The latest social media tools – avoid missing out

  • If your charity is not using social media it may be missing out on a great way to promote itself
  • There are dozens of tools and platforms out there – how do you know which one is right for you?
  • We look at the most popular new apps and how your charity could make the most of them

There’s no doubt that this is a tough time for giving – the findings of the World Giving Index revealed that while 74% of people in the UK gave to charity, this figure had fallen from 76% in the previous year.

So what can be done to reverse this trend? Social media may be the answer, but it can be challenging to stay on top of the latest developments.

Take Whatsapp for example: few charities are using it, yet it now has 900 million monthly users worldwide. The video app Persicope, meanwhile, claims to broadcast 10 years of content every day, yet charities are still only dipping in their toes.

Charities must up their game if the UK is to maintain its status as the fourth most generous country in the world, argues Keith Lewis, social media manager at Zurich.

“The use of apps like these could encourage donations from young people who perhaps haven’t thought of donating money before. These apps have the potential to stop giving levels falling further and could really help to bring an increase in the Global Giving Index next year.”

With this in mind, we looked at the most popular new apps and considered how charities could make the most of them.

Broadcasting apps for charities

Periscope and Meerkat both allow users to broadcast and watch live video streams via their phones. Charities have yet to get on board with them in a big way, but tech entrepreneur AJ Joshi believes that is about to change.

Joshi is a co-founder of Scope for Good, which aims to bring charities’ Periscope broadcasts together in one place, attracting an engaged community that will follow their work.

Notably, the organisation worked with Callum Fairhurst an 18-year-old fundraiser who lost his brother to cancer and decided to cycle around the world to raise money and awareness.

Scope for Good has also worked with SWAT (Sikh Welfare and Awareness Team), a charity that feeds homeless people in central London. Joshi says SWAT normally solicits donations from people walking past as it gives out food, but broadcasting via Periscope it was able to reach a far wider audience, including one viewer who made a very substantial donation.

Joshi says that Periscope could be an important way to make donors feel valued: “I’ve always given to charity and firmly believe that there’s a real lack of after-marketing or after-communication. Charities should be saying ‘this is what’s happening, this is the amazing work we’re doing’.”

Video and instant messaging

An app that has been around for a little longer is Vine, which allows users to make short, looped videos of six seconds or less. Instagram now allows you to post videos of 15 seconds or less.

Despite an initial period of experimentation, charities are not using these tools as much as they could, according to Kirsty Marrins, content and community manager at JustGiving.

“I think it’s a shame charities seem to have forgotten about Vine. It’s a nice way for them to thank their fundraisers, it’s not very time-consuming and fundraisers really appreciate it.”

It is also worth paying attention to the current crop of messaging apps. WhatsApp allows users to send free texts, images and videos to anyone else who has the app, while Snapchat allows users to send photos and videos in the knowledge that they will be deleted after a specified length of time. Both are popular with young people and could open up some great opportunities for charities.

Marrins believes charities should be experimenting more with these networks. “I think charities may not have realised the potential: there are over 800m monthly active users of WhatsApp alone,” she says.

“At JustGiving, we added it as a sharing option in April, so whenever someone creates a fundraising page, they can now share it on WhatsApp. That’s raised over £100,000 already.”

Strategic planning

Before you enthusiastically dive into using these tools, it is worth taking a step back. Lewis at Zurich Insurance suggests you think about why social media is important to your organisation, what you want out of it and who your audience is.

“Once you’ve been through that process, you can then think about how you can achieve your aims, including what platforms you will use,” he says.

Lewis adds that while it’s important to play with new tools and learn about them, you should be ruthless if they don’t fulfil your objectives.

“If you go for a hit-and-hope approach, you could potentially do a lot of things poorly. If, however, you focus on doing a couple of things really well, then you can look at the metrics, decide what you want to achieve and create content that will help you achieve that.”

He adds that it’s vital you disable your profile if you decide not to continue. “The worst thing for a user is to find that the last thing posted on a network was in 2012. Be decisive and if it isn’t working, remove your profile altogether, because leaving your profile dormant can actually be detrimental.”

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