Social media trends charities need to be aware of in 2023

Charities are used to the evolving nature of social media, as the public’s tastes change and major platforms innovate.

In the case of Twitter, a change of ownership is another issue to consider, with billionaire Elon Musk taking charge at the end of 2022, forcing radical changes of policy for the platform, particularly around harmful content.

The next 12 months look to be a challenging time for charities as they look to ensure their fundraising and other promotion is making the most impact on social media.

Here we look at some of the key trends for charities to be aware of in 2023 as they develop their social media strategies and campaigning.

Twitter remains relevant…for now

Twitter has been a staple platform for charities to promote and campaign for several years, enabling them to reach its significant UK audience of more than 18m users.

But concerns have been raised among users and the organisations that use it after Musk completed his £39.5bn buyout of the platform in October last year.

Concerns focus on online safety of users and the threat of toxic posters, who can often target charities and their leaders.

Changes include Twitter blocking links to other social media sites and hampering its reach for charities.

In addition Musk has overseen the axing of the platform’s Trust and Safety Council. This was made up of academics and civil rights experts to advice Twitter on the safety of its programs.

Charities reliant on Twitter in their social media strategies are urged to consider planning to use alternative platforms in case Musk platform becomes too problematic for charities to use.

This may see charities focus on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook instead.

While not as user friendly, the Mastodon platform has also attracted a number of former Twitter users following Musk’s takeover. Shortly after the change of ownership at Twitter, Mastodon grew eight times, from 300,000 users to 2.5m by November.

For those looking to leave Twitter, Digital Charity Lab has produced a guide on how charities can back up their data including downloading a list of followers.

"It’s not alarmist to say that we could lose this platform, and that it’s all pretty huge," says Digital Charity Lab.

"Twitter has been around for 16 years and it’s hard to even think about quantifying the relationships, the traffic, the conversations and the data that our sector has built up there over the years."

Video content will continue to dominate

Video content is set continue to be the most engaging way to communicate with supporters, with short video platforms such as TikTok dominating growth in the social media market.

The number of TikTok users in the UK is set to reach 16.8m users in the UK by 2024, according to latest estimates.

Among the most successful charities at using video via TikTok to engage and recruit supporters is the RNLI. It launched content on the platform last July and become the second biggest charity on TikTok within days through its highly visual and engaging content involving its lifeboat crews. It now has more than 165,000 followers with its content liked 1.5m times.

@rnli We’re always happy when we’re joined by our dolphin friends 🐬 #Dolphin #Dolphins #LifeboatCrew #BoatLife #RNLI #RNLIFamily ♬ original sound - Lily

Social media expert Alex Payne, who is co-founder of marketing consultancy and a Sky Sports host, says that “a big part of the reason these platforms are able to attract so many content creators is the fact that they offer more organic exposure to these creators than traditional methods, such as posting photos on Instagram”.

Smaller influencers add more authenticity...

Instead of engaging with major celebrities for campaigns, Payne says smaller influencers will be more successful for brands in 2023.

These influencers may not have millions of followers but they “are more engaged and connected with their followers” as they have time to engage and follow up messages they receive.

Smaller influencers also offer authenticity to campaigns, as they are seen as being more likely to genuinely support a cause or promote a service. While larger content creators may be seen as disingenuous, promoting “just for money”, says Payne.

This sense of authenticity is particularly prevalent among Generation Z. According to Room Unlocked research 47% of young adults say they cannot relate to or identify with influencers where there are concerns around authenticity.

“Genuine and unfiltered content will continue reshaping the internet and the way we consume social media,” says Payne.

…as do service users and staff

A recent drive towards user generated content looks set to continue into 2023, as charities look to ensure their social media content continues to be authentic and offers a more personal view of their work.

The views of staff, volunteers and service users, who see charities frontline work each day, gives content a compelling, emotional narrative.

User generated content already successfully adopted includes social media takeovers, where charities’ and their CEO’s accounts are curated by service users and frontline staff.

Video diaries are another popular use of user generated content. This has been used particularly effectively by BBC Children in Need.

Case study interviews in blogs and on video are other powerful forms of user generated content for charities to consider in 2023.

Research published by the Institute of Sustainable Philanthropy in November 2022 urged charities to ensure they better understand donors’ personal connection to good causes.

This improves understanding of donors’ motivation to give and improves retention rates to ensure they continue giving long term the research found.

Charities in 2023 need to consider ways to foster this relationship on social media through user generated content to make supporters feel even more involved in the charity’s fundraising and promotion.

A good example of this focus on personal connections is Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life. In 2022 this focused on the strapline “who will you race for” to focus social media content on the personal connection donors have with the charity.

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