Are you harnessing the power of social media?

Social media is a powerful, great value marketing tool that many charities are using to drive brand awareness and donations and to promote events – but it isn’t a magic bullet. You can invest a lot of time and energy on the wrong platform, talking to the wrong audience and giving out the wrong message.

So, how can you ensure you get an R.O.I for all your social media efforts? Firstly, always be clear on your objectives and set out a clear strategy with measurable outcomes so you know when you have delivered or reached the finishing line. Whether you are looking to generate website traffic, fill seats at a fundraiser, get corporate sponsors or recruit volunteers, you need to set realistic targets, with deadlines, to ensure you are delivering the right results, consistently.

Know your audience

Always clarify your target audience. What is their demographic? Are they parents, business people, club members? Which social media platforms are they using? Why and when? If you need to reach young people you might find that Instagram delivers the best impact, equally Twitter can make an efficient way of, reaching local businesses, thought leaders, bloggers and journalists. So make sure you know who you’re aiming for.

Ensure you create, and agree with your internal stake-holders, a consistent tone of voice for your copy or words. Whether it is cheeky, challenging, professional or corporate – you are building a brand presence and every post needs to reflect your core brand values. Be very cautious about being overtly political or religious unless you have agreement from the management team that this is right for your charity.

Consider creating a social media content plan, to scope out your messaging across the next quarter, or even the full year. What festivals, sporting events, hashtags or international days can you use to drive engagement? Take for example #CharityTuesday or #Mentalhealthawareness. By using hashtags, you can increase your brand reach, get more followers and drive more engagement.

Preparation is the key to success

By being organised, you can increase your efficiency and maximise your focus. The more experienced charities like HomeStart Herts carefully plan its content and use scheduling tools like Are you using lists to manage your Twitter news feeds to ensure you don’t miss out on great content, or the chance to comment, like or share? Successful social media managers always ensure their content is useful, informative, topical and entertaining.

Take for example the Ice Bucket Challenge. No one could have predicted the global success of such a silly campaign idea – one that even got President Barack Obama involved. Once people engage with your posts, you can start a conversation to create traction. Importantly, always be human, friendly and bring some personality to your posts so people remain interested and don’t choose to unfollow you.

It’s vital to ensure you are consistent on social media, regularly posting updates, sharing other users’ content and liking updates so your audience see the value in engaging with you. Add eye-catching photos or illustrations with your posts, after all, a picture speaks a thousand words. Don’t forget to feature your charity logo or website URL and ideally, a “call to action”. is a great design tool if you have no budget for a graphic designer.

Try to use video to humanise your business and showcase your events or introduce your team. Additionally, interviews are a great way to let your trustees share their vision and values. To seriously boost your brand awareness, there are plenty of opportunities to boost your post impressions by creating highly targeted ad campaigns or promoting your posts through paid-for ads.

You can even re-market to loyal fans or previous website visitors to increase brand awareness and conversion (conversions could be obtaining donations, newsletter sign-ups, volunteers etc.). If you work for a smaller charity with limited time and budget, you should not be afraid to recycle content by tweaking messaging or re-using the same content later in the year – just don’t overwhelm your followers with the same types of posts across all platforms over and over again.

Don’t assume that just because you have a very small team or are a start-up charity that social media is not the right tool for you. By harnessing the power of Twitter, a new mental health charity, The OLLIE Foundation, was able to raise its annual fundraising target in five months and generated inbound calls to ask for the founder to be featured on national TV & Radio.

Measuring results

Social media can take up a lot of time that could be better spent in other areas of your charity. To ensure you are investing your time wisely, use analytical tools to evaluate your efforts. Do more of what works and ensure you increase engagement, drive web traffic and donations. The following are just a few ways you can measure results:

• Track audience growth through the number of likes and followers.
• Analyse audience demographics by monitoring the gender and location of your followers.
• Monitor visibility or impressions by the time and post type.
• Evaluate engagement, shares, re-tweets.
• Use Google analytics to understand impact of website visits.

Charities can get great insight and inspiration by monitoring their competition and testing and trying out new creative ideas and technology e.g. GIFs or Facebook Live. Save The Children was an early adopter of live video to deliver a human connection through storytelling and has since seen impressive results in terms of building a tribe of highly engaged charity advocates.

Each ‘like’ and share your post gets is expanding your reach and generating social proof to friends and family that yours is a trustworthy charity that delivers positive outcomes. Your direct social media followers or community is effectively doing your marketing for you. Don’t be afraid to stop – social media is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your efforts may be better invested elsewhere.

Jo Bayne is a marketing mentor and the founder of Sweet Charity, which provides marketing support to the not-for-profit sector.

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