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Meaningful engagement: do you need a social strategy?

19 July 2019

If I had a pound for every time a potential client included in their initial contact the sentence: “We want to grow our fundraising from social channels” I’d be rich.

Digital is – rightly – a cornerstone of many charities’ strategies now, and over the last few years growth in digital income has been a key tool in staving off the flat-lining or decline of previously solid channels. And, of course, organic social offers the opportunity to raise awareness, create PR opportunities and engage directly with followers – and you can “make it go viral”…!

The thing is, though, it’s not quite that straightforward. Many charities see little by way of discernible results, but feel they should be on social channels because everyone else is / their audience is / there’s a line in the broader organisational strategies about growing social. Your followers – even for those of you blessed with a comparatively large audience – aren’t sitting there, waiting for you to post something. In fact, many of them might not even be seeing your posts at all, depending on what’s going on with the algorithms / your engagement / other things happening on social this week.

So helping someone drive value from social starts with helping them build their social community online. I want to run you through a basic guide to how you can do this for yourself.

Why should we have a social engagement strategy?

  • To give focus to what you share on your social channels – and how you share it
  • To build in a test and learn approach to your content delivery
  • To build an audience who will help you achieve your organisational goals

Making an impact on social media

Often, charities use social channels to broadcast. Sharing “our” news. Updating you on “our” latest achievement. Telling you what “we” are doing. It’s not all that, well, social. So, typically, engagement with posts is pretty low, audience growth is slow and many of your posts are essentially you screaming into the void.

The good news is you can take huge strides to improve this situation. Creating a social engagement strategy will require a little investment of time, but you can keep this fairly streamlined. And it doesn’t need to be aligned with a digital strategy (if your charity even has one) or a broader comms strategy – indeed, for my money it should absolutely be kept separate to some degree, because it needs to be a living, breathing strategy with room for flex and change.

I know at this point some of you might have some concerns. I am not advocating you to develop a huge, unwieldy document that will end up printed off and sitting in a dusty drawer. Rather, what I hope you will end up with is:

  •  Enhanced understanding of what works for your audience
  •  Insight into what you should share, and how you should share it
  •  Rethinking what you measure, and how you talk about “success” internally

This is #1 in a set of 4 articles, check out instalment #2, instalment #3 and instalment #4 to find out more!

Overcoming the hurdles

On Twitter, I asked for people to share why their organisations didn’t have a strategy. Do any of these resonate with you?

We don’t know what to put in it and can’t afford to pay someone to come in and do it for us

Then you’ve come to the right place – over the next couple of blog posts I will give you an outline of what to put in it, how to do it and how to use it.

We (or our CEO / Director / Head) can’t see the value

Ah, the old ROI conundrum. It’s tricky to ascertain a completely accurate ROI from organic social. What you can show (via Google Analytics) is what proportion of your traffic comes from your social channels. If you develop and use a good strategy, that will grow. You can also start to understand what content resonates, which will lead to higher engagement. Crucially, through social you are likely to be communicating with audiences who don’t see you elsewhere, as well as enhancing the relationship with people who are also on your email list. And of course with the growth in, for example, Facebook fundraisers, successfully demonstrating both need and impact on your social channels increases the likelihood that your followers will start to raise funds for you themselves, as well as responding to your calls to action.

A strategy will also empower you to think differently about how you talk to your supporters. Take this fantastic Facebook post from Breast Cancer Now, which has an event participation call to action but is about so much more than the ask – and generated incredible engagement:

We don’t have time to create lots of content

Ultimately you need to come up with something that works for you. Ideally content should be quite frequent – probably around 1 post per day on Facebook, 3 on Twitter, for example – but there are lots of ways to achieve this with limited resources – more on that later. If you are doing less than that at the moment – taking time to figure out what works or your audience will make sure you get the most out of the content you do produce.

We have to use social to promote lots of things that other teams request

I hear you. This can be a tricky one. But if you start to take a more strategic approach you will be able to effectively illustrate what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t – and make a reasoned case for lessening this type of content. You might still have to handle some of these requests. But you will hopefully be better able to work with your colleagues to shape the content they want to share, and deliver it in a way that better aligns with your audience needs, and is as engaging as possible.

Whatever the reason you don’t (yet!) have a strategy for social, I hope this quick guide will get you started. By the end of this series you will have learnt:

  • How to analyse your social account data
  • How to take that data and conduct some basic content analysis
  • How to generate new content ideas
  • What should be included in a social engagement strategy
  • What you should be measuring – and how
  • How to frame your internal reporting on social
  • How to keep it relevant

Check out the next post for a spotlight on data analysis:

Meaningful engagement: finding what works

More like this:

Have you checked out our Digital Benchmark?

Take a look at the CharityComms guide to social media

Lisa Clavering

fundraiser, freelance

Lisa is a freelance fundraiser who has been working in charity since 2004. Now primarily focused on digital fundraising, she previously held strategic roles at Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Anthony Nolan, and worked with many household names as a supplier including CRUK, Save the Children and UNICEF.