Why charities cannot dismiss social media as a means of communication

Charities are seeing a downward shift in the level of success they gain from using traditional communication methods (mail, email, press & TV) to achieve fundraising, marketing and campaign objectives

This is likely to continue as people increasingly spend more time online searching for valuable information and resources.  Online communities, groups and forums are becoming indispensible as a key part of people’s everyday lives. 

Engage, communicate and build relationships

Social Media allows charities & third sector organisations to engage with their communities in a place where they already feel comfortable, in a place where they already share information and talk to each other.  One benefit that Social Media has over traditional marketing methods is that interaction with your community is in “real-time”, you are able to talk to and build a relationship at the point when the person most needs your help.  Social media provides a platform for you to reach out to these people who need your support.

Be personable, be different and stand out from the crowd BUT don’t sell!

If you use social media platforms as a means of selling (pushing/products) your efforts will be ignored by your community and often frowned upon, you will receive no comments to your posts and your content will not be shared.

It’s important to remember that you are not looking for a ROI from using Twitter or Facebook but you should be looking for a ROE (return on engagement), getting closer to your communities.  ROI may happen in time but should not be a priority.

Remember, you should be talking to your communities in easy speak (non-technical) as a real person, users of social platforms do not want to be sold to.  You should be aiming to engage, build relationships and gain trust. 
Social media is easier, quicker and less formal than all other communication channels.  Everyone can see how you interact with your service users, they will form their own opinions and talk between themselves (about you).  It’s important to remember that comments/conversations can be negative and not always positive but managed in the correct way will benefit your charity.

I have learned that engaging with criticisms online and in social media earns respect – often from the person who makes the negative comments as well as others.  In fact, it is often our greatest critics who become our greatest advocates – once we have genuinely and honestly engaged with them. And if we can encourage our staff to engage constructively (and with some humility) those charities concerned about the reputational risk of engaging with social media will reap the benefits of engaging with a wider audience.

How Social Media and Google work hand in hand

Tweets, blog posts and YouTube clips get referenced in Google. Without realising it you could be driving targeted traffic to your website, blog, twitter, Facebook or YouTube accounts. Write as a real person, be sensitive to the needs of your community and you may be surprised at the rewards. Without knowing it your messages, conversations and posts will contain key-words that  your community will ultimately search for.

Can charities & third sector organisations afford NOT to have a Social Media presence?

I think Charities & Third Sector organisations have a simple choice to make, proactively engage with your service users through open dialogue (tweets, comments, likes etc) OR sit back, ignore social media and pretend communities aren’t speaking and sharing information about your charity.

Related blog posts:

Social media and charities – taking the risk

Digital Service Delivery For Charities | YouTube Interview

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Case Study

Case Study: Grocery Aid

1.1.          Grocery Aid

1.1.1.      About our customer

Grocery Aid, the trading name of the National Grocers' Benevolent Fund, is the charity for the grocery industry. Grocery Aid helps people all over the UK who have worked, or are working, in the grocery industry and have now found that they need some extra support to get by. The help that Grocery Aid provides can make a very real difference and it provides not only monetary support, but also appliances and everyday items that many take for granted.

1.1.2.      The service we provide

The helpline was a new service for Grocery Aid. We set about improving the reach of their valuable service and sought to reach out to the people needing the help and support that they provide. In early 2010, Connect Assist successfully helped Grocery Aid launch their first helpline via our 24/7 Contact Centre. Today we offer multi-channel solutions via phone, e-mail, knowledgebase, ask a question and live chat.   The multi-channel helpline provides information and support to people and business owners working in the trade – from large supermarkets to corner shops. This includes an innovative ‘incident support’ service following attacks, arson and other incidents that are prevalent within the industry.


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