From failing to understand an audience, to considering social media as an afterthought, charities are still making common mistakes in their digital marketing
Digital marketing is at the heart of charities’ promotion, from social media and email engagement to website content.
But charity marketers don’t always use these online tools effectively to tell their story and promote their causes.
Here we look at some of the common marketing mistakes that are being made by charities and how they can be avoided. This includes identifying the array of tools and resources available to help the sector.
Digital marketing such as social media posts and advertising involves telling a story. This consists of using engaging content, often personal accounts from beneficiaries and staff, to prove the value of a charity’s worth to potential supporters.
But each social media platform is different and too often charities make the mistake of not understanding their different audiences.
A good example is how LinkedIn is used by charities. This platform’s audience is highly engaged and professionally focused. They are interested in content that can support them in their work, job opportunities and link up with charities through fundraising efforts. A common mistake is to treat this audience the same as other platforms, such as Twitter or Instagram, where often a more personal and more visual form of content is more appealing.
Taking time to understand platforms’ different audiences is vital to avoiding this mistake.
There are a raft of online survey tools available to help charities improve their marketing and communications through a better understanding of their audience. Among online survey, tools is Survey Monkey, which has free and paid-for plans for charities. Charities to use this tool include London’s Air Ambulance. Another useful resource is Smart Survey, which offers a not-for-profit discount.
Planning is key to digital marketing. But it is too often ignored by charities eager to promote their latest fundraising push online as quickly as possible. This is understandable, as often charity’s beneficiaries require swift support, in particular amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charities can easily rectify this by planning issues around a marketing campaign, such as what tone of voice they will have and how will they be able to respond to people. This ensures charities are talking with their audience, not at them.
Planning can also help get into the finer details of digital marketing, such as the best hashtags to use and keywords for search engine optimisation.
Good planning involves a system of simple checks and balances. This includes making sure a charity’s website is up to date and gives potential donors peace of mind that it is secure. A platform such as Skurio can help provide charities with greater peace of mind through an additional layer of security.
Social media is often seen as an afterthought by smaller charities. An exciting piece of content can be posted on a website but then promoted on social media hours or days later. Social media needs to be an integral part of charities’ wider communications plan.
This is where utilising a social media management platform can help. One example is Lightful, which works with charities such as London’s Air Ambulance and Guy’s St. Thomas to deal with their social media posts, including scheduling, access rights and tone. In addition, it offers evaluation data to help charities see where their digital marketing can improve.
Keeping on top of the latest digital marketing trends is important for charities looking to maximise their impact online. But not every charity will be able to jump on every trend. Some may not be appropriate for a particular cause. Smaller charities may not have the expertise, income or capacity to utilise the next big thing.
For example, artificial intelligence is increasingly important to helping charities be more efficient in their service delivery, marketing and fundraising. 2020 was looking like a great year to invest in machine learning, but then COVID-19 struck and some charities are instead diverting resources into safeguarding their long-term future and supporting pandemic affected communities.
Inclusive marketing is about reflecting the diversity of people with engaging content. It focuses on amplifying diverse voices from all backgrounds. It ensures that no one is being left out based on gender, ethnicity and other demographics such as social-economic status.
By making the mistake of ignoring inclusivity charities are missing out on a huge audience of potential supporters and donors.
Widely derided ‘white saviour’ tropes are also being used in non-inclusive marketing, which can harm a charity’s reputation.
One of the most high profile cases of this mistake this year was when Médecins Sans Frontières broadcast a fundraising video despite warnings from staff that it was exploitative and reinforced ‘white saviour’ stereotypes.
There is no excuse not to be inclusive in digital marketing and there is a wide range of resources available to help charities address issues such as unconscious bias. This includes content provided by the campaign group #CharitySoWhite and training, analysis and consultancy provided by the EW Group.