Social Media For Charities

How do you make your social media dollars go further? Ask for advice from a charity. They often have to do more with less. Here’s a look at Macmillan and Amnesty in a Guardian social media masterclass.

First lesson to the room of charity marketers. ‘It’s a paradigm shift not a spreadsheet of figures, but fill in the spreadsheet anyway, charities have to do it all with what they have.’

Just started #socialmediagmc @guardianclasses “we didn’t say they’d have to have xxx followers, we said think about your work being social”

— Samantha Sile (@samanthasile) September 12, 2015

Macmillan Cancer Support

Carol Naylor @popplestone is the #SocialMedia Manager for @macmillancancer spoke about how to embed social within the organisation. Who are you and why bother? You need to be clear about why you are using social so your employees can be clear with their use of it.

Macmillan know that social media is for keeping people talking about cancer issues so they use social to support and inspire anyone involved with the disease, treatment and care. Carol insists you need to be specific about your aim.


‘When you review your business plans, it’s time you were budgeting for social media as business as usual. It’s time to integrate social as a cost and as a philosophy, and when you use it, it’s about quick turn around times and being responsive.’

Who Are Your Social Media Rock Stars?

Macmillan helped their CEO to become active on Twitter and he soon attracted 5000 followers. They encourage all their staff to get online and give those interested social media training.

It’s time to pick a few people for the team. Who is the go-to person? Who needs to know how to use social? Start an ambassadors program and aim for one in ten to pick it up and run with it. Macmillan gave those people training and supported them, physically got them doing it, exchanging notes, experimenting, and then wrote the social media policy with them. HINT: just get on with it, and make sure your comms team are very social media savvy.

By encouraging their supporters, their employees, their survivors and carers to get online, they are able to reach across broad fields of interests, reaching the hospital patient through the nurse for example. If you have an event, look at the region/group/culture it’s in and use that social media footprint, look at where your audiences already are online and go to them.

Reach niche audiences with your own experts.
Blur the lines between staff and supporters.

MacMillian Social Media Guidelines

Carol says, ‘You have to work as a team yet our different platforms are run by different departments, Buzzfeed, storify, Instagram, LinkedIn group, FB, Twitter, all run by different departments.’

We’ve learned what is probably going to work but we can’t ever guarantee it will.

Amnesty UK

Emerson Povey understands the use advantages of using many social platforms and lists FB, Twitter, Instagram, G+, YouTube on the Amnesty UK website but you can also find them on Snapchat, Periscope, Pinterest, Storify, Tumblr, Tinder and Vine. Ask yourself, which of these (and more) channels are suitable for your organisation? Which fits your aims, tone, and has the audience you want to talk to?

Amnesty International understand the various platform’s capabilities and how to leverage them. One example: matching the insight that their supporters may face persecution for sharing footage of human rights abuses with snapchat’s video self destruct capabilities allowing witnesses to ‘Report without Fear’. This snapchat function allows citizens to send videos directly to Amnesty’s snapchat account that then immediately delete on their own phone. Amnesty are clear with their use of each social platform because they know what they stand for and why people engage with them.

Why be across so many platforms?

Because of the explosion of information (and the diversification of audiences and their expectations) and the reduced reach on the core platforms.

Whether your post makes the cut depends on how long its been since a user interacted with you, how well your post is being shared and liked, and how well everything else is performing at the same time.

What you post, when, and who it’s aimed at, is becoming incredibly important. These spaces might be free, but getting it wrong is expensive. Who are your audience and what do you know about them? It’s more important than ever to have a clear idea of who you’re speaking to and what you want them to do, and finally how you’ll measure that.

Once you know who you want to target and where is best to reach them, consider what you are going to tell them. Give them possibility for action, which in their case, means focusing on the refugees rather than Aasad when talking about Syria.

The moment a Syrian refugee family safely makes it ashore: the story behind that photograph

— Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) August 19, 2015

Amnesty Questions1

Here’s just three possible sets of questions from Emerson for an individual campaign or for wider analysis.

‘The middle one is probably the easiest in terms of using existing tools to benchmark and report – places like topsy are very good for following hashtag growth. If you’re after UGC, you probably have to get someone to download and count everything but unique tags on Instagram or Twitter are still easily quantifiable.

The other two get interesting. The first one requires you to catagorise content – something you can’t do for free on a social network as you post, and the second requires you to match data up with something like google analytics. This kind of analysis really helps us understand if we’re doing the right thing at the right time. To do that we need to go build our own reports – but it’s quick.’

Here we see Amnesty look at their posts grouped into campaign topics, the engagement levels, the click through rate and then the website conversion taken. From the below Amnesty can see that their posts on LGBT are getting a high engagement but little click through or conversion and look at why.

Amnesty GA plus social figures

Charities know who they want to reach and what they want them to do.

Once you know this you can consider exactly how best to do it, and get on with it. One of the reasons these dynamic and focused charities are successful on social media is that they respond to a sense of urgency inherent in their objectives.

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