One of the most common requests I receive is advice on how to get more people to engage with them through social media, as if there were some simple magical solution that might make people care about what they do.
Sure you can adjust the time of the post to align with when you followers are active online, adjust titles to have more impact, include hashtags and mentions, but if your content is boring, if people don’t care about what you are saying because your content is dull, well there is little you can do and eventually, no matter how you package it people will soon realise you don’t have much to say, at least nothing they are interested in sharing with people they know.
Getting people to care about something you believe in requires the right approach, but because engagement is largely determined by the quality of the content that is being shared, even nonprofits delivering dramatic results can struggle to raise support if they fail to communicate their impact and connect with their audience.
So What Should You Be Sharing?
If you want to attract people to your community with your content, you’ve got to make it worth reading. It needs to be interesting. It needs to connect with people and make them feel something. Without valuable content you will never be able to persuade visitors to share your posts, reply, retweet or talk about your organisation or your cause and finally, to support the cause.
Make People Think
The thing is that charities are in a unique position. No matter what cause we represent or what problem we are seeking to solve we have access to a world that few will see or experience. This provides us with amazing opportunities to share stories that if developed properly can really change the way people see the world. If we want people to forget what they are doing for a moment and care about what we do we need to make people stop and think and consider a life very different from the one they know and understand.
Too often our communications can seem disconnected from the people who are affected by the problems we seek to address. Placing people on the position of those we help and the challenges and problems they face can be a really effective way of getting people to understand and connect with the work we do. It allows us to place our cause in a human context.
— Doctors w/o Borders (@MSF_USA) June 26, 2013
Sometimes pictures can be the most effective way to communication what we do and express this in a way that is surprising and new, that challenges their perspectives and that makes people reconsider the way they view the world.
What’s for lunch today? PETA activists are in Glasgow asking “who’s on your plate?” pic.twitter.com/TG4ISUlg
— PETA UK (@PETAUK) September 26, 2012
— Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) February 14, 2013
Because sometimes public perceptions of the issues are wrong, but this can create opportunities to surprise people and make people reconsider what we are doing and why we care so much. @ONEcampaign understood that there was a misconception of the funding provided by the UK government in foreign aid. They saw that often people don’t support a charity not because they don’t care, but because we have failed in some way to communicate the issues or to challenge assumptions.
— Victoria Morris (@VictoriaEMorris) February 8, 2013
Data, properly handled, can be an effective way to give people the sense of scale of the issue that they may not have been aware of.
Make People Care
For a social cause campaign to be successful, it has to make people feel strongly enough that they’ll be driven to get involved. While it’s great to give people facts and data about why your cause is so important, when it comes to inspiring action, we need to share stories about the people who are affected by the problems we are seeking to remedy.
People are moved by stories. Stories enable us to understand and relate to situations that are outside of our normal experiences. When we use them to share the dramatic and often moving circumstances of the people we help we can make people understand what we do, not as an idea, but as something experienced. Our charities are filled with amazing stories, we just need to develop them into content that people love and love to share.
— American Red Cross (@RedCross) June 20, 2013
If we can make people see the world as other people see it, then we can make people understand the challenges that exist in places far away or situations they never considered and when we do that people will want to learn more about what you do.
Make People Want To Be Part of What You Do
You are trying to sell them the idea of a better world, but you are also selling yourself. Knowing how to talk to people and convey the message you want to deliver is a great asset into recruiting people to support your cause. It is not enough I think that people understand what you do and believe in your cause. I think that to get people involved they need to feel connected to the cause, and unless they are directly affected by what you do the only way that can happen is by making people care about your charity and feel like they are part of a community so they want to get involved. What nonprofits do is inspiring, but to get people to want to be involved it needs to be fun, and changing the world and helping people should be fun.
— Janice Babineau (@JaniceBabineau) July 5, 2013
Showing people what you are doing in real time and the people you are assisting and the problems you face can be moving, it can make people what to get involved in what you are doing.
— Save the Children (@SavetheChildren) November 2, 2012
— ShelterBox Canada (@ShelterBoxCan) October 23, 2012
Let’s face it. Most people don’t work for nonprofits because they dream of getting rich and famous. People get involved in nonprofits because they care about the causes they represent. It’s that sort of passion and commitment that you need to share to get other people excited about getting involved.
— Muscular Dystrophy (@TargetMD) July 4, 2013
— British Red Cross (@BritishRedCross) March 22, 2013
Show Them How They Can Make a Difference
Perhaps the most important thing you need to do is convince them that their efforts are worthwhile. There are a lot of good causes out there so you need to show people that they can make a difference and that their support will have a real impact. Show them what they have achieved by sharing the outcomes of the projects they have funded. This is something that I would emphasis as essential to all parts of a non-profit, however Twitter provides the perfect mechanism to deliver pictures, stories and highlights of the work they have supported. Sharing stories about the impact that you have had with the help of your supporters is the best way to show people that you are delivering outcomes that benefit individuals, families and communities.
“I am so happy to receive this card. I wanted to thank my sponsor that thinks of me” – Geneveve, age 9, Timor-Leste. pic.twitter.com/iSwHbQWU
— ChildFund NZ (@ChildFund_NZ) January 24, 2013
— WaterAid UK (@WaterAidUK) November 26, 2012
— Natalie (@nataliemariexx) March 2, 2013
These elements of social communications provide a framework for supporter engagement and should help you to build support and get people involved in what you do. Sometimes it is about thinking a little differently, or seeing our organisations from the persepctive of potential supporters and how they precieve what we do. Soemtimes it is the way we share the impact of what we do and thinking creatively about how we present our impact or the challenges we face is important, but most of all I think it is about talking passionately about what we do and sharing the amaing stories and experiences of the people we come into contact with as we work to change the world for the better.