Social media is the term used to describe web-based and mobile based technologies which are used to create two-way communications among organisations, communities, and individuals. There are many types of social media, from multimedia sharing such as ‘You Tube’ to blogs and social networks.
Why use social media
Social media is a very powerful communication platform that can be used to:
Raise awareness about your group
Grow your member/supporter base
Help with fundraising
Attract new volunteers
Generate more traffic for your website
Social media is most effective when it is used to engage and interact with your members/supporters as part of your group’s communications and promotion strategy.
Choosing the right social media
Deciding which social media platform to use will depend on who you are targeting, what you want to achieve and the resources you have to manage it.
You can use multiple social media platforms. However this will depend on your resources. It is better to manage one platform well than several in effectively. The platform needs to be relevant to your audience, used by your network and accessible to your group.
Examples of different social media platforms:
Blogs are generally used for posing regular articles and information; they can be part of a website or a blogging service. Most are interactive and visitors are able to leave comments.
Social networks allow groups to create a profile and engage with other groups/ individuals through the posting of, and commenting on, short articles, events and multimedia.
Multimedia sharing websites are used for the storage, sharing, and sometimes creation of audio, images/photos, and video. These are often linked to other social media platforms
Forums tend to be a section on a website where people to ask questions and hold discussions
Before you commit to using a social media platform, check if people already discussing your group online and what platform they are using.
Before you commit to using any social media platform you need to understand:
What different social media platforms are used for
Which platforms your members/supporters use
How often they use them and what they use them for
Your resources - how much time can be dedicated to social media management? Is there any equipment requirements? What other online services do you already offer?
Successful social media
Social media is most effective when it is integrated into a wider communications strategy, with procedures/guidelines that define:
The aim of your social media
Who your audience are
How do you intend to engage with that audience
What tone will you adopt
How often you plan to post updates
How you will promote your social media
The aim of your social media
Having clearly defined goals and outcomes will help you target and engage with your social media audience.
What kind of online relationship you want to have with people (formal, informal)
What will your social media be used for (advertising events, gauging of options, fundraising, providing service information)
How much time you will dedicate to managing and updating your social media
How you will monitor its value (statistical data such as ‘number of follows’, subjective feedback from surveys)
Who are your target audience?
Understanding who your target audience are will help you define the tone and content of your social media, as well as the different ways to engage with them.
Demographics such as location (are they in your immediate area or national), age group, gender
Llifestyle attributes such as hobbies/recreational activities and cultural backgrounds
What is important to them
It is most likely that your target audience will be related to yours client base and your groups aims and purpose. You may also want to target specific audiences such as new volunteers.
How to engage with your audience
Engaging with your audience is a two way street. People will respond more to updates that they can interact with:
Ask and answer questions. Questions are more likely to engage interaction than informative updates. Ask questions that relate to your content or service to obtain feedback. Ask open questions that will spark conversations. But remember, if you ask questions make sure you are ready for comments and are able to reply
Create competitions that include participation. This could be as simple as a caption competition
Enable/invite comments to initiate conversations
Tone of your content
Social media is all about conversations. You should talk with your audience not to or at them. Try to speak in the first person to engage with your audience, and keep your language simple and flowing. Ensure the tone you adopt reflects the content or your article - be it serious, witty or informative.
Content is the most powerful tool of your social media. You need to make it interesting, relevant and something your audience will want to share and comment on. Nobody cares about what the traffic on the way to work is like, but they are interested in your group and what you are doing.
Use images and videos to make your social media more exciting. People will engage with an image or video rather than text. They are also more likely to comment on and share an image or video
Keep your posts relativity short. If something requires a longer article, consider putting it on your main website as news and linking to it from your social media
If using images, try to include text in the image that relates to the content such as dates for an event
Create content that is exclusive to your social media to encourage your audience to use it, such as ‘volunteer of the week’
Consider showing your audience ‘what happens behind the scenes’ of your group or event to make it more personal
Frequency of updates
Social media needs to be updated on a regular basis, as people will soon forget about your group if you are not visible. You need to make sure that you have the time and resources to devote to it and, if possible, create a schedule for updating and have a stock of articles/posts you can use.
Promoting social media
Publicising your social media presence is critical to ensure your potential audience can find you.
Include links to your social media sites in your:website content and news
newsletters and bulletins
articles and press releases
Answer questions and post comments on other group’s social media to promote your presence and to engage with people that might not know about you
Network with other social media platforms
Include the address of your social media on printed leaflets and documents