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Get the lowdown on digital platforms – Discord, Clubhouse, TikTok and Instagram

28 May 2021

The UK lockdowns unleashed a step-change in digital skills as more people went online to connect with people and services.

Facebook and Twitter saw an uptick in engagement. And other, newer, or lesser-known platforms also won more users. They’ve all generated buzz, but which will work for your charity? And which are worth the most time and investment to remain sustainable in future? Here’s an overview of each with some practical tips on getting started.

1. Discord

What is it?

Discord is a group-chat platform originally designed for gamers. Divided into different servers based on user interests, members can share videos, text and voice with people around the world. Think of it as a less formal, souped-up version of Slack.

The upsides/downsides

Discord is trying to evolve from a platform for gamers to one that rivals channels like Skype or Microsoft Teams. Yet gamers are still its core audience. This is both a strength (it’s the place to go to generate interest for your gameathons) and a weakness (non-gamers may still view it with suspicion). 

Who uses it well?

Young people’s charity Become uses Discord to drive fundraising through gamer events. As well as winning sign-ups it’s also a useful forum where experienced gamers on the platform can offer technical advice to newbies.

Tips

  • Like other platforms, Discord has its fair share of bullying and trolls. So be aware of controls to safeguard your community.
  • Users must (officially) be 13 years old to get on the platform. Bear in mind that there might be younger users too – so tailor your content accordingly.

2. Clubhouse

Clubhouse takes the success of podcasts and makes it social through audio-only rooms in which people can listen, discuss and interact on any topic. Very much the new kid on the block, it’s only been running since 2020 and has generated plenty of buzz.

The upsides/downsides

A glance at Twitter during lockdown revealed lots of people in the CharityComms community either hosting rooms on professional practice or joining others. At best it feels like a personal audience with your favourite speaker. At worst it’s like being stuck in the break-out room from hell. There are still privacy concerns (including data leaks) so make sure you’re fully aware of them before committing.

Who’s used it well?

Beyond professional development, it feels like charities haven’t bitten the bullet yet. But there’s potential for charity fundraising events (listen directly to the people you’re supporting) or ‘meet famous supporters’ sessions.

Tips

  • Don’t broadcast, interact. Listen to the people in your audience and use their questions and comments to shape your content.
  • Beware of fakes. Clubhouse isn’t great at verifying the people who use it. So use Instagram or Twitter to make sure the people in your room are exactly who they say they are.

3. TikTok

What is it?

You probably already know that TikTok is a fiendishly addictive app for sharing and watching short-form content that matches your interests, as well as live streaming. The various goofy challenges (mainly teens doing daft things to music) get the headlines. But there are many thriving communities on there too: from FidgetTikTok, to BookTikTok, to GayTikTok.

The upsides/downsides

Sixty percent of users are ‘Gen Z’ (born 1997-2012) which makes it an amazing place to reach young people. It’s a growing platform too (partly thanks to lockdown) with around a million people downloading it a month.

But, like many social apps there’s worries about bullying, inappropriate content and security. Donald Trump famously tried to ban it because of the sheer amount of facial recognition data it was sending to China (among other things).

Who’s uses it well?

In a unique partnership, music charity Youth Music invited the TikTok community to join the hashtag challenge #MusicShapedMe – sharing inspiring stories around people the charity supports. It won 15 million engagements over three weeks on the platform.

@youthmusic

Here’s how music makes Hannah feel. How has music shaped your life? #MusicShapedMe #youthmusic #yourturn #ukmusic #uktalent

♬ Circles – VCR

Tips

  • TikTok is a community with its own distinctive norms and values. And if you break them you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. So spend some time watching the kind of content your users consume before you get stuck in. Remember that TikTok is heavily algorithm-driven (if you like stuff it’ll reward you with more of the same) so fitting into a niche can be particularly important
  • TikTok has a growing number of influencers who can powerfully communicate your charity’s message. Or, if you have young advocates, engage with them to create and amplify content for you.

4. Instagram Reels, your grid and Stories

What is it?

As regular users know, Instagram isn’t just about posting on your grid anymore. The platform expanded to include Snap-style content (Stories) in 2016 and TikTok-style 30-second videos (Reels) in 2019.

The upsides/downsides

Both features are an attempt to lock users into Instagram by diversifying content types. So, in theory, you’re giving your audience three bites of the content cherry all in one place. That’s great for communicating in different ways for different reasons –but burns through your content quickly if you plan to use all three.

Who uses it well?

Samaritans use quick clips on Stories (including user-generated content) to showcase the people and effort involved in Samarathon. Plus Marie Curie has successfully shared Stories showing people at their Hospices taking part in Pancake Day.

Tips

  • Measure everything. Instagram provides detailed stats for posts on your grid, Stories and Reels. So you can try testing posts on each to see if they’re reaching your main audiences. Remember that right now Insta is making sure Reels are seen by as many people as possible because they want to show off the feature.
  • As a rule of thumb, use Reels for awareness and growth (since they’ll be seen by users who don’t follow you) and Stories for engagement and promotion (because your audience sees them before your grid on their phone).
  • Don’t reinvent the Reel. Lots of people repurpose their TikTok content on Reels, which helps content go as far as possible. Plus, TikTok’s editing capability is far better than Insta’s.

To learn more about social media trends and channels join us for our dedicated social media conference in July – Beyond the algorithm: social media for charities

Image: Katie Harp on Unsplash

Matt Chittock

copywriter, freelance

Matt Chittock is an experienced copywriter, journalist and proofreader working in the not-for-profit sector.