Social media for charities: tips to increase engagement

Social media tips

Most charities use social media in order to raise awareness of their cause, promote their events or publications and drive traffic to their websites. 

This post gives practical guidance for small charities on how to achieve four key goals:

  • Set solid social media foundations
  • Get more followers
  • Have good conversations
  • Promote your content

1. Set solid social media foundations

Understand social media for charities

"Social media boils down to the marriage of two main concepts — content and conversation. Without content, conversation is mere networking. Without conversation, content is dead. It goes nowhere."

Brett Virmalo - Tipping Point Labs

Part of understanding social media is knowing what objectives are well served by social media and which are not.  

Social media is good for: Social media is worse for:
  • Time sensitive things like events and new content.
  • Public conversations in real time.
  • Quick feedback through comments, likes, retweets, etc. 
  • Shareability - interesting news travels more quickly. 
  • Evergreen content like guides and resources. 
  • Transactions like event bookings, sign-ups and donations
  • Universal accessibility

Get your profile in shape

When people come across your charity on social media they will use your profile to form quick opinions about who you are, what you do and how trustworthy or interesting you are. 

We have a comprehensive guide to improving your social media charity profiles. It contains downloadable templates to help you format profile and banner images for all the mainstream social channels.

Define simple objectives

Set simple, measurable goals that you track over time. These can help focus your efforts and review whether your strategy is working. 

Here are some example monthly targets:

  • 10 shares of your content (measure with AddThis)
  • 50 people click links in tweets to events on your website
  • 1 volunteer through direct conversations on Facebook
  • 1 new fundraiser through engagement on Instagram

Note that these metrics all involve engagement. Try to avoid purely output based metrics like the number of tweets or passive metrics like the number of impressions (how many times your post or tweet has been loaded onto someone’s screen). 

Deciding what constitutes a ‘reached goal’ can be tricky. Attributing a social channel as the causal factor is also tricky. Our guide on How to create a Google Analytics Measurement Plan can help to define your website goals and make sure you are tracking your different social channels as inbound sources.

Master one channel at a time

Every marketing channel is difficult to master. There are no quick wins. Every channel is full of noise and only the best stand out. So it’s much better to focus on one channel and do it well than be average at many channels. 
For more on this read ‘the Dip’ by Seth Godin.

2. Get more followers

Here are five practical tips on how to get more followers:

  • Follow people in your sector
  • Engage in existing conversations in your sector
  • Add your social media details to your email footer
  • List your social media profiles on your website
  • Ask people to follow you in your emails, blog posts etc.

3. Have good conversations

Know your audience

This really matters. Are you speaking to teachers, parents, teenagers, professionals? We mentioned above that you should choose one platform to focus on and the same logic applies to the audience. It’s harder to excel if your audience is broad. With a narrow and clearly defined audience, you will find it much easier to grow. 

More on this in our guide on How to create a communication plan (includes free template).

Be generous

The power of a network is in its connections. So you will have much greater reach if you can build trust with other influential organisations. Although counterintuitive to some, a good way to increase the chances of others sharing your stuff is to be generous in promoting the work and activities of others. 
For more on this read ‘Give and take’ by Adam Grant.

Value your time

Social media can be a massive time vortex. Your social media content will become very fragmented as it reaches people’s news feeds. It’s impossible to fully control your social media content, or the comments that get added to it, so don’t even try. Some social media conversations can easily become time-consuming and distracting and you need the discipline to know when to focus elsewhere.

Here are some antidotes to the distractions of social media:

Turn it off Decide strict social media hours during which you choose to actively engage and make it your focus. 
Share Share the burden with your staff team. Once you have defined your audience clearly, there is no reason your whole team can’t get involved in posting content and starting conversations. 
Automate Use tools that flag interactions and manage conversations. These are particularly useful if you are trying to get your team to share the load. A simple free dashboard for twitter is Tweetdeck. Slack has integrations that can flag up when people mention you. And there are lots of more comprehensive management tools like Buffer.
Measure Measure your time. If you really want to kick-start your productivity try seeing where you actually spend your time by running an app like RescueTime for a few weeks.

4. Promote your content

Promoting content is not just about contributing to the noise. You have to cut through the noise and we recommend a three-stage process:

Read good content > write good content > promote with personality

Read good content

We all stand on the shoulders of giants and our social media and content strategy is no exception. Your outputs will only ever be as good as your inputs so if you want to be posting good content you need to be consuming good content. 

What this means can vary dramatically depending on your aims. If you want to share provocative and viral tweets then you should be following and learning from those who have mastered this art.  If you want to write publications that shape policy in your sector then you should be keeping abreast of recent policy changes and the people and publications that were influential in those changes. 

Useful apps for consuming content:

Write good content

Obvious, right? You’d be surprised how easy it is to look for ‘quick fixes’ to get more eyeballs on your content when, if you are really honest with yourself, your content is quite average. We have certainly failed this self-evaluation before.

Here are some ways to avoid average content:

  • Review content written by others and check yours is better.
  • Spend more time on content that is likely to last a long time.
  • Add practical examples of your points.
  • Link to sources for your assertions.
  • Link to useful tools to help people do things quickly.
  • Learn about what makes a great charity story.
  • Add powerful and emotive pictures.

Promote with personality

Lots of organisations used to automatically post content on social media (yes, we did too!) but some social media platforms now do not allow this. Anything that is automated risks being seen as spam. So while it’s fine to use scheduling software (e.g. Buffer, MeetEdgar) to post content you should avoid reposting identical content multiple times using these services. 

For a similar reason, it’s best to avoid automatic posting across different platforms, like sharing blog posts published on your website automatically to social media. It’s better to think of your promotional post on the social media platform as an item of content in its own right, with its own purpose and audience, even if it includes a link back to a post on your website. 

If you are sharing a publication or resource from your organisation, rather than sharing the title and a link try to pull out one controversial idea and share that instead. For example, if your report looks at water sanitation then look for a specific point from the conclusion like ‘community-led initiatives were 50% more likely to succeed than government-run initiatives’. This is more likely to spark a conversation which will ultimately drive back more interest to the underlying resources. 


4 April 2018