We all know social media is great for getting a message out there. And for charities, spreading the word can be a key part of what you’re all about.
As a not-for-profit, though, you have special needs when it comes to your social media campaigns. Sure, in an ideal world, raising funds from your followers online would be a dream come true. But charities also have something else, something much bigger, driving their digital campaigns: hope for a better world. And their message for change is key to who they are and what they represent. Feeding more people, cleaning up the environment, war, illness – whatever the topic, people need to hear it, and hear it now.
All pretty complex stuff. And all important. But social-media friendly?
On the surface, probably not. Overburdening your supporters with bad news stories and policy papers is not going to grab their attention; not in a world where concentration spans online diminish quicker than you can type ‘YouTube cute cats’.
Sometimes you need to get above the noise by doing something different. There are great success stories out there of not for profit’s using social media to really grab and engage supporters that we can learn from:
1. The ALS Ice-bucket challenge
The ALS Association has to be mentioned for its incredibly successful campaign with the Ice Bucket Challenge (even my Granny’s heard about it). The ‘challenge’ gave grown adults a chance to regress to childhood by playing with water, and then getting their friends to play too. All in the name of charity. Better still, it cost the ALS Association basically nothing to run the campaign #icebucketchallenge, and has brought in over €100 million in funds (yes that’s One Zero Zero million), along with thousands of new Facebook and Twitter fans for the charity.
2. Macmillan Cancer Support
The Macmillan organisation offers support for people with cancer, and they provide lots of really useful information through their website. On social media, though, they are really rocking it, with loads of support videos on YouTube and very active Facebook and Twitter pages. The true key to their success, however, lies in how they connect day in day out with supporters. For example, a comment from any one of their whopping 500,000 Facebook fans on how cancer has affected them personally will almost always get a personal reply online, along with an encouraging message and options for a next step. Instead of being just about engagement and raising funds, Macmillan goes one further and uses social media as an extension of their support services. Unsurprisingly, they’ve garnered several awards for digital engagement as a result.
3. Greenpeace International
Greenpeace International has the digital world really working for them. Their social media activity spans all platforms including Facebook and Twitter but also Vimeo and Instagram. Regular mixed postings are made up of hard-hitting news items, new Greenpeace campaigns, and feel-good motivational quotes (very share-friendly). But their real strength lies in their use of videos and photos to draw the reader in – who doesn’t like watching Lego videos even when they are talking about the evils of petrol-producing companies? Pulling together some photos with a good soundtrack and a clear, inspiring message can brighten up any social media account and increase shares and new followers.
4. Human Rights Watch
Human right violations are a difficult topic to talk about, and certainly not one that lends itself to the vagaries and whims of social media. And yet, Human Rights Watch do one really great thing with their social media – almost all of their staff seem to be active and representing the organisation online. Their personal accounts, glimpses into what a day in the HRW office looks like, and interesting news articles all shared on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube really help to humanise the brand and add a real, personal connection to their cause – social media gold dust.
Oxfam are active on all the mainstream social media platforms. But they get extra-special mention for their engagement with Pinterest, where to date they have over 1,600 pins and close to 5,000 followers. By developing visual material around food, one of the most popular topics on Pinterest, they are engaging supporters one of their key issues whilst reflecting the light informative tone typical to Pinterest feeds. They’ve also offered space on their Pinterest account for followers to include their own ‘Pins’, further strengthening engagement and increasing content with less effort.
Social media offers great opportunities for charities to reach people and spread a message – take note above. Who else in the charity world inspires you with their social media campaigns?
Written by: Aine Rickard