter account and Linked In before moving onto Facebook and Google+ followed recently by Pinterest. Keep it simple to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Start with one then build on it.
3. Write a Posting Plan. Try to plan what you’re going to say online for the next week at the very least and preferably a month in advance, if possible. Start off with the platform you’ll be using and decide what you’re going to say and when. So, if it’s WordPress, you might decide you’ll blog twice a week. One could be a fundraising related post while the other might be a report on a great new project (or a fantastic old one) that you deliver. You could include interviews with users or staff and guest posts too. Then perhaps you want to promote a fundraising appeal via Facebook and Twitter. Decide what you’re going to post and when as a minimum and plan these too. And try to mix up fundraising messages with other general updates and news to keep it interesting. You could draw up a simple plan in Excel or a table in Word with a column for each day of the week and a row for each platform. Underneath each you could plan your message content, such as ‘blog post re campaign’, ‘tweets re: new project’ etc. Or perhaps you prefer to diarise everything? If that’s the case, put reminders in your Outlook calendar with your posting schedule for the week/month. I put time aside on a Friday afternoon to plan out what needs to be done each week.
4. Automate where Possible but NOT TOO MUCH!!! – Hootsuite is my personal ‘tool’ of choice when it comes to planning my online communications BUT (and I cannot overemphasise this point) while it’s useful – because you can plan and schedule tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts, Google+ posts etc. – the whole point of social media is that it’s supposed to be about engagement. So you actually have to be present for it to work not away doing something else because all of your activity was written and scheduled on Sunday night! Automation tools like Hootsuite (there are others too but I know this one because I use it) are great for keeping your messages in the public eye and creating a skeleton social media plan but they should not be the start, middle and end – far from it.
5. Make sure you aren’t just repeating the same messages on each platform. You want to create awareness and increase an understanding about your organisation or fundraising campaign but you shouldn’t just keep repeating the same message across all platforms. Use them well. Twitter is a great way of getting interesting, funny or thought provoking messages out in 140 characters or less – or perhaps you could use a photo to illustrate a project in a really quick and eye-catching way. It’s also a great tool for creating a conversation around your brand. Facebook can also be used to create conversations but you can also upload videos and share content with people who ‘Like’ your page so could add another dimension to your communications in that way. LinkedIn is a slightly different audience again, so you might want to think about who your contacts are and how best to communicate with them.
Whatever you decide to do (and when) online communications are a great way to build your brand, communicate with your audience and potentially, to introduce your charity to a new audience. All of which can enhance your fundraising both now and in the future. So try not to become too overwhelmed or despondent if it all seems to much. If it really does seem like a massive mountain to climb, perhaps you need to reconsider whether you want to use it at all. But if it is just a case of there being too much choice, keep it as simple as possible and build it slowly.
WORDS OF CAUTION:
- Don’t automate everything. As I said previously, you should try to take a flexible approach and respond to real world events in real time. Just use automation to help plan the basis of your communications and keep your profile high.
- Send different messages to different platforms and use them to their best effect. Funny tweets to LinkedIn contacts that you want to join your board just might not work…
- Don’t just broadcast – nobody likes someone who talks about themselves all the time and when you just broadcast messages about your organisation, that’s effectively what you’re doing. So ask questions or ask for feedback. Try to start a conversation.
Do you have any other tips or advice about what’s worked for you? Add them into the comments below.