Ten top tips for social media success

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1 Ten top tips for social media success 1. Conversation is king The key to how you should behave within a social environment is the word social. This means it is not a one-way street. It is not a place for the charity to just talk about or to itself, nor is it a platform for your audience to do all the talking. Don t be afraid to start conversations. Say you want input and feedback and ask open-ended questions. If you ask a question that can be answered with yes or no, then that s what you will get in return if you re lucky. Spark people s imaginations and always imagine you re in the shoes of the people you re having conversations with. Before you post, think of the last time that a brand or charity you followed onfacebook (or Twitter et al) appeared in your newsfeed. Did you take time out from interacting with your friends to respond? If not, why not? If yes, what was it about the message that prompted you? Consider the different opportunities that you have within the organisation to elicit feedback from your supporters and particularly to engage them in the decisionmaking processe 2. Become a user/consumer To really understand and get social media you have to become an active consumer of it. That means you should get to grips with Facebook by posting links on your wall, make a few tweets, find some blogs that interest you and start following them, leaving the odd comment where relevant and when it adds value to that blog and its audience. You can t expect to run effective and engaging social channels if you don t truly understand how each of the platforms works and how people interact differently on each of them. There are different rules and codes of etiquette depending on the environment, and the best way to wrap your head around these is to start using them. 3. Openness and honesty One of the biggest gripes with charity supporters is that they don t understand how a charity works. This applies to how and where the charity spends money, to the work it does and the day-to-day activities that keep the charity afloat. Social media is one of the most effective ways for you to make sure your charity is not one of those the end result of which is a more loyal and engaged supporter. And that should be the end goal with social media.

2 Being open and honest doesn t mean publishing the end-of-year financial report in full on your blog or tweeting the petty cash balance at the end of the day. It does, however, mean answering a direct question with a direct answer and openly offering information that you normally talk about. It means being authentic. Use it as an opportunity to get feedback and opinion on how your supporters feel you are doing. If you are running an event, ask for opinions on where it should be held or break down the costs and ask for innovative ways it can be reduced (for example, cheaper but yummy entrées or party entertainment). If you make a mistake, own it. Put your hands up, apologise if necessary and outline how you are going to do better in future. Don t blow it over, don t try to delete it and don t be defensive. Act honorably and humbly. 4. Be responsive Being responsive has two main elements: replying to comments and doing so in a timely manner. If someone writes on your page, tweets at or to you, or leaves a comment on your video or blog, then acknowledge that they took time out of their day to do so, and reply. It could be as simple as saying "thank you" or, depending on the individual circumstances, taking the opportunity to engage them in conversation and reply to what they said. Elicit another reply and, before you know it, you have a conversation. Don t leave comments to sit and lose momentum for days before replying. Act as soon as you become aware (the best conversations are those that take place in real time ). That doesn t mean you have to sit and refresh your browser continually, or make sure you are staying tuned to your page after hours or throughout the weekend, but it does mean you should keep an eye out. Example: facebook/ bill competition, apology This is particularly important if it is negative or has the potential to become negative. Taking too long to answer in such circumstances can infer that your reply has had to go through sign-off, which will instantly make it lose credibility and your audience will lose faith in you (the same goes if you aren t honest and open). It s hard to get back from that point. The last thing to say about being responsive is don t retweet or post blindly in your eagerness to acknowledge and/or engage with the original poster. First, make sure the content adheres by the requirements of the new ASA regulations.

3 5. Integration Just as you would ensure that your PR and marketing efforts are integrated so the same messaging is across each of your channels, do the same thing online and particularly with social media. If you are highlighting a particular cause or initiative in your advertising or with media, make sure you bring it to the forefront of your social media channels. You shouldn t drop everything else you talk about and do within that environment, but certainly make sure it gets a mention every so often. Consider changing your social appearance accordingly. Change yourfacebook page image to highlight the campaign and help keep things fresh. Change your Twitter or YouTube background and reskin your blog. Crucially, integration also refers to how your website talks to and interacts with your social channels, and how they interact and link with each other. Your supporters should be able to navigate to each of your digital touch points quickly and easily without resorting to a search engine. With Twitter, definitely look to highlight your other social channels on the background, and perhaps consider having this designed by someone who understands the size restrictions of the Twitter interface and can make the best use of this space for you. It s important to say that social media should be part of the overall brand and media strategy and shouldn t operate in a silo. 6. Create interesting content To get it out straight out of the way, I m going to highlight the ASA regulations. Make sure any content you create or reproduce stays well clear of the regulations and its grey areas. Content isn t just images, it also includes video, audio and written content. Don t have too much of one to the exclusion of the rest. Ensure it is a balanced mix to keep your audience interested and the content fresh. Challenge yourself to think of new content opportunities, and as mentioned previously get your audience involved. What about publishing two versions of your next newsletter cover and ask them to vote on their favourite, tweet along with a conference you re running, or even ask your supporters to send or upload their own content to share. Think about things that happen offline and how you can translate that into interesting online content. Try to do things in as real-time as possible, but be mindful not to drown people s channels.

4 7. Be flexibile Don t be regimented in how you approach social media. It is a fluid, changing and dynamic environment and will require a similar approach from you in order to make the most of what it has to offer. Be flexible when you make updates, particularly on Twitter and Facebook. Work out when your key influencers and supporters are online and engaged with those channels. It might be that the best time for you to updatefacebook is at 9.30am after the morning meeting, or at 5pm just before you head home. That s not going to be very effective if the bulk of your followers are checking their updates during their lunch break. That means by the time they see your post it s not only hours old, but it has most likely also been drowned out of the first page by updates from their friends. Also, be adaptable to using new technology that will increase your engagement levels or even make your job easier. Be open to new social platforms that become available, but don t just jump in without really consider whether you can service them effectively. And also consider how they can open your charity up to a wider supporter base. 8. Measure and monitor It almost goes without saying that you should have web analytics running across every page of your website and your blog too if you have one. If you don t have web analytics yet, then look to things such as Google Analytics which offers really robust and intelligent reporting for free. Don t forget that Facebook offers Insights, which can tell you more about the type of people that engage with your page, what part of the country and the world they come from, their age and location and also what type of content they prefer and what days and times they most like to see that content. For things such as Twitter, which doesn t have an inbuilt reporting system, look to short URL platforms such as bit.ly or sn.im that will measure the clickthroughs of URLs you post, and can also capture data on who has gone on to share that link with their own followers. Don t become a slave to reporting though. You can spend more time analysing data and trying to come to conclusions that may not even necessarily have any profound impact, that you become less engaged with your audience. Work out what is important for you and this can be different depending upon the organisation and its objectives to measure, and get good at measuring that.

5 Look to free online news alerts, such as Google Alerts to let you know when your charity name or keywords that are relevant to you and your audience appear on the web. When you are alerted to a potential opportunity to engage with a blogger or online news site then take it. The alerts are only as useful as what you do with the information you get from them. 9. Consistency Consistency applies to many areas of social media. Put together a style guide for internal use and make sure that everyone that may interact in the charity s social channels are using the same tone of voice and style. Outline the type of language with sample sentences that you would use, and also ones you wouldn t. Post regularly. Update often. That doesn t mean every day or multiple times every day unless its relevant and appropriate to do so, such as during a campaign or heightened activity. It s a rare organisation that most people will be happy to hear from everysingle day. Don t be obsessed with posting daily to the point that you are blinkered to what your audience actually want from you. Also, this will become more clear when you become an active social media consumer, posting more often is more acceptable on certain channels than others. If you re not sure how often your audience wants to hear from you, ask them and make sure you listen to what they say. An important point with regards to consistency, is to be consistent with your social identity. Try, as much as possible to have the same username across your social channels. It not only looks more professional and thoughtful, but it also makes it easier for your audience to find you on other channels and to remember your social identity. 10. Get buy-in To really become a transparent organisation, one whose supporters are actively engaged and aware of what the charity does and the difference it makes, then it will require buy-in throughout the charity. This is obviously not as difficult a task for smaller charities as it is for the bigger ones with more hierarchal structures where different departments will have their own expectations and requirements. A social media policy that outlines the overall objectives of the charity here is going to be worth its weight. With credit to Rachel Hawkes, social media/online consultant

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