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Six tips for digital success

21 January 2022

Making sure your charity is noticed in the competitive online space is no easy feat. But there are things you can do to ensure people are seeing what we share. At the National Trust we were delighted to have topped the list of the most visible charities online again in 2021 so we wanted to share some of the tips we use to help others get seen too…

1. Put people first

Understanding your audience can help you get the most from your budget, create effective content and prioritise your digital channels.

The National Trust’s long-running weekly Instagram photography challenge is a great example of understanding the behaviour of a specific audience and their needs. We wanted to encourage our supporters to visit regularly and know many of those engaging with us on Instagram enjoy photographing new experiences or familiar places regularly. We created the #NTChallenge to engage and drive visits with this audience – sharing a new challenge on a Friday and runners-up and a winner each Monday.

Start with people, rather than the solution. Consider the challenge from the audience’s perspective. Where, when and how might they want to interact with you? Ask yourself, why would the people we want to engage care about this?

2. Choose your channels wisely

Prioritise your digital channels, depending on what you want to achieve, to create effective digital campaigns.

Last year, the Trust needed to let people know that the places we care for were open to visit over the summer months. We wanted to drive an action to visit, therefore reaching those who were already thinking about a day out was important. We did this by investing in Pay Per Click as a priority, targeting those searching for days out. It could have been tempting to invest in multiple digital channels, but by exhausting the potential of PPC as a priority, before exploring other options, such as paid social media or influencers, we were able to get the most out of our budget.

Be ruthless when selecting your channels – sometimes more isn’t better.

3. Share with purpose

Is there such a thing as too much content? Yes. With limited time, a clearly defined purpose and success measure for every campaign or piece of content will help you create effective content which you can learn from.

For the Trust’s Blossom Watch campaign, clearly defining the purpose of our content and evaluation, helped us measure the impact of our marketing and communications. For our new annual celebration of blossom, we knew we wanted people share their blossom photos and experiences. We agreed a clear metric to evaluate year on year performance on social media: engagement around #BlossomWatch. This allowed us to clearly measure performance, increasing the use of #BlossomWatch by 364% from 14,000 in 2020 to 65,000 in 2021.

Set out a clear objective and agree the metrics you’ll use to measure content and a campaign at the start of your planning.

4. Find inspiration from unexpected places

Keep an eye on what other organisations and brands are doing to inspire your team and spark ideas that work for you. This might be other charities, or more unlikely sources for inspiration.

At the Trust we have an hour set aside each month to come together as a team to chat about digital innovation – what are other organisations or brands doing that we can learn from? What can we adapt or try that would work for us? An unexpected source of inspiration came from Burger King and their ‘Order from McDonald’s’ tweet. It captured the imagination of Twitter users – and got us thinking – could we raise awareness of the importance of supporting all conservation charities, which have the same aims as us? We took this inspiration and created a message on Giving Tuesday to encourage people to support conservation charities.

Set up a virtual space or meeting where you can regularly share inspiration and ideas with colleagues. Dedicating an hour a month can help keep you looking outwards and ensure you’re learning from others.

5. It’s all in the timing

Whether you’re starting the conversation, or joining one, getting the timing right can make your content meaningful and memorable.

There’s a day for pretty much everything. Some awareness days and seasonal moments may be directly relevant to your charity, others may help you reach a new audience. Find the moments that your supporters, or potential supporters, are engaged with or relevant moments which are trending with mass appeal.

World Kindness Day trends every year and has proven to be a great way for us to talk about dedicating a tree to loved ones. By jumping on this trending hashtag, we were able to reach a bigger audience with our conservation message.

Create a calendar which identifies seasonal moments which are relevant for your charity, and if you can, dedicate some time each day to look at what is trending in case there’s an opportunity to share reactive content.

6. Make it a two-way conversation

Build loyalty and create advocates for your cause by dedicating time and opportunities to engage with your supporters online.

Our Social Media team responds to over a hundred comments and messages daily. We also look for opportunities for our supporters to have a two-way conversation with us, be it a gardening Q&A session on Twitter, inviting our supporters to name the first beaver born on Exmoor for 400 years (England footballer Marcus Rashford won the vote, of course) or an interactive Instagram Story Q&A with our Director-General.

Set aside time to respond to queries and comments on social media, both positive and negative. Connect people with your cause by giving them the opportunity to ask questions on topics that interest them, or opportunities to be part of your successes and moments of joy.

Anna Rawcliffe

Social media lead, National Trust

Anna leads the National Trust’s social media team. She specialises in digital strategy, innovation and content marketing.