Not being able to network in person during the pandemic prompted me to be more active on LinkedIn over the last year than in the entire decade beforehand.
I regularly posted new material to keep the charity in the mind of local businesses, and my top ten most viewed posts taught me a lot about how to engage well, or badly, with this audience.
Scraping in at number 10, with 300 views, was a plug for our trustee vacancy. I adapted a Rudyard Kipling poem – “If you are wise, yet know that there is much still to know…” – but it fell on stony ground at a time when no-one was seeking extra commitments.
In ninth place was a post I really wanted to gain traction: new research results about how parents’ health outcomes are far worse if their children require round-the-clock care. It deserved to whip up a storm, but gained a paltry 450 views.
At number eight, with 700 views, was the announcement of our ranking in the annual Best Companies staff survey scores. It seemed many companies related to the importance of employee engagement.
In seventh place was another post that I really wanted to succeed: 1,200 views for economic research showing how respite for parent carers saves the state money by improving their mental health. “Rishi Sunak ignored our previous research; will he meet us this time?”, I asked. He didn’t.
Next with 1,800 views was a recruitment tips post about the need to seek people who measure their progress and who take pleasure in other people’s success: the qualities of all the best people I’ve ever worked with (and that were sorely lacking in the worst).
The fifth most-read post was a photo piece about "Monster Trumps": a card game I sketched during lockdown evenings for the children at Julia’s House, featuring the likes of Voldemort, Medusa, Jabba the Hutt and Doctor Who monsters.
It gained 2,200 views and a ton of comments from sci-fi buffs asking why I hadn’t included their favourite character.
Fourth and third places hit pay-dirt with 3,500 and 3,600 views respectively – a pair of pandemic updates. Both less than five lines long, one explored the keys to teamwork in crisis management, the other explained how we were working with the NHS.
In second place, with 4,000 views, was a thank you to our patron Eddie Howe when he resigned as manager of AFC Bournemouth, noting the many things he had quietly done to help the community. It didn’t surprise me that this tribute to a local legend captured the business community’s attention.
But smashing even this, with 8,250 views, was a short piece about having joined Julia’s House 15 years ago: a reflection on how my head full of dreams had collided with the reality of planning permission, healthcare inspections and NHS contracting yet had somehow survived.
What have I learned from this?
Even the business corner of social media isn’t the place for hard facts, research and policy.
There was an appetite for anything topical during the pandemic, not just about healthcare but also about business principles.
Celebrity pieces work, but only if the celebrity chimes with the audience.
The most-viewed post taught me that quirky personal stories work best, because people are curious about curious people.
And the posts that largely sank without trace? The standard pieces about the charity’s normal service provision. Because we would post them, wouldn’t we?
Martin Edwards is chief executive of Julia’s House children’s hospice