YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY
With social media, it can be tempting to pile straight into the latest tools or do things simply because your peers have suddenly started using Snapchat.
Taking the time to set your social media strategy at the beginning can dramatically improve your outcomes. It's easy to get busy on social media, but being effective? That takes a little bit of planning.
In this section, Zoe Amar outlines how you can develop your social media strategy, understand your audience and get crucial buy-in from senior managers.
YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY CHECKLIST
Many people feel a little overwhelmed when they are asked to put together a social media strategy. This is inevitable as there are so many choices to be made. I’ve broken it down into simple steps which will make it more manageable.
BY ZOE AMAR
1. Before you start writing your strategy, familiarise yourself with your charity’s strategic plan. What are the most important goals and how could social media help achieve them?
2. Map out the opportunities and risks facing your charity. The good news is that you will have this information in your business plan or corporate strategy. There will probably be a SWOT/PEST or another framework which sets out the main challenges and opportunities for your charity, whether external or internal. Take another look at it. How could social media help maximise the opportunities and mitigate risks? You could summarise the most relevant ones. For example, if reputation is a concern, how could you manage this proactively and reactively on social channels?
3. Set your goals. Be as specific as you can here. Saying that you’ll ‘raise the charity’s profile’ or ‘increase followers on Twitter’ is not enough. If you set goals which are SMART (i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound) you will be much more likely to achieve them.
4. Know what you want to say. What are your key messages? These should be in your comms or marketing strategy. The main things that you want people to remember about your charity should be the bedrock of your social media content.
5. Who is your audience? Map out who you want to reach, with as much demographic or sector information as possible. Who are the priorities and how could you use social media to engage them?
6. Positioning. How do you want your charity’s brand to be regarded, and what are its USPs compared to competitors? If you haven’t done so already, benchmark your social media presence against others working in the same space, looking at content, tone of voice, analytics and engagement. How does yours compare? How could you make it stand out?
7. Evaluation. What do you need to measure to see if your strategy has succeeded? Go back to the goals you set out earlier and work out what metrics you will need to assess them, and what you need to put in place to do it.
MAP & UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE
Audience, audience, audience. It’s one of my mantras and it’s equally true of everything you do on social media. Not only does social media afford brilliant opportunities to build stronger relationships with your supporters but, through social media ads, you can target exactly who you want to talk to right down to a very granular level. Developing your social media presence is a great reason to find out more about your audience and to talk to them, everyday. It’s like doing market research in real time. Here’s how to get started with understanding your audience:
Go back to basics. Run a session for your team where you look at who your ideal audience is. Build a detailed picture of them, including demographic information. You may have created personas as part of your digital work, so they would be a good place to start.
Now run these initial findings past a wider group (including those in senior, external facing roles) to sense check if there is anyone else you could include. Finally, compare these maps to the demographic information you have about your social media supporters (e.g. on Facebook insights). How do they compare? Are you talking to the right people?
Get to know your supporters. To really get to the bottom of your audience’s interests and what they want and need you may have to commission some market research, such as focus groups or, if you’re on a tight budget, an online survey using a tool like Surveymonkey.
This will give you a much deeper understanding of supporters and you can then create and plan content that really works for them. The National Trust are a brilliant example of a charity who understand their supporters’ interests.
This Facebook post from the National Trust shows they have researched how their supporters like to spend their spare time - outdoors!
Use social media for market research. Social media is great for taking the temperature on what your audience is thinking. So be ready to ask topical questions. And remember, these channels are a good way to continuously refine what you know about your audience.
Your analytics from both paid and organic campaigns offer useful insights into what is most important to them. Are you making the most of this data?
Pick the right channels for the right audience. There are no hard and fast rules with regards to the social channels that you should be on, but supporters might want to connect with you on the 'big two' of Facebook and Twitter, so certainly start here. It's better to think about which channels you want to be active on. If you're pushed for resources, there's no harm having a Twitter account that says - "We don't post here much, head over to our Facebook page" etc. Each social channel has their own quirks, but success will come from serving posts tailored to your audience regardless of the channel. Don't be afraid to experiment and test what works for your organisation. If you are a small charity and find that Facebook works wonders, but Twitter does little for you - then focus more time on what works. Sometimes a particular channel might suit your audience, or it may be down to your tone of voice working better on Twitter over Facebook etc. Remember, ultimately that Social media should not be seen as a separate channel, but be part of your digital mix including email and SEO as well as your offline activities such as print advertising.
Here's a quick overview of the various social media channels for charities:
Read our quick guide to social media channels
GETTING BUY IN FOR YOUR STRATEGY
This is the most critical part of any social media strategy.
Unless you get the support you need from your executive team and board, then your strategy will not be the success it could be. This isn’t just about the budget for the strategy- although of course that’s vital. It’s also about emotional investment. If you can get your leadership team excited about what you are trying to achieve then you’ll be able to get the whole organisation behind it. Here are my top tips for getting buy-in.
Know your stakeholders. Who are the key people you need to convince internally? What do you know about these people? What drives them and what would motivate them to make a decision in your favour? For example, your finance director may be risk averse and big on attention to detail. Could you test your business case on someone who knows your FD well before they see it? And overall, whose buy-in is most critical?
Put yourself in their shoes. Negotiating with internal stakeholders can sometimes be frustrating when you don’t get what you want. Yet never let yourself fall into a ‘them and us’ mentality. Start talking to your stakeholders as early as possible when you are planning your strategy. Asking for their opinion is really flattering and a good way to get them engaged with the process. If you need to involve other departments, what do you have in common? Focus on your shared interests and position the strategy as a way for both your departments to achieve their goals.
Be open. A good way to pre-empt negative feedback is to show that you’re listening and to invite people to say what they think. If you sense they’re unsure about anything, try to draw these issues out, and then demonstrate how you will deal with these issues. Involve other departments in planning. Now you’ve got initial feedback, keep your key stakeholders on board. For example, what do you need from finance, fundraising, or your comms team to get the strategy off the ground?
Keep your eyes on the prize. Inevitably you may find that someone isn’t sure about your plan to undertake a social media strategy. Don’t let that put you off. Stay focused on what you are trying to do. Know your business case and stick to it, and be polite, persistent and clear on how the social media strategy will help your charity its goals. If you can do that in a way that demonstrates value for money and how it will give your charity a competitive advantage then you might just be onto a winner.
LISTEN TO ZOE AMAR DISCUSS SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY
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BY ZOE AMAR
Zoe is widely regarded as one of the charity sector’s leading experts in digital communications and marketing. She founded Zoe Amar Communications in 2013. Having previously trained as a Chartered Marketer and established the marketing department of a national charity which specialises in digital services for nonprofits,
Zoe has helped many organisations maximise their impact across on and offline channels communications and achieve great results. She also writes for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network about charities and digital issues.
Zoe co-founded the Social CEOs awards in 2013 and she is a trustee for start up charity The Foundation for Training in Education and Care.