But charities do have something up their sleeve.
Here are some of the top points to consider if your charity is looking to add some spice and cut through the ever-bloated world of social media.
1) Content isn’t king, your audience is
I’ve seen it time and again, charities broadcasting their latest appeal with new imagery and videos while ignoring their core supporters. They’re the foundation on which your very social presence is built, so treat them with care and respect.
What does this look like in practice?
Ensure that each mention, post, Instagram shot, video, pin etc. is acknowledged. That doesn’t mean you move heaven and earth to show that you care, a simple favourite or comment will do. Pair this with a fast response (within 10 minutes) and you’ve got a very happy supporter.
Content is quite clearly one of the core pillars for social media, but your audience are there waiting to help you achieve your goals.
At Marie Curie we’ve seen repeat engagements, actions from those that have engaged with us previously, increase by nearly 200% purely by ensuring that each and every interaction is recognised.
Take Marie Curie’s #ThankYouThursday initiative. Our Marketing Team take 10 minutes out of their day to draw and create a little thank you message to anyone tweeting the @mariecurieuk account to say how they’ve supported us.
We’ve had people phone us saying they’ve been moved to tears by this simple gesture.
— Marie Curie (@mariecurieuk) June 11, 2015
2) Listen. Listen hard
It’s all well and good creating a campaign utilising one of the latest social platforms to show you’re ‘with it’, or devising some convoluted competition to increase your metrics. But these don’t always pay off.
Listening pays off. Finding out what your supporters, audiences and partners are actively doing or wanting to do on social can give you a truly valuable insight.
Whether that’s through aggregating mentions and tagging their purpose, or analysing user generated content, it’s worthwhile in the long run.
At Marie Curie we found that a lot of our supporters were sharing pictures of their loved ones who received care and support through our services onto our Facebook page and on Twitter. This was great, but soon enough they melt into the social media ether.
We came to the conclusion that a web platform to host these photos and the stories behind them would be of huge benefit, not just to us, but to those that wanted to share their experiences.
After the platform went live at Christmas, we saw more than 400 photos, videos and stories shared within two weeks. This increased traffic to our website and, in turn, opportunities to donate.
By all means, test a new product, fundraising mechanism or content type that might not be an initial obvious fit (see the forth point below), but ensure it’s seen as a test internally and that you grab all the data you can on how it’s performed.
3) Measure it
It seems silly to say this in 2015, but there are still huge branded accounts and pages out there that don’t measure the effectiveness of what they do on social.
Measurements go a lot further than listing out how many retweets you saw last week, or highlighting that your post last Monday received 50 more likes than a similar post two weeks prior.
It’s about real, meaningful actions and observations that in turn allow you to hone and adapt your approach. Visits to your website are meaningful, donations from a tweet are meaningful, understanding who your audience are is meaningful.
All of this data and understanding can be used to showcase a return on investment, something inherently tricky with organic social media.
— Marie Curie (@mariecurieuk) June 13, 2015
4) Think it. Test it. Prove it
Someone in the fundraising department comes up with a crazy idea to increase repeat donations through Facebook? Test it. That’s the beauty of social media. No print runs, no prototype, no budget sign off. Get your idea out there and see if it works.
We all know charities don’t have the most extensive budgets out there, so it’s essential we do what we can with what we have.
Organic social media is a powerful beast, so let’s use it.
There are location targeting options, interest options and a host of others, your target audience can be adapted to suit your test. Want to see what the difference in gender response to this new repeat donations idea is? Just head to Facebook.
There are a couple of small but critical caveats here.
Firstly, ensure that everyone that needs to know about the test knows – you don’t want to have to explain yourself when your latest FB post fails to set the world alight. Secondly, ensure you’ve got measures in place before you go live. You don’t want to be scrambling and digging for data after the test has finished.
5) You’re special
What makes your charity stand out from the crowd? Do you have the pleasure of working with cute animals? Or maybe you have access to some touching stories? Use these to your advantage.
I was lucky enough to start my charity career at WWF UK (the panda people, not the wrestlers). They had an almighty database of stunning animal and environmental imagery that really couldn’t be matched. So we made the most of it.
Our campaigns and engagement periods were peppered with the type of imagery you see on BBC documentaries and photography awards, mainly because these WERE the images winning the awards.
Now at Marie Curie, we have a library of amazing stories of people who have experienced our Nurses and Hospices. We use them to cement our content and campaigns in the minds of our audience, and allow their own experiences to emerge in comments and tweets.
Think, what do we have that others don’t? You’ll gain that edge in grabbing attention and get to the core of what makes your supporters care.
These are the core areas that charities should really look at, but most are applicable for all types of businesses using social media. When used together, there’s an extremely solid base to move forward from.
Let me know if you have any other key points to share in the comments.