Are you leaving your Social Media output to chance?

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Proper planning will be worth the effort…

Among the many issues facing the voluntary sector is the need to improve capacity in digital skills. As such, getting your social media right is an important step in this direction. The problem is though, while many of us have accounts on networks like Facebook and Twitter, moving from private to organisational user is not so straightforward.

For smaller organisations in particular, using social media can be time consuming, and may not seem worth the effort. Certainly, social media for the sake of it is rather pointless.

So organisations should be thinking about why they want to use social media. Remember too that by social media we really mean social networking. So you need to be thinking in terms of engagement with other users, nurturing and cultivating your online community. A constant sales pitch from the outset simply will not work.

The sensible approach is to develop a social media strategy that aligns with your organisation’s wider goals. Think about how social media can help achieve these goals, and try to set realistic targets. For example, if you want to raise awareness of a particular issue, then say which one, by how much and on which social networks this will happen.

In developing your strategy, think too about your resources, including time, what training you should provide, and whether you need any outside help. Also, decide how you will monitor and evaluate success. Most importantly, consider your target audience or community: what is their profile, and what sort of issues are most likely to influence them?

Of course, the real value of social media for charities can be seen when used in specific campaigns like promoting events or fundraising. So at an operational level plan what issues or events you wish to promote, your desired target audience, what messages and what social networks you will use. To connect, your content should be of value. So ask yourself why people would want to engage with you. Think about what you want to be known for, what value to others does your social media content provide?

Think too about the nature of your content. It helps to tell a story, concisely, and with impact. Photos, short videos and eye-catching graphics can really help. Indeed, use of a strong image, cropped to add impact, can say more than many words.  Make sure your content includes a call to action; and that any links to websites do actually work. Remember, in a campaign you want to raise awareness, motivate, engage with your audience, and get them to act.

If you’ve run similar campaigns in the past then learn from them. What worked, what went wrong? Monitor user interactions to measure your success and inform future activities. Remember too, building a big following on social media takes time, and effective content needs engaged staff.

Indeed, planned and used properly, an organisation will benefit when everyone embraces social media, and when staff and volunteers become ambassadors for your organisation. It will need leadership, most likely some training, and of course effective guidelines in the shape of a social media policy. But when an organisation engages effectively on its social networks, it not only empowers its staff and volunteers, it raises the organisation’s profile and message.

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