The most common anxiety that I hear from organisations about how to use social media in their work is simple: no time. Few of us have the luxury of just managing social media, instead we have a million and one other tasks crying out for our attention. So how can we make the best use of social media without breaking the time bank?
1. Think about what you’re trying to achieve.
What does your organisation hope to achieve by using social media? Is it greater recognition of your brand, your campaigns or your purpose? Is it a way to connect with new or existing supporters? Is it to develop another channel for your marketing or fundraising efforts?
Have a read of your marketing or business strategy to find out where you’re wanting to go as an organisation and think about how social media can help get you there. By having a clear idea in your mind about what you want to achieve, you can arm yourself against the potential ‘mission creep’ that will have you running around trying to do too much in the time you’ve got available.
2. Pick your social network(s).
It’s easy to set up Facebook, Twitter or YouTube accounts. But before you go leaping in, spend a bit of time ‘lurking’ on the different social networks and see how your competitor organisations (and their supporters) are using them. Are they broadcasting or listening? Do they respond to any and all mentions of their name or campaign topics? Who do they follow?
If you’ve inherited a load of accounts across the different networks, then cast your eye critically across them and work out which ones are useful to you right now. Don’t waste time on things that don’t fit with what you’re trying to do – there is no rule to say that your organisation has to be on all of the social networks. Different social networks are good for different things so pick the ones that fit best with what you’re trying to do and ignore the others for the moment.
So, how to choose?
- Twitter is good for announcements, for quickly responding to queries or mentions of your organisation, and for general awareness raising of your work amongst funders, supporters and the press.
- Facebook allows you to get into longer conversations, and can provide a way for people to connect with you, ask questions, and share experiences. It’s also easy to upload photos (and get others to upload their photos too) and advertise events.
- Pinterest is a quick and easy visual way to spread your message. If you have photos from an event, or want to pin up images that your supporters have sent you about how they’ve worked for your cause, then this is for you.
- YouTube allows you to put all your videos in one place, or channel, and then link to them from your website or other media with easy to use sharing options.
A good, standard combination of social networks is Facebook and Twitter. If you’re an organisation that generates or receives a lot of video or images, then you may want to add Pinterest or YouTube as well, but Facebook and Twitter together will give you many of the options you want in terms of enabling conversations and reaching new audiences for your messages.
3. Find out what else your organisation is up to.
Social media is not something that thrives in a vacuum: instead, it’s best used as just one more weapon in your marketing/ fundraising/ communications armoury. So find out what activities, events or campaigns your organisation is planning for the next few months. Mark these down on your calendar and think about how you can use social media to support these activities, and when.
For instance, your organisation may want to increase the number of its younger supporters. You may also just be launching a new campaign about saving the bumblebee. So why not launch a competition on Facebook for people to upload photos of bee pictures their children have drawn? Got a video of a gardening expert explaining how to use bee-friendly plants? Then shove it onto YouTube and link it to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Start using a relevant hashtag on Twitter, like #saveourbumbles, and ask followers to use it in their sightings of bees in their own gardens.
Using social media to support the excellent work your organisation is already doing, and bring it to new audiences in new ways, will save you lots of time and will make your new social media tools really earn their keep.
4. Don’t be bullied.
Social media can be very demanding: it’s built to be updated minute by minute and keys into all sorts of psychological pressure points to make us look at it again and again. Don’t be bullied! Think of social media as just another sort of email: you wouldn’t spend all day looking at your inbox and not doing anything else, would you? Set yourself a routine of when you check what’s happening on your social media accounts – perhaps three times a day. Spend a few minutes at each of those points responding to people, or posting new content, or saying hello to new followers. Then leave it alone and ignore its siren calls to check it more more more!
If you’re worried that people will expect an immediate answer to something they post on your Facebook wall or tweet to you, then put a note in your Twitter bio or Facebook ‘about’ which explains that the account isn’t monitored 24/7. If your organisation offers help to people in distress, then make sure you have the helpline number or details of how that assistance can be contacted out of office hours on your Facebook page (in the Timeline photo is great) and in your Twitter bio too. See how the Samaritans organisation does it on Facebook and Twitter for more inspiration.
5. Monitor how you’re doing
Invest 15 minutes every week on looking back at how your social media efforts have gone, and use that information to decide what to develop or tweak. Facebook Insights and many Twitter monitoring sites, such as Twentyfeet, will let you see who came, who saw and who shared your content. You can then fine-tune your efforts to concentrate on the ones that bear you more fruit.
Don’t just monitor social media in social media, either. Keep an eye on the monitoring your organisation uses to capture how its campaigns and activities are doing. Are your donations up? Have you got more younger supporters? Are more people signing up for your newsletter? Do people say they saw your charity on social media when asked how they heard about you?
Your time is not only precious to you, but also to your organisation. Showing how your social media work is helping support your organisation’s work is an excellent bit of information to give your boss! It will also make you and your colleagues feel that the time you have invested in using these new tools is worth your while, and is really making a tangible contribution to your organisation’s cause.
These are just a few tips – how do you use your time wisely in social media?
This guide is also available on Knowhownonprofit.