Steps for creating a charity social media strategy

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“What’s Twitter?”
“I don’t know, but Stephen Fry is its king apparently.”
“I heard everyone just posts really boring things about what they had for breakfast”
“Sounds cool; let’s join!”

People don’t tend to get as excited by social media as they used to, but it’s changed societal behaviour such that we now all expect charities (and businesses) to have at least some social media presence.

Alas, for your charity to benefit from it, you still can’t just set up a few social media pages without a clear strategy. Instead, you really need to work out at least the following before going in:

  1. Time: How much time can you realistically commit to social media?
  2. Platforms: Which social media sites are best suited for your organisation to use?
  3. Content: What are the best things to communicate to followers through your charity’s social media sites?
  4. Goals: What goals should you set to establish to make sure you’re getting a return on your time?

To get to a point where you know all of that, we’ve written a step-by-step guide to creating a social media strategy that works for your organisation. Enjoy!

1. Clarify your goals

What are you actually trying to achieve by using social media? Write down the main three things that you’d most like to be able to do.

This could include: closer communication with supporters or beneficiaries, raising more money, widening your audience, reaching out to potential patrons, establishing trust in your organisation, etc.

2. Work out who your audience is

By setting your goals, you might already know that you want to reach more supporters, but not beneficiaries. If that’s the case, try to pin down your average supporter’s socio-economic background.

It might seem like a superficial thing to do, but actually it’s really good practice for working out the kinds of things you should post and the type of messaging you should use. Try to be as specific as possible – think about their age, location, economic background, what they likely think of your charity and what you’d like them to think about it.

If you want to reach beneficiaries through social media too, there’s a good chance they have a different background to your supporters. If so, do the same exercise for them (if you haven’t already).
Finding people

3. Work out where your audience is

There’s no easier way to waste time and effort than by posting to a social media site that isn’t used by the people you want to reach. Thankfully, by following these tips, that won’t apply to you!

Now you’ve worked what your audience looks like, this article from SproutSocial is a good starting point to check out (I’m afraid it’s American, but it is still relevant for the UK).

It’s also a good idea to use each social media site’s search function to look up your words and phrases related to your cause to see what kinds of conversations are going on on each platform. Is there more chatter on one platform than another? That’ll give you a good indication of what platforms you should consider using most.

4. Look at how other orgs are using social media

This is another good way to work out where your audience spend their time.

Aside from that, look at how frequently similar charities post, how big their audience is on each platform and what engagement they see on posts.

Try and take a really frank look at each organisation’s strengths and weaknesses using each platform. That might seem difficult if you’re new to the site yourself, but you can roughly gauge it by comparing the levels of engagement their posts achieve compared to the others on your list.

5. Think about you own strengths

Are you particularly knowledgeable on a specific topic? Is there someone in the organisation that’s particularly good at photography or writing or likes shooting videos? What sets you apart from other organisations? How can you best get that across?

6. Think about your limitations

Realistically, how much time do you have to spend on social media? If the answer is ‘not much’, you might want to focus your time on just one or two key platforms.

How likely are other people in the organisation to discuss your charity on social media? If the answer is ‘not very’, how can you change that? Could you insist that volunteers or staff at least try?

How regularly would you be able to post and how proactively can you monitor social media? If you can’t do either regularly, can you source a volunteer or do you need to adjust your goals?

7. Work out which platform is the best-suited to achieve your goals

Once you know who you’re trying to reach, what platforms those people use and how much time you can give, you should have a decent idea of which social media sites you should aim to be active on.

Take a look at those sites and consider roughly how much time you’ll need to spend per week on each to meet your original goals. For example, you might consider that maintaining an active presence on Facebook would take less time than an active on Twitter, or that rather than having a presence on five sites, you limit yourself to four.

8. Develop a content strategy

Now that you’ve picked your platform(s), it’s time to set out how to operate going forwards.

You’ll want to establish:

  • what types of content you intend to post (think again about your audience and the sorts of thing they’ll want to see)
  • how often you’ll post
  • who will create the content, and
  • how you’re going to promote it (do you want to spend on advertising, can you utilise your networks, do you want to send messages to bloggers, etc.).

Whatever you decide, you should develop a consistent voice for your organisation. That’s really easy if one person owns all of the accounts, but if you have multiple people publishing on your charity’s behalf, you should set some guidelines for the tone of voice you want to portray for your organisation.

9. Set success metrics

Think back to your goals and establish what success looks like on each platform. For example, if you’re looking to increase your organisation’s reach, then using number of followers as your metric might be a good idea.

Try and set out what you’d consider success would look like after one/three/six/nine/twelve months? That’s a good practice to get into because it’ll help to focus your efforts as time goes by. (Bear in mind that online communities are very rarely built in a day.)

10. Work out the easiest way to analyse and maintain your performance

Especially if you have limited time to give, you’ll want an easy way to monitor your success. If you’re only using a couple of platforms, it might be easy enough to just use the data collected by the platform itself, for example the Insights page on Facebook.

If you have a few, you might want to consider using a free platform like Buffer that you can use to schedule posts and centralise your social media dashboard. Other tools, like Hootsuite, are good for easily tracking your progress on Twitter specifically.

11. Start building a following

By this stage, you should really be ready to take the plunge!

Get as many people in the organisation as you can to like your page and share it with their friends. Follow people who are already using the sites who are similar to you. Send an email to your current supporters, volunteers etc. to let them know you’re on a platform and ask them to follow you.

Reach out to people who are already using a particular social media site, to see if they’ll promote your charity’s social media account to their own followers. A really good way of doing that for Twitter is using something like Keyhole or MentionMapp for hashtags, which let you see who the most active influencers are.

Then all that’s left is to start posting stuff.

12. Measure your failures/successes and evolve your content

This is the never-ending step. Constantly measure your newest posts against your other posts. The good news is that it’s incredibly easy to see how successful your posts are by looking at how much likes, shares, favourites or upvotes they’ve received.

Does one certain type of post meet with more engagement than most others? If so, post more of that. Does a certain tone of voice meet with less engagement? If so, avoid that. Most social media platforms let you export engagement data into Excel – if you map your posts by day of the week or time of day, can you see a trend? It might just make a difference!

13. Measure your performance against your goals and adapt if necessary

Every few months, you should reflect on how your social media platforms are performing against your original goals. If they’re underperforming, work out why. Was your original goal overambitious or was a previous assumption wrong? If you’re spectacularly underperforming, would your time be better spent elsewhere or do you just need to take more care with the content your producing to make sure your audience really wants it?
Google Analytics

14. Never stop trying new things

Successful charities on social media might try a hundred different ways to create viral content, of which 99 fail. That doesn’t matter at all because people only notice the one that makes it, not the ones that flop. So don’t be afraid to try new things, especially if what you’ve been doing isn’t working.

Just make sure that you look at the data for everything you do, whether that’s the social media section of ‘Acquisition’ in Google Analytics (that’s a key area, which shows how many people are going directly to your site from where) or through a social media tool or even just an Excel spreadsheet.



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