How Social Impact Organizations Can Start Using Social Media

by Carlos Miranda

The numbers around how many people use social media are staggering – 91% of global adults online use social media regularly. In the UK there are 41 million Facebook users and 10 million people on Twitter. As you're reading this article online, it means you'll probably check at least one social media site today. There is no denying the power of it, and it's changed the way we communicate.

strategy, fundraisingDespite how ubiquitous social media is, not everyone has figured out how to translate available online tools into offline goals. This includes charities and social enterprises, who, despite their interest and enthusiasm, may not be social media savvy just yet.

In partnership with Unity Trust Bank, Social Misfits Media have, this week, launched our plan to address that issue. About that First Tweet is a practical guide to social media, aimed at small to medium-sized charities and social enterprises and is free to download free to download here.

The guide features interviews from experts on the main social media platforms, inspirational case studies from organisations who have run successful social media campaigns, resources and other tools to help even the leanest organisations become Twitterphiles in no time at all.

To ensure the guide was addressing the needs of the organisations we were seeking to support – UK-based charities and social enterprises with an annual turnover of less than £5m – we conducted original research, surveying 186 such organisations on their social media habits, usage, and frustrations.

Many of the results were surprising. For example, we originally conceived the guide as a tool to help organisations get started on social media. But our research actually showed that more than 70% of the organisations were already using Facebook, Twitter, or both. LinkedIn and YouTube were also popular, with more than a third of respondents having already created accounts.

Once probed, we uncovered that although these organisations may already boast a social media presence, they're not always sure of what to do with it. When asked if they felt that their social media was integrated into not just a communications strategy, but a fundraising strategy, 53% responded that their social media strategy was not very integrated or not at all integrated. "Our social media strategy and fundraising strategy are entirely separate," one respondent from a medium-sized charity told us. "We haven't yet explored any ways to join them."

The other main issue reported by many respondents was the lack of time to devote to social media: 75% only receive occasional support to update their platforms, when someone has a bit of spare time (and how often does that actually happen in the third sector?).

The guide takes all this on board and provides practical tips and strategies that organisations can start doing right now. A few of our favourite tips:

• Don't feel you need to be everywhere at all times. Jaimie Popp, social media strategist at the Nike Foundation who features in the case study on The Girl Effect, recommends being selective with the platforms you choose: "By starting with your audience, you can put your momentum where it needs to be," he says.

• Let users help you create content. You don't need to post everything yourself. Libby Leffler, strategic partner manager at Facebook, recommends things like photo competitions and polls to get your followers to submit their own content; not only is it compelling but it saves you time too.

• Start making friends. Meg Garlinghouse, head of social impact at LinkedIn, says their research has shown that people can begin to take advantage of their second and third degree networks once they have 30 LinkedIn connections.

• Use your mobile. By downloading free apps for things like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn on your smart phone, you can post photos and information on the go.

• Or better yet, get professionals to do it for free. The New York Public Library got a local improvised comedy group with a big YouTube following to act in a viral video for free – just by asking.

Download About that First Tweet for many more insights and ideas.

Carlos Miranda is the founder of Social Misfits Media, a social media strategy firm and sister company of IG Advisors, a philanthropy and fundraising consultancy. You can follow the companies on Twitter at @MisfitsMedia and @IG_Advisors.

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