Categories: The Latest in Charity

#CharitySocMedToolkit Twitter: How charities are using social media

Following a successful launch of the Charity Social Media Toolkit, we organised a Twitter chat with some of the contributors and readers with the hashtag #CharitySocMedToolkit

The chat revealed further insights from experts on how charities are using social media – or how that could be. Here’s a summary of the chat and responses:

Q1) What’s the main reason your organisation (or those you work with) uses social media?

As you might expect, there were a diverse range of response for why organisations are on Social Media. Small Charities Coalition use it to share opportunities with members, while Ross McCulloch encouraged the asking of a pragmatic question – how can social help me get my job done? Using social for customer service is one example of this.

Kirsten Urquhart from @youngscot explained that they are using social to delivery services and information to where young people are spending their time. This means using visual channels such as Instagram and Snapchat for direct youth engagement.

Key takeaways:

  • There is no one single reason why charity organisations are on social media. They key is to understand your audience and your strategic objectives and explore how social media can help you ‘get your job done’.

    Q2) What are your key social measurements?

    Most organisations have moved beyond a focus on crude measurements of success such as follower size. Zoe Amar advised that any social media measurements must be aligned with organisational objectives. There’s no point having a huge social following if it has no direct or indirect impact on your charity’s core goals.

    Beth Murphy concurred, adding that your social measurement shouldn’t just be about big numbers for the board.

    Madeleine Sugden agreed that real actions count more than likes or retweets. We can all recognise how easy it is to like a charity post, but the real action we can take is to click and fully read an article, to sign up to a campaign or to donate funds to the cause.

    Key takeaways:

    • Avoid vanity metrics and ensure that your social media metrics align with your organisations strategic goals.

    Q3) What are the biggest challenges facing charities on social media?

    For smaller charities (and many larger organisations), the biggest challenge with social media is time and money. Ross McCulloch explained that most charities are tiny and don’t have a digital budget or team.

    Madeleine Sugden suggested her article on managing social media for small charities as a useful resource. Kirsty Marrins has also written a guide to resourcing social media out of hours. You also find plenty of relevant tips on the Charity Social Media Toolkit.

    Other challenges raised included encouraging a change in culture to be more responsive and playful.

    Another common issue raised by Search Star is being able to maintain a consistent tone of voice with different people picking up social media as part of their job role. To counter this, brand guidelines are essential, though variation in personalities can bring content to life.

    Regardless of size though, a fundamental problem is that many charities dabble with social media without developing a strategy behind it.

    Charities can feel overawed by social media, but Ross McCulloch laid out three things that every charity needs with their social media. A social media strategy, policy & content plan. They can be short and simple.

    You can make the first steps with your social media strategy with the first chapter of the Social Media Toolkit.

    Key takeaways:

    • Small charities struggle with budgets and resources, which is why a strategy is ever important. Even for the smallest of charities, setting down objectives and a reason for being on social media will help small teams to get the most out of this channel.

    Q4) Final tips for charities on Social media

    We asked participants for any final words of wisdom. These tips included:

    • Madeleine Sugden: Watch what others are doing. Listen & learn. Then understand what works for your organisation and audience.

    • Search Star: Create unique content – don’t just relay identical pieces across Twitter & Facebook.
    • Zoe Amar: Have really, really clear goals. Otherwise it’s just noise.
    • Small Charities Coalition: Don’t spread yourself to thinly across platforms, Choose the most appropriate for your goals.
    • Charity Checkout: Keep it conversational and useful.

    • Kirsty Marrins: Social lets you discover things about your supporters that no other channel does.
    • Beth Murphy: Engage rather than broadcast.
    • Ross McCulloch: Start to think about how social media can actually save staff time – customer service, political engagement etc.

    Ross McCulloch then also recommended really understanding channel demographics and usage statistics, with a helpful summary from @danslee of the Ofcom report here.

    Kirsten Urquhart rounded things off nicely by recommending that charities experiment, play and create and to be brave about your content & strategy to engage your audience.

    Key takeaways:

    • There were plenty of top tips from contributors, but the key message is to set very clear goals that relate back to your strategy and understanding demographic trends across different channels will help you in this.

    Bonus chat: The rule of threes

    A side chat developed around the rule of thirds for content management. Crystal Hall asked if charities should still be using the social media rule of thirds, or if there were new rules for content.

    There was overwhelming support for the rule of thirds, with Zoe Amar believing it still holds true the Small Charities Coalition making use of them.

    Kirsty Marrins advocates the rule of thirds to help make content more manageable and balanced.

    So what is the rule of thirds?

    Kirsty Marrins explained that it is ensuring that your social stream is made up of 1/3 your own content, 1/3 other people’s content that’s relevant and 1/3 engaging with others.


    Many thanks to everyone who took part. For more tips. guidance and ideas about social media for your charity or non-profit, do check out the Charity Social Media Toolkit.

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