How to be sociable - my top ten tips for charities on social media

Last week I had the pleasure of a trip up the Northumberland coast and a visit to Whitley Bay to run a social media workshop for a charity.

The charity's northern arm use Twitter and Facebook, supported by their London team, but wanted some more confidence, ideas and inspiration to properly take advantage of the channels.

Many of their target audience are older people, but, as I pointed out to them, that should not stop them making the most of social media. According to Ofcom data from 2016, almost half (48 per cent) of internet users aged 65-74 now have a social media profile, up from less than a third (28 per cent) in 2012. The proportion of over-75s on social media has more than doubled since 2012 from 19 per cent to 41 per cent. And Facebook is the most popular social network for senior citizens, cited by 87% of pensioners who are on social media (Ofcom’s annual Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes report 2016).

While Twitter may not be popular with their key audience, many of their influencers or key people locally who can help them raise more money or get more volunteers are using it, so it was important to also give them some tips on tweeting effectively.

Here are my top ten takeaways from the afternoon's session, that resonated most with the team:

1. Don't just broadcast and tell people what you’ve been up to. Engage, listen and be sociable. There was a reason that the Facebook movie was called The Social Network. So try and build relationships and an audience online. Make sure you listen to how your followers respond to you, and what they respond to. Don’t over-message and give them social media fatigue. And if you’ve never used Twitter before, see what other people and your peers are doing and saying before you start, and get a feel for how it’s used.

2. Curate and create. Be the experts in your field. Build credibility. It’s unlikely that your charity is providing a unique service so you need to stand out, sharing interesting and topical and useful information from a variety of sources, not just what you are up to. Be the go-to guys when journalists or others want comment or opinion. If you have a confident management team get them to blog regularly, particularly opinionated pieces.

3. Be human. Put a face on your charity or organisation. Be personable and helpful and authentic.  @NHS do this really well, and have a guest curator on Twitter each week from a different area of the health service to share their story. They offer a human face of the health service, and answer questions that people have, showing the depth of skills across the NHS.


4. Tell a story and make it original. The emergency services do a good job of this. One of my favourites is the Greater Manchester Police Force and their team tweeting from Manchester City Centre from @GMPCityCentre, and with 128,000 followers I’m not the only one that enjoys their tweets. They tell stories brilliantly in 140 characters or less and tweet humorously, but often with a serious message, about crime in Manchester. They’re typically the first at the scene, so usually have the inside track too.


Also take advantage of what others are talking about and make it your own. WaterIsLife took the trending hashtag #FirstWorldProblems and produced a video to starkly contrast this with the problems that some people in the developing world have with getting access to clean and fresh water.


5. Create a sense of community. Bring your supporters and followers and friends together, through a shared purpose (see number six below). Get them feeling like they’re part of something. I liked the British Heart Foundation’s drive in May to get people to ‘Run a Marathon’. Supporters were asked to fundraise by running a marathon throughout that month, with many runners tracking their routes using the online mapping tool Strava and posting these online for others to see (and sometimes offer tips for other routes nearby) as well as photos after successful runs. Rather than it being a solo activity, it meant that runners could feel part of something bigger. Creating this community can help you get your audience to act as advocates for you.

6. Have an ask of people. Run the Great North Run, bake a cake, donate, be a volunteer. Take a photo and share it. Retweet this tweet. Set people a goal or target, and thank those who who sign up to it or achieve it. And be aware of the photo opportunities in these asks.

7. Look for opportunities, especially using video and images, but be aware of the risks. Tweets and Facebook posts with images and video (especially live and unedited) are more likely to be opened, viewed and shared. According to a study of Promoted Tweets from advertisers conducted by Twitter, tweets with images generate 313 percent more engagement than those without.

Jean Bishop is the Bee Lady from Hull. She’s been raising money for Age UK, dressed as a bee, for a number of years. And she’s famous in her home town. Organisations and companies now invite her to their events, and a photo with her livens up gatherings and always gets a bit of coverage, online and offline.

Jean Bishop is the Bee Lady from Hull. She’s been raising money for Age UK, dressed as a bee, for a number of years. And she’s famous in her home town. Organisations and companies now invite her to their events, and a photo with her livens up gatherings and always gets a bit of coverage, online and offline.


Canva is good as a free tool for creating imagery, if you don’t want to just post a photo. And I love Piktochart for infographics, if you have the budget to pay for something.

But be warned! Both Walkers and the National Lottery have fallen foul recently of allowing user generated content to go live without anyone checking it first, resulting in some very risky images.

8. Be professional. Treat your social media like you would any project. Don't have a lackadaisical or scattergun approach to posting. Align your social media strategy with your fundraising strategy, your communications plan, your organisation's objectives and vision. Plan ahead and schedule. Have deadlines and SMART targets. And don't forget to …

9. Monitor, measure and review. The beauty of digital is you can try stuff out, and test it, and adapt it if things don't work. So use one of any number of monitoring tools that are out there - I use Hootsuite, Talkwalker, Google alerts, Google Analytics and Twitter analytics which are all free - and keep an eye regularly on how you’re getting on. See who is following you (or not), liking and retweeting your tweets, sharing your content, getting in touch, mentioning you (or your area or service) or simply talking about what you care about. Your potential followers may not be talking about you but you need to know what they are saying. But also measure your outcomes - money raised, event attendance, enquiries made, and see what real impact your social media has had.

The #ThisGirlCan campaign didn’t just look at video views (37m Facebook and YouTube views of 90-second "This girl can" spot) or tweets (660,000 tweets about #ThisGirlCan), but the impact on the key outcome, women exercising, As a result of the campaign this increased by a massive 1.6million.

10. Spend just 10 minutes a day on your social media. My final tip is about setting achievable goals. It will take a bit of time to set up properly, but if you have a social media strategy outlining your goals with a plan for channels, content, times to post and frequency, tone and messaging, setting aside only ten minutes a day will make a difference (assuming you’re currently not doing very much). If you try and do more you may never fit it in. So aim for ten minutes and see what impact that has. Ten minutes is better than nothing, especially if you have focus and purpose.


Do you agree with my top ten tips? Any you'd bump off for more important advice, like scheduling tweets in advance, or using Facebook live, or having a social media policy?