Rachel Hawkes: Top 10 tips for social media success for charities - part two

Our online columnist gives the second five of her top 10 tips for social media success

Rachel Hawkes
Rachel Hawkes
Last time I gave you the first half of my Top 10 Tips for social media success, which covered:

1. Conversation is king

2. Become a consumer

3. Openness and honesty

4. Be responsive

5. Integration

Here’s the second half. These tips certainly don’t cover everything you need to do and consider with social media, but it’s a good place to start.

It’s important to say that social media should be part of the overall brand and media strategy and shouldn’t operate in a silo.

6. Create interesting content

To get it out straight out of the way, I’m going to highlight the ASA regulations. Make sure any content you create or reproduce stays well clear of the regulations and its grey areas.

Content isn’t just images, it also includes video, audio and written content. Don’t have too much of one to the exclusion of the rest. Ensure it is a balanced mix to keep your audience interested and the content fresh. Challenge yourself to think of new content opportunities, and as mentioned previously – get your audience involved. What about publishing two versions of your next newsletter cover and ask them to vote on their favourite, tweet along with a conference you’re running, or even ask your supporters to send or upload their own content to share.

Think about things that happen offline and how you can translate that into interesting online content. Try to do things in as real-time as possible, but be mindful not to drown people’s channels.

7. Be flexibile

Don’t be regimented in how you approach social media. It is a fluid, changing and dynamic environment and will require a similar approach from you in order to make the most of what it has to offer. 

Be flexible when you make updates, particularly on Twitter and Facebook. Work out when your key influencers and supporters are online and engaged with those channels. It might be that the best time for you to update Facebook is at 9.30am after the morning meeting, or at 5pm just before you head home. That’s not going to be very effective if the bulk of your followers are checking their updates during their lunch break. That means by the time they see your post it’s not only hours old, but it has most likely also been drowned out of the first page by updates from their friends.

Also, be adaptable to using new technology that will increase your engagement levels or even make your job easier. Be open to new social platforms that become available, but don’t just jump in without really consider whether you can service them effectively. And also consider how they can open your charity up to a wider supporter base.

8. Measure and monitor

It almost goes without saying that you should have web analytics running across every page of your website and your blog too if you have one. If you don’t have web analytics yet, then look to things such as Google Analytics which offers really robust and intelligent reporting for free.

Don’t forget that Facebook offers Insights, which can tell you more about the type of people that engage with your page, what part of the country and the world they come from, their age and location and also what type of content they prefer and what days and times they most like to see that content.

For things such as Twitter, which doesn’t have an inbuilt reporting system, look to short URL platforms such as bit.ly or sn.im that will measure the clickthroughs of URLs you post, and can also capture data on who has gone on to share that link with their own followers.

Don’t become a slave to reporting though. You can spend more time analysing data and trying to come to conclusions that may not even necessarily have any profound impact, that you become less engaged with your audience. Work out what is important for you and this can be different depending upon the organisation and its objectives to measure, and get good at measuring that.

Look to free online news alerts, such as Google Alerts to let you know when your charity name or keywords that are relevant to you and your audience appear on the web. When you are alerted to a potential opportunity to engage with a blogger or online news site then take it. The alerts are only as useful as what you do with the information you get from them.

9. Consistency

Consistency applies to many areas of social media.

Put together a style guide for internal use and make sure that everyone that may interact in the charity’s social channels are using the same tone of voice and style. Outline the type of language with sample sentences that you would use, and also ones you wouldn’t.

Post regularly. Update often. That doesn’t mean every day or multiple times every day unless its relevant and appropriate to do so, such as during a campaign or heightened activity.

It’s a rare organisation that most people will be happy to hear from every single day. Don’t be obsessed with posting daily to the point that you are blinkered to what your audience actually want from you. Also, this will become more clear when you become an active social media consumer, posting more often is more acceptable on certain channels than others.

If you’re not sure how often your audience wants to hear from you, ask them and make sure you listen to what they say.

An important point with regards to consistency, is to be consistent with your social identity. Try, as much as possible to have the same username across your social channels. It not only looks more professional and thoughtful, but it also makes it easier for your audience to find you on other channels and to remember your social identity. 

Have a look at tools such as namechk to check for the availability of your chosen username across different social platforms at once. If they are available, then consider registering on the most important ones, even if you don’t intend to use those channels now or in the near future, to protect your brand identity.

10.  Get buy-in

To really become a transparent organisation, one whose supporters are actively engaged and aware of what the charity does and the difference it makes, then it will require buy-in throughout the charity. This is obviously not as difficult a task for smaller charities as it is for the bigger ones with more hierarchal structures where different departments will have their own expectations and requirements. A social media policy that outlines the overall objectives of the charity here is going to be worth its weight.

If you have any other tips based on your experience, leave them below in the comments.

Rachel Hawkes is an account director at the communications consultancy Elemental


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