There are simply hundreds of different social media and digital space moves at incredible pace so there are constantly news tools and platforms emerging. It is impossible to manage a presence on every social media site. Instead, you need to choose the most effective and most active social media networks for connecting with your supporters. But how do you know what channel to use?

Play with everything, but select a few

It’s easy to get swept up in the hype around whatever the latest and greatest new social toy might be. While it is important to be aware of new tools non-profits should resist the temptation to follow the latest trends and start using the latest and greatest popular tools.

Non-profits with limited time and resources should focus on one or two platforms at the most so that that can invest the necessary time and energy on developing a community. But how do you decide what social media channels you should be using?

What are you trying to achieve?

It is important to have a clear and compelling vision for your social media communications. Dependent on your goals different social media tools may be more appropriate than others so this should also be a factor in deciding how you approach social media.

The potential uses of social media are wide and varied. Organisations can use social media to raise awareness of certain issues, build credibility with specific audience groups, engage supporters to fundraise or support specific campaigns.

When you decide on the platform to use think about the type of content you want to share, but also think about opportunities that these tools provide to share your stories in different ways.

Select a social media channel that supports your goals

The organisation, the work you do and the type of content you are producing is an important factor in deciding what platform you should use. Different social media platforms are better suited to specific types of content and the way your organisation needs to communicate.

InvisiblePeople.tv, an organisation started by Mark Horvath, uses film to share the experiences of people who are homeless. He decided to use video to tell their stories because he felt it was the best way to enable their voices to be heard, for people to understand homelessness and to experience what it meant to live on the streets, something he knows all too well as he once lived among them.

“When I started to think about it, I realized that when a person is homeless they feel powerless. For the most part, any real choice has been removed. They don’t have a choice of where to sleep, when to wake up, what to eat, when to shower, what to wear — most every choice is taken away.”

Mark used YouTube to deliver the campaign because that was the social media channel most appropriate to the type of content he wanted to share. His page is filled with amazing stories about people living in the streets and provides some insights that are surprising to those not familiar with the cicustances of people who are homeless.

Watching people share their own stories about living on the streets is so much more powerful than having someone else writing an article or a member of the organisation discussing the issues. I found these stories to be moving and affecting, but they also provided me with some interestign insights into their lives and changed my views about what it mean to be living on the streets. In this video I was surprised that because she was not a drug addict, not an alcoholic and not pregnant she was not able to receive help because she was lower risk. So, because she is doing everything that she should she will not get the help she needs.

How do you want to tell your story?

Water Aid decided to use pictures to tell stories direct from the field, to give people an idea of life without water and sanitation by telling the story of one of those affected using pictures.

Using Instagram they were able to give supporters a view into the day-to-day experiences of 17-year-old Howard from the village of Bokola, whose life would be changed by a new well in the village. Howard was forced to collect water from a nearby river twice daily, before and after school, consuming his energy for his academic studies.

Water Aid decided to use pictures to tell stories direct from the field, to give people an idea of life without water and sanitation by telling the story of one of those affected using pictures.
Using Instagram they were able to give supporters a view into the day-to-day experiences of 17-year-old Howard from the village of Bokola, whose life would be changed by a new well in the village. Howard was forced to collect water from a nearby river twice daily, before and after school, consuming his energy for his academic studies.

 

Sharing his story helped people understand that they can truly change the world by joining the charity and supporting the campaign. They were able to see the need, but also share the outcome of their support when the well was built.

Go where your audience is

When you determine what social channels you use and how you use them, always have your audience in mind. While you can build an audience on a social network by reaching out to existing supporters, it is much easier to build a network on a platform that your audience already uses, than it is to persuade your audience to use a tool that is unfamiliar to them.

If your main objective for social media is to reach the largest community, you will definitely want to focus on Facebook. But, don’t forget that a large community does not mean an engaged community or a community of potential supporters. Try not to focus only on the size of the community, but also on the potential to convert those community members into supporters and advocates. Consider whether your target audience is among the users of the social network you are thinking of using.

Should you even be using Social Media?

There I said it. Now anyone who reads my blog knows that I am an advocate for digital media, but sometimes it’s just not the right choice for an organisation or rather they are not ready to use these tools. Without a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, why you want to use social media and how it will benefit your cause you should think carefully before jumping in.

 

  • I agree with finding the right social media platform to do your own thing on. I started playing with Twitter when it was still a baby. At first I hated it, then I found that it turned into being one of the most effective sources of my blog traffic.

    My wife actually gave me a really good insight last night. She said, people on Facebook are more visual. They like videos, photos and all of those things people look for one Facebook. Twitter users like to read more. They are in a more professional space and are more inclined to using networks like LinkedIn and Google Plus. That said, Pinterest is also an example of people discovering new things visually.

    This makes a lot of sense in planning your content strategy. Maybe if you’re publishing lots of video content and photos(infographics) it’s better to focus on platforms like Pinterest, Facebook and Google Plus. Twitter and LinkedIn can also be added to the mix, but not as aggressively.

    If you plublish lots of text based blog posts like I do, Twitter would be the hot spot for that type of thing. It seems to make sense. I’m sure there’s also a lot of data out there to support this hunch.

    Just a thought!

    Best,
    Clinton Skakun

    • Great comments. Yes selecting the right tools for the type of content you share is important if you want to achieve your goals and that is the key thing, understanding what your goals are, what content will enabke you to achieve this and what tools are best placed to support this.

  • Tonyehn Verkitus

    Hello Daniel,

    I would be interested in talking to you about doing an interview with you for my podcast 7 Questions on http://www.GiveGab.com. Can you contact me at Tonyehn@GiveGab.com.

    Thank you!