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How to invest in social media

4 October 2014

Just being present on social media is not enough. You need to be active, engaging and purposeful – and that takes time and money.

At Scouts we've recently agreed and implemented a social media strategy. This included securing budget and getting sign off from our operational committee.  Ahead of our presentation at CharityComms’ Making the case for comms workshop here are some of the things we learnt from the process.

Content with purpose

Content is king, but content only works if you have a clear idea of who your audiences are. Without purpose you can engage people with fun content, but what's the point? Without a clear idea of your audience how will you know how to engage them? 

Good content connects your audience to your organisation's values in a way that inspires, informs and excites them. Social media content creators should never lose sight of who the audience is, and never forget what they're trying to achieve.

Who are your audience and what do they want? 

With existing and new audiences in mind, write profiles for your key audience groups. Think about what they might be interested in, what they'd like to know and the help they might need. With those assumptions in place you can begin talking to your audience in a more focused way. 

Make a plan

Once you have a good outline of your audience groups and ideas about the content they might like, make a plan that reflects this. Categorise the content, decide how often to post each type of message, take a look at your stats and work out the best times for posting. 

Remember that the profiles you've written aren't set in stone, so challenge your assumptions and refine them as you go. 

You can do a lot with time…

If you've got a good number of followers already, time can be all you need to turn your social media around. 

At Scouts we took a healthy Facebook following of 30,000 and grew it to 70,000 truly engaged fans in six months with no advertising spend at all. We worked with agency 33 Seconds to plan content for each group we wanted to reach. Our reach grew over 1,000% because we stopped broadcasting messages and made an effort to really listen to our audience. With every post we learned more about our members, which made us able to produce better content. 

One of the best content techniques we've found is to ask our members targeted questions and reflect the best answers we get back on the channel. It involves the audience and really makes them feel like part of the community.

…but even more with money

We recently launched a new set of social media channels just for young members. By asking our existing followers in the age group to join we got around 7,000 followers and fans in the first day, but after that growth slowed down. We started to use Facebook and Twitter ads to stimulate growth by reaching new people and finding members who weren't already connected to us. 

Ads are key for us because we're trying to reach an age group that we haven't traditionally been in contact with. We don't already have a way of communicating with most of our target audience and we know a huge portion of them are on Facebook or Twitter, so social media marketing is an invaluable tool. 

Prove it with stats

In order to prove the need for social media investment it's crucial to show that it delivers on strategy.

As well as the reach of key messages, we measure hits to our website from social media and the conversions that come from those hits to make sure we’re achieving what we set out to do.

Lynn Roberts

digital communications manager, The Scout Association

Lynn is responsible for communicating with The Scout Association's 100k volunteers, parents, young members and the public through digital channels including web, email and social media, and has recently launched new youth-focussed social channels to engage the Association's 400k Scouts.