Published: 19 September 2016

Five things I learned from the Charity Social Media Toolkit

Social media is a really powerful tool for charities and over the years I’ve seen them create, gather and grow ground breaking campaigns. 

However, successful charity campaigns are not a product of luck. Lots of them can be attributed to fantastic planning, excellent implementation, borrowed ideas from elsewhere or a combination of all of these. 

There is lots of advice on best practice for using social media in charities, not least from organisations like CharityComms

I’ve created a Charity Social Media Toolkit with Skills Platform, a one-stop shop resource for charities using social media. We spoke to organisations like CLIC Sargent, Breast Cancer Care and the Fawcett Society who shared their experiences with us. 

Here are some of the things I discovered working on the toolkit.

Social media is needed now more than ever

Megan Griffith Gray, head of digital and communications at NCVO, points out in her foreword that social media is actually a good way for charities to navigate the political and economic uncertainty the UK is currently facing. She says: 

The focus must, more than ever, turn to our audience and those we are trying to help. What do we know about them? 76% of all internet users are using some form of social media. More than one third of people already prefer using social media rather than the telephone for customer support, and most expect a response within an hour — if not faster. This trend is only likely to grow. Charities both large and small will need to scale up their communications at a time when they have fewer resources. Social media is one answer to that challenge.

‘Old school’ comms skills can be useful on social media

Tone of voice is a make or break factor on social media, a skill that has its roots in more traditional forms of comms. Doing it well does take a bit of strategy and planning. Sarah Fitzgerald of Self Communications advises charities: 

Make a list of your main social media audiences. Against each one, list adjectives describing the way you want the charity to come across to this audience: it may be compassionate, heroic, irreverent, learned, bold, cool, or something else. Steer clear of descriptors that are generic, like warm, friendly or informal.

The right message is the winning factor in campaigns

Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers shared insight about #FawcettflatsFriday, a reactive social campaign responding to a relevant news story. The campaign become a top trend and garnered four million impressions. Smethers says: 

It gave everyone a fun action they could take that would send a strong message… It was cheap – always important for a small charity. We didn’t need a big campaigns budget, just a good idea and a good understanding of how to use social media.

Social channels must be resilient

Many charities are now adopting flexible approaches, responding to changes in the ways users engage. Cheri Percy, digital channels manager at Breast Cancer Care says: 

Social media has become such a reactive space that we need to be conscious of any potential conflicts or respond to relevant breaking news. At Breast Cancer Care, the digital team works closely alongside our press team to establish a rota of weekend support between the teams. Those people covering are then briefed for any expected statements and the process for escalating in a crisis situation.

Keeping it simple works 

Given how easy it now is to access social media analytics, it can be tempting to measure everything. Digital consultant Bertie Bosredon recommends that charities just starting out should set five simple objectives, namely: increase awareness of the organisation, grow relevant social media audiences, promote core services/products, increase referral to core services/products and increase internal engagement.

We hope the Charity Social Media Toolkit is a useful resource for charities. Check it out and let us know what you think.


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Zoe Amar, director, Zoe Amar Digital

Zoe Amar is founder and director of Zoe Amar Digital, a charity marketing and digital communications consultancy who've worked with Action Aid, CAF, Crimestoppers and many other great charities. She also blogs for The Guardian. Zoe shares charity marketing resources over at www.zoeamar.com and @zoeamar