Social media champions will help your online community grow


Social media is changing how we reach out to people. In the last general election both the Conservative party and Labour used targeted social media advertising extensively to reach potential supporters. In the US, social media, and sadly, the spread of fake news stories, is said to have helped secure Donald Trump’s election. Truth or lies, like it or not, digital campaigning has arrived with a bang.

The point I’m trying to make is that social media campaigning can make a difference.

But like others, the third sector has seen a patchy conversion to online campaigning. Some of the more well-known charities such as Parkinsons UK , WWF, National Trust, NSPCC and others, have seen successful social media campaigns, but many VCSE organisations are still playing catch-up. Indeed, the recent House of Lords Select Committee report, Stronger Charities for a Stronger Society said that some charities risk “organisational stagnation and decay” by not embracing use of digital technology including social media.

Of course, for small VCSE organisations, a key barrier is resources. The time to plan, organise and run online campaigns has to compete against all the other important demands made on perhaps, just the one or two staff that the organisation may employ.

Yet by not taking to social media, such organisations can miss out on opportunities to talk to their supporters, raise awareness, share ideas, engage with others and raise funds. But if resources are tight, how can a small VCSE organisation develop an online community through social media?

One answer is to build a network of social media champions. Supporters who will share your message, inspire and motivate others.

Clearly this needs some planning and organising to get things up and running; and it will need some resources (e.g. for training) if you are to succeed. But once your network of champions is operational, things should quickly settle down.

So where should you start?

Perhaps the first champions should come from your existing staff and active volunteers. Seek out willing helpers, and ask for their ideas. Many of us use social media, so finding staff and volunteers should not be difficult. You can then encourage other supporters to come forwards and widen the network.

Begin by deciding your social media goals. What is it you want to achieve; and therefore, who are your target audiences (as there may be more than one).

Then look at what messages you want to send; which influencers’ content that you will share; and which platforms you will use. If resources, including time, are short, then Twitter and Facebook may be plenty to handle. But think about the demographics of your target audiences, what motivates them, and what is important to them. Try to choose your content and platform appropriately (policy-makers for example, are unlikely to be daily Snapchat users).

Don’t spend all the time broadcasting your own news. Experts suggest this should be just 20% of your social media output. Essentially, you want to offer value, so that more people engage with and share your content. If you can tell personal stories, preferably in pictures or video, then do so.

To help your champions stay on message, you will also need a short social media policy; and some content guidelines. This way you should avoid any possible problems with inappropriate content.

This may look like a lot of effort for perhaps little return. But once you are underway, your champions will help your online community grow. And as you extend your reach, your brand and message will spread; and more importantly, so too will your opportunities to make a difference.

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