Simon Davey: Trustees and social media - overcoming the fears and getting involved

Concerns over using social media are real but by following some simple and useful advice, trustees can make the digital space work for good, writes the Cass consultant

It’s easy to make connections with people outside your existing network. You can quickly get a sense of what people think about a topic and spread ideas quickly. Once you get over the initial fears, and understand it better social media can be really helpful for trustees

Ros Oakley, Association of Chairs

During a recent masterclass, we found trustees apprehensive to engage in social media. Otherwise expert individuals felt overwhelmed. Where do I start? What do I say? What will other people think?

With basic knowledge, a little confidence and a few shortcuts and ground rules, trustees can overcome their fear of social media.

  • Define your purpose (why): What motivates you (personally) as a trustee to use social media? Do you want to raise awareness, increase connections/reach, express yourself, share experiences or simply listen and learn?
  • Overcoming initial fears: We all improve with experience and training - social media is no different. Learning the basics and committing to practice will take you out of the fear zone. Resources to get started include the newly-published Charity Social Media Toolkit.
  • Create rules/shortcuts for content and decide your voice and tone: Decide upfront what to share and how to express it. As well as your purpose, you might choose particular personal subjects e.g. a health issue or love of walking/nature. Be yourself. ‘Social’ means expressing personality (thoughtful and cautious is still personality).
  • Consider the 4Cs of content: You can create, curate, combine or comment. Your contribution might be curating tweets/posts or asking great questions (comment).
  • Choose your tool(s): This might be a personality match. Some people love Facebook and dislike LinkedIn or vice versa. Twitter provides immediacy (and brevity) which excites some and terrifies others. You don’t need to use everything – choose one tool to start with.
  • Don’t expect to become expert overnight: Learn how the tool works, refine your profiles, grow connections and followers through sharing and responding to content. Practice with comments, mentions and hashtags.
  • Schedule ‘posts’ and don’t worry about ‘missing out’: Write posts in advance in a few minutes a day then repost on the go using mobile apps. You will never read every tweet but you can curate lists or hashtags or use groups to focus on relevant topics and people.
  • Building more and deeper connections: Start with a single post/tweet or simple LinkedIn profile. Listen, comment, share. Be proactive, follow but also engage – connect and get to know stakeholders. Use the keyword search function of your chosen tool to find relevant content and connections.
  • Be interesting and interested: Social media conversations do lead to meetings and relationships – it’s about getting to know someone.
  • Remember, remember: (i) never post/tweet anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page, (ii) think how you might be interpreted, (iii) publish and be damned. You’re judged on everything you say anyway – the internet is no different.

Finally, make sure it fits with your charity. Find out if there are agreed guidelines for using social media. If not, ask for a discussion so that these can be put in place. Remember how your role is perceived and who and what you are representing. In the same way you might work a room, as a trustee you can work the social media space for good.

Dr Simon Davey (@drsimondavey) is a consultant at the Cass Centre for Charity Effectiveness (@CassCCE)

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