Getting started with social media

  • Social media has driven some of the most successful charity initiatives of recent years
  • Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can help organisations engage with thousands of new and existing followers
  • We look at how charities can overcome the barriers that sometimes prevent organisations from making the most of social media

Feeling confused with social media? Don’t know where to start or whether it is right for your small charity, community group or club? Our latest guide, from Jude Habib, founder and Creative Director of SoundDelivery, takes a look at some of the do’s and don’ts.

The rise of social media

Many of the most successful charity campaigns of recent years, from Ice Bucket Challenges to No Make-Up Selfies, are products of the power of the internet and social media in particular.

However, many small charities, community groups and clubs, feel insecure about using social media – with a lack of confidence, skills, time or resources all creating barriers.

We look at what you should consider when choosing which social channels to use, and how you can get the most out of them.

What is social media?

Social media refers to any web-based platform through which people can share content (text, audio, video, photographs), voice personal opinions, spread news and generally communicate with other people. Interaction is the basis of social media.

Users interact by posting, commenting, sharing, enhancing or engaging. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are used by millions of people each day. The success of smart phones has also seen the use of social media rocket, as people embrace the idea of always being connected.

Why use social media?

By using social media you are connecting with people who could be finding out about, championing and supporting your organisation.

A social media account is different from a website. Social media allows you more frequent engagement with followers, and in a way that is less formal and more conversational than a website allows. It gives you the chance to share the details of what you do and use different formats such as audio, video and images to tell your story in real time. It is the chance to give a voice to your stakeholders and to build a relationship with your supporters.

Social media can be used by non-profits for many purposes:

  1. Raising awareness – people talk about all sorts of things on social media, from what affects them personally such as what’s happening in their local community, to wider social issues. Being part of these conversations will help you share your key messages with new audiences
  2. Campaigns – whether it’s getting signatures for petitions, persuading people to take an action, or lobbying policy makers, social media is a fantastic way to influence others to create the change you think is needed
  3. Fundraising – social media allows you to promote events and your cause, raise the profile of your supporters’ fundraising, and, with the right approach and compelling stories, find active fundraisers for minimal cost
  4. Recruiting volunteers/staff – social media can help you to recruit new volunteers or members of staff. It could even connect you with a new celebrity supporter

Still need convincing? Watch this YouTube video ‘Why Use Social Media’ produced by Grow Your Charity Online. In it, four small charities share their insights about social media and tell how social media has boosted their work.

Barriers to using social media

There may be a number of barriers stopping you from using social media.

  • No time – using social media is time consuming, especially at the start when you are setting up accounts, working to attract followers and finding your feet. However, once you get going, using social media will become part of your everyday tasks. There are lots of sites that can help you manage all your channels, such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and SocialBro
  • No skills – getting started with social media can be daunting as it feels like there is so much etiquette and terminology involved. Start off by watching what other people are doing. There are also lots of guides and sources of help to learn from
  • No resources – you can sign up free to most sites. If you want to create photos or video, most smart phones produce files of sufficient quality
  • Don’t know what to say – it can be useful to sit down and think about what messages you want to share. Just using social media to broadcast opening hours or events, can be useful but dull. Think about your online personality and what might make people want to engage with your organisation. What insights can you give about your work and your cause? How will you use different formats to tell your story?

This useful social media guide from CharityComms has lots of tips, including how to decide which channels to use.

You should now have all you need to get started on social media. You can take it slowly and build up your engagement or jump right in, but however you chose to use it, social media is a great opportunity to listen, learn and share.