How to develop a social media strategy

  • Whether developing plans for the first time or refining existing approaches, social media activity should be aligned to organisational strategy
  • But how should you make a start on planning a charity social media strategy?
  • Ross McCulloch of the Third Sector Lab discusses what charities should be asking themselves in order to get the most out of social media

Whether developing a social media strategy for the first time, or refreshing an existing plan, charities should consider a number of questions in order to achieve the best results.

As part of our ongoing series of articles focusing on Scottish charities, Ross McCulloch of Third Sector Lab shares what he has learnt about charity social media strategy through his work at Relationships Scotland, SCVO, Oxfam Scotland, Enable Scotland and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

1. What are my objectives?

This is the most obvious one, right? You’d be surprised how many social media strategies contain woolly objectives like “raising awareness for our cause” – we’ll take it as a given that you want people to know about your charity.

Instead, start with your organisational objectives, your team objectives and the objectives you’ve been set within your role, and use these as the basis for your social media strategy. For example:

  • Create engaging storytelling content to show the difference your team makes to service users’ lives
  • Dispel myths and misconceptions about the people you support
  • Increase fundraising revenue, volunteer recruitment and event signups by x%

Whatever the strategy, you need to measure whether what you’re doing is working and adapt what you do accordingly. Focus less on likes, shares and reach and more on measuring actual results.

The clearer your goals, the easier it is to see whether you are actually achieving them.

2. Which channel is best for reaching my primary audience(s)?

If your target audience is men aged 65, there’s a pretty good chance Snapchat isn’t going to be the channel for you.

The video below looks at some of the latest research on social media usage within the UK.

Understand the demographics of each channel and speak to your service users, supporters and volunteers to find out which channels they use most frequently.

Rather than obsessing about filling Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds every day, spend time engaging with your users and supporters in the places they frequent online.

If you’re a housing officer, for example, can you connect with tenants in your community’s local Facebook Group? If you provide health advice, how can you add value to a forum for people with a specific condition? If you need to connect with teachers, where do they go online? The opportunities are endless.

3. What content will my users find interesting and useful?

To get to the heart of what your users, supporters and key stakeholders need from you online, take some time as a team to develop marketing personas.

Personas are generalised representations of your ideal customers. What do they normally talk about? What are their challenges? What do they need from you? What are they searching for online? What sort of content will they find most appealing?

Every time you create a Facebook post, plan a new video or write a blog, think about these personas and question whether you’re meeting their needs.

4. Am I free to take risks and try new ideas?

When Talat Yaqoob crafts social media content for Women 50:50 she takes risks. Her risk taking pays dividends. She’s had huge online reach for her campaign – securing political support from a range of high profile politicians.

One of Talat’s most successful tweets highlighted the everyday sexism of a graphic appearing in a national newspaper article. This tweet alone reached hundreds of thousands of people and helped raise the profile of the Women 50:50 campaign among new audiences. While her tweet was incredibly well received, it also generated an angry response from many – Talat didn’t create the tweet thinking it was risk free.

How can your charity get to the point where calculated risk taking is part of your social media strategy? What are the big issues you’re tackling right now? How can you be a voice for your service users and supporters?

If you’re going to start using social media as a tool to challenge the status quo, ensure you have buy-in from the top. It is also important to ensure you have a rock-solid social media policy in place to protect your organisation, its staff and volunteers.

5. What will this look like practically in my day-to-day work?

To succeed with social media, it is important to take the time to embed it into day-to-day work. Social media shouldn’t be a free-for-all, but it is destined to fail if left solely to one person. Decide who’s going to be managing which channels and when, and spread content creation across the organisation.

Remember – it’s just another tool to help you get your job done.