There is increasingly a push for every organisations, including those in the voluntary sector, to ‘be on’ social media. But how charities update and engage on a Twitter feed or shoot and distribute a video with only limited resources: be that a lack of funds or staff time?
Knowing how to use social media properly is difficult enough for large organisations who can afford to hire specialist staff or bring in external agencies. I’ve jotted down some thoughts on what charities should bear in mind when they consider using these platform:
1. Don’t rush in – you might not need it
Despite the feeling that the world is running in one direction towards social media, that doesn’t mean you should just sign up to Twitter and Facebook. It might not be right for your organisation. Rather than sitting down and asking ‘how can we use social media’ – first ask why. Audiences for charities come in all shapes and sizes and social media – indeed, even a website – might not be the best way of reaching them. Maybe it’s printed newsletters or public meetings.
So see social media in the context of a whole communications strategy: they are essentially just extra tools for engaging a membership or target audiences.
2. Don’t pay for it
One of the most appealing elements of social media is the lack of costs. Of all the social networks I use, only one – Flickr – costs me anything and that’s a minimal annual subscription. Subsequently, charities should avoid paying for expensive consultancy services or social media monitoring services (unless they can actually afford it – I’m not dismissing these organisations by any means but they are a luxury rather than a necessity). With a bit of knowledge it’s easy to do this in-house, with the added bonus of your staff knowing more about your stakeholders and culture.
3. Video and podcasts can be simple
When producing a podcast or a video, fancy equipment isn’t needed. A smartphone - admittedly, one probably owned by a staff member – is enough, alongside software download online for free, such as Audacity. Alternatively, just keep using the free trails of different, paid-for, software.
Podcasts and videos distributed online don’t need to look like a BBC broadcast or a Kony 2012 film. In fact a rough and ready, shaky film can work well with audiences. The right content is just, if not more, important than the quality of the digital media.
4. Use your members
Even if a charity has only a few members of staff it has another massive resource at it’s disposal: it’s members. It obviously depends on the precise area you are working in, but members could be blogging, taking photos, even making videos about your work or a relevant topic. Rather than being the author of content, charities can establish a system where they become the aggregator, editor and promoter of the work of others.
5. Use who you already have
I think one of the reasons behind successful social media feeds (I’ll explore this on a future post referring to HE) are down to a dedicated individual who runs Twitter, Facebook or a blog for their organisation. It might not even have been their intention or in a job description. If you have someone like this, use their skills and enthusiasm but don’t leave it all to them. They can train other staff.
This isn’t a comprehensive list which answers all the questions. But the resources available from the Media Trust offer much more detailed and innovative ideas than a brief blog post can.