How charities can build stronger relationships using social media

By Patrick Nash

This week, I suggest the ways in which social media sites, including Twitter, can enhance your image and reputation and promote strong relationships with supporters and employees alike.

Social media, including Facebook and the ever-booming Twitter, provide efficient platforms for your voice, for free. With over 500 million users and ‘tweets’ comprising of just 140 characters, Twitter offers short snippets of key information to a potentially unlimited number of followers. This can be a key tool to engage with prospective volunteers, donors and supporters, and employees too.

How can Twitter create the right image for you?

By tweeting regularly, you can create and maintain a positive brand image. Links to campaigns, fundraising ideas and results from successful events all go towards building up a reputation that others will wish to support and employees keen to uphold.

By showing that you are moving with society in terms of popular media choices, you can promote a modern, innovative and fresh profile.

For example, the National Trust’s latest campaign, ‘The Special Places Project’, involves celebrities taking pictures of their favourite National Trust spots. Using a Facebook app and a Twitter hashtag, this charity is encouraging its supporters to get involved and respond using these social media sites. The National Trust tweets on a daily basis, posting photos, videos, questions and competitions, all of which keep the charity in the minds of its followers.

Raising your profile

Over 80% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 73% of 25 to 34-year-olds use Facebook and Twitter respectively. Clearly, the importance of connecting with potential supporters of your charity cannot be denied, and social media sites can be of particular use when targeting younger generations. These sites are constantly visited, therefore it is vital that accounts are updated with information that potential supporters are likely to find of interest. Using hashtags is also a great way to identify relevant material to a wide range of people.

You could tweet ideas to your followers to seek helpful feedback. Ultimately, it is public engagement that is sought after, and so gaining an insight into what they perceive as engaging is paramount. Offering an open discussion to supporters will encourage those who may be put off by written texts such as leaflets.

Furthermore, the option to ‘retweet’ and ‘favourite’ will advertise your charity to followers of followers, expanding your reach. Supporters are keen to show what they are doing to help charities so encourage your followers to tell their peers of ongoing projects to gain additional support.

Cancer Research, for instance, has a separate Twitter account for its Race for Life campaign – @raceforlife. This gives supporters the opportunity to voice their achievements which can be seen by their followers and hence spreads the word of the campaign further.

Engaging with employees

Due to its constantly changing and fluid nature, Twitter ensures a balance between professionalism and creating improved relationships with employees.

You can update employees on information whilst being sat in meetings and offer them an opportunity to reply to your tweet. The condensed form of a tweet enables you to communicate efficiently with a direct and to-the-point message. Perhaps an innovation, when compared with lengthy emails, Twitter allows employers and employees to construct a transparent dialogue. Yet it is still important to retain face-to-face communication whenever possible.

The open environment allows employees to explore the diversity of Twitter, potentially finding ideas for future campaigns and how best to promote fundraising events.

Next Steps

Once up and running, social media sites can be easily integrated into your organisation, taking just moments to update in order to maintain a current profile. These sites can be a great means through which your charity can network and gain new supporters.

It must be said that, although cost effective, engaging social media activity will not result in positive responses and feedback overnight. It is a long process that must begin with audience mapping and careful content planning, followed by good quality and interesting updates.

By investing in its time, your charity can reach its supporters and create valuable employee-employer dialogue, contributing to the image it is looking to portray, ad the potential is certainly there to increase return, while maintaining and enhancing your reputation.

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