There are literally thousands of charities, large and small, now on social media, all allegedly using it to try and raise the profile of their organisation, connect with supporters and drive engagement, fundraising and donations.
Unfortunately, charities seem to really struggle with getting social media pitched correctly and the ones doing it properly are few and far between, which is a shame since it takes away support and funds from all the deserving cases that these charities could otherwise be helping. Having looked at a huge amount of charity profiles in the course of the last couple of years, the most common mistakes are as follows:
1. Branding Fail
Would you send out printed direct mail or produce a brochure with badly cropped logo and/or otherwise distorted branding? Of course not! So why do so many charities do it on social media and obviously think that is OK?
Let’s get this clear – social media is as much your front desk or reception, your stakeholder’s report, your fundraising initiatives as anything landbased, and your avatar should be a square, clear, easily-identifiable representation of the charity – and if you don’t have a square online version, get one designed – and used consistently across all your profiles.
Also make sure the rest of your social media profile’s branding (including your Twitter back and Facebook page ‘cover’) are branded consistently and look like integrated parts of your messaging, with at least the correct logo, details and contact addresses and phone numbers.
2. Not Telling Your Story
People won’t support what they don’t know or understand what you are about, however worthy the cause. Your job is to tell the charity’s story so it engages your audience and helps them make the decision to donate to, or fundraise for, you and the cause you are working for, so make sure you do it online as well as off.
YouTube and LinkedIn are obvious starting points, and Facebook’s new Timeline is gift to organisations, allowing them to tell their story is a full and easily accessible manner. Other networks that you could consider are Flickr, Pinterest and Storify – as we did for Blind Veterans UK, for example, to tell the story of their rebrand – to share your story as widely as possible.
3. Being Inconsistent
It’s easy enough to set up a Facebook account or Twitter account for your organisation (and if you can’t, we can do it for you), quite another matter to consistently produce good relevant content to populate it, content that engages, informs and raises the charity’s profile and drives donations and engagement.
Consequently many charities just don’t, and either leave their profiles fallow after an initial flurry (what we call the ‘Tumbleweed Syndrome’), which looks even more rubbish than not having a social presence at all, or they surge on and off – say on Twitter you’ll see one tweet one day and seven the next, or five posts on Facebook when they have a charity event and then no follow up.
4. Not Using the Available Tools
From Twitter lists and hashtags to not using tags on Flickr, to ignoring YouTube’s non profit offering, not knowing the charity’s Klout or Peer Index scores let alone using them, to not using Storify or SlideShare to follow up your events, to not adding the JustGiving app on Facebook or utilizing Promoted posts… the list is endless, and if the tool is available and your charity isn’t using it, then the people you are trying to help are missing out.
5. Not Being Proactive
Don’t just passively sit and wait for people to follow or like you – reach out them, drive them via other channels, connect, chat and share their output. Don’t be lazy and set up auto links between, say your Facebook page and your Twitter account, or just set up auto messages (otherwise known as network spam if that’s your only output) to populate your profiles. Don’t be reactive and only follow back those who follows you – it’s lovely that they want to follow you (unless they are spam bots, obviously) but they may not be the people best placed to spread the word, get involved and raise the charity’s profile.
Instead, commit to tailoring your output to each network, use your output to engage and actually communicate and raise your charity’s profile. Identify the Key Influencers in your target niche and reach out to them (we can help if you don’t know how to do that), bring them into your fold, get them involved, connect and inspire them to get out there and spread the word on your behalf.
6. Being Dull & Boring
Charities are about the only organisations using social media who have pretty much carte blanche to challenge their audience, ask them to get involved and do things just because it’ll raise the profile of the charity WITHOUT looking spammy. Yet the output of most charities is, I’m sorry to say, just plain dull, from too much talking about nothing of consequence, to begging for donations, too much push marketing and not engaging with the audience, to looking really rude because they’ve not answered queries on social media… no wonder people don’t want to engage with charities online!
7. Not Integrating
Your Twitter or Facebook account are unlikely to be your only marketing or fundraising channel, so make sure all the links work and everything is integrated online and offline, and everything is working together to create as much return on investment as possible for every little thing you are doing.
So be brave and take advantage. Reach out. Try acting like a human being. Get creative, especially important as most charities confess that they want to attract a younger age of donors – well, this is their playground and to reach them you’ll have to get down and play with them. Don’t keep social media in a silo, don’t just tick boxes, don’t think it doesn’t matter because it does. Don’t give it to volunteers to do – it’s your brand, so take control. Do it consistently and strive to engage.