In theory, we all know that social media is not 9 to 5 and that it’s imperative to be flexible when managing our charity’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. However, small and medium sized charities often struggle to find the resource to manage their social accounts out of hours. But find the resource they must or face being left out of important conversations.
Engagement is the ROI that all charities seek from social media. They want people to read their tweets/posts, like them, comment on them, retweet and share. For this to happen you need to have a compelling story, an opinion or ask a question – something that will capture your audience’s attention and compel them to take a social action. But of course, this isn’t always easy. For one thing, you need to be talking to your audience when they are actually online. And that’s usually not between 9 and 5.
Twitter offers an amazing opportunity for charities to reach new audiences and engage with their existing audience through Twitter chats. TV programmes and documentaries that come with dedicated hashtags offer a unique opportunity to talk directly with people who are interested in or affected by the subject of the programme. The problem is these programmes are usually on between 8 and 10pm.
Take the recent BBC3 documentary by Professor Green on hidden homelessness. The show was on at 9pm on a Tuesday evening and had everybody who was watching it, talking. This was a prime opportunity for charities who tackle homelessness (or perhaps other issues that the show touched on, such as mental health, drug abuse and violence) to get involved in the conversation and raise awareness of the work that they do.
Centrepoint highlighted an article on their website that states that cuts in housing benefit will increase youth homelessness. The tweet had 25 retweets and 10 likes. It was tweeted at 9:45pm.
Here’s a tweet from Centrepoint to let people following the hashtag know how they could help:
Shelter took a bit of a different stance and picked out key statements from the programme:
A place to sleep isn't the same as a place to call home #HiddenHomeless— Shelter (@Shelter) February 9, 2016
Although they did also signpost people to services:
YMCA Exeter got involved too by highlighting that even if you’re fully aware of the issues of homelessness because you work in the sector, it can still be an eye opener. I really like this tweet as it’s evident that it’s a person talking, rather than an organisation. It’s very human and obviously people could relate because they retweeted it 22 times and it had 43 likes.
YMCA Exeter only has 1,336 followers and a quick look at their timeline indicates that they get the odd retweet. The fact that this tweet, during a show and using the hashtag got 22 retweets and 43 likes just goes to show the kind of engagement you can get by being in the right place, at the right time. The nature of this documentary would mean that people watching it were likely to feel as though they’d like to do something. Crisis tweeted a link to a petition, which along with other homelessness charities, is urging the mayor of London to make tackling homelessness in London a priority.
What’s great to see is that it wasn’t just the big household charities getting involved. There were lots of tweets from lesser known charities too, like this one from St Basil’s – a local charity in the West Midlands:
"It's not as easy just to go home." Sadly that is very true for many young people who become homeless #hiddenhomeless— St Basils (@StBasilsCharity) February 9, 2016
Living Well Bromley, a charity that supports people with needs such as social isolation, addictions, mental health issues and homelessness got involved in the conversation by tweeting what they feel needs to be done, which is a holistic approach:
We need a holistic approach,making provision 4 peoples social,emotional & physical welfare as well as a roof over their head #HiddenHomeless— Living Well Bromley (@LWBromley) February 9, 2016
What was interesting about this particular show was that the official hashtag was actually #HiddenAndHomeless yet people were using #HiddenHomeless (most likely because it’s less characters) so always make sure you tweet with the hashtag that is being used the most, even if it’s not the official one.
So keep an eye out on the TV listings and make sure you get involved in a relevant Twitter chat and see the difference it makes to your engagement.
Kirsty Marrins has been working in the charity sector since 2007 and is a trustee of the Small Charities Coalition. This article first appeared on The Resource Cafe.