How to use social media as a tool for better charity leadership

Written by Kate Collins
13/03/19

Social media platforms can feel overwhelming for the digital novice, but they can also be an excellent way to lead your charity. Kate Collins, winner of this year's Social Media CEO of the Year Award, talks through some of her top tips for using your personal social media accounts as a way of engaging with staff, communities and beneficiaries – and being a better leader for it.

Give it a go

Social media platforms including Twitter can seem overwhelming and a bit alien. I was wary initially and unsure where to start, but after joining I realised that I had been missing out on so much. Now, Twitter is integral to my way of working – I chat with staff, supporters, peers, sector leaders, opinion formers, and thinkers who inspire me. My advice is to just give it a go and find out what it can offer you - it might not be for everyone, but I can’t imagine doing my role without Twitter now, and that might be something you find too.

Be yourself

Authenticity is key – don’t just make it re-tweets of your organisational content. Being proud of your organisation and sharing content is important, but you also need to say what you think, be you and bring your voice to the conversation. People can clock a template tweet from a mile off – they’re not listening to you for that, they want to get a sense of the person behind the job title.

I use Twitter in a human, playful way – I do love a gif! – and that’s because I love to be a bit playful and have fun when I’m with people in person, so it makes sense to be myself on social media too. Not everyone loves a gif, but I am keen to share a sense of what I’m like as a person and not just a corporate face. Just as I take my ‘whole self’ to work, what you see on Twitter is pretty much what you get in person (although I try not to swear on Twitter and am not as good at that offline). By using Twitter in a way that feels like ‘me’, I’m able to bring my role and the organisation to life – ideally giving people a sense of what I think and feel, how passionate I am about Teenage Cancer Trust and what makes me tick.

I try to amplify positivity on social media whenever I can, cheering on other organisations and sector leaders when they’ve done work that’s inspired me. The more we amplify the great work and people across the sector the better it is for the vital work our organisations do.

Listen

Social media is all about conversation and dialogue, it shouldn’t be a one-way street. Being able to engage and acknowledge the incredible community of people who support, or are supported by, Teenage Cancer Trust provides an incredible opportunity for me to be connected to them. I listen to their views on what’s working for them, what’s not, and what they’d like from us in the future. I also take note of any recurring themes and share these insights within the organisation.

Know your audience

It’s so important to understand what the people who follow you engage with and like. I’ve written tweets that I thought would really engage and been greeted with tumbleweed – often they are the things I have thought about too much – so you need to experiment and give things a go. It means you can suss out where you – and your style - can add value on social as a CEO.

Your audience may come from many different walks of life, so it’s vital to draw on your own personal experience to meaningfully engage with all of your followers, not just your peers.

Curiosity is key

Follow people whose opinions can challenge your own and provide a different perspective. Avoid creating an echo chamber as much as you can. It’s good to be curious and helpful to get a holistic view of issues that interest you and are important to your organisation.

Know when to switch off

Know when to turn off. Social media is 24-7 but you don’t have to be. I have a long commute, so am really active on social then and do keep an eye on things over weekends – especially if there are events happening as it’s important for me to engage with supporters in real time, letting them know I am cheering them on virtually if not at an event in person. But likewise, I do delete the app from my phone when on holiday and let people know I’ll be quiet for a bit. It’s important to give yourself a break.

Kate Collins is the chief executive of Teenage Cancer Trust.



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