In parts one and two of our short set of Viewpoints to mark World Social Media Day, we looked at how charities are using social media, including case studies and useful tips from our industry leaders. We’re rounding off our series by looking at the rise (and rise) of social and the implications for charities and their staff.
The rise of social media in the third sector
Social media is a huge asset to the charitable sector and helps to build an approachable brand as well as developing organisations main functions. It is a hub to connect charities with each other, service users with charities, donors and supporters with charities and beneficiaries, and back again. And crucially, it’s a way for charities make personal connections within the communities they serve – in turn, better connecting the wider charity sector.
As an engagement channel, consumer facing social media lends itself to informality. There are many opportunities for content creation and for followers to participate and be part of the conversation. After all, ‘social’ is two way. There are polls to be answered, national holidays to celebrate, memes to make and undeniably campaigns to support.
Social media also opens up audiences that charities may not have reached as easily before, allowing people to find resources and information they may have been embarrassed to ask for, or may not have been able to easily access, especially if a physical visit to a charity service or delivery centre is required. Not all audiences will be reached through social channels for many reasons but as part of a wider strategy, they can really help grow your reach.
The toll of social
It’s wise to remember, that social media carries many benefits for the charitable sector but by inviting engagement, as we should, this will expose us to challenges too – most fair, but also trolling from fake accounts or those with unhelpful agendas. There is an expectation that charities – and individuals – are able to respond through their social channels 24/7. So you should set out clear guidelines and expectations. If something negative happens involving a charity, it can blow up twice as much, and twice as quickly, in such a public space, so charities need to be cautious of how they manage a crisis in real time on social media.
Charity digital media and marketing consultant, Kirsty Marrins, argues that charities owe a duty of care to the people who manage our social media accounts; often at the front line when it comes to a crisis. You can read her take in Third Sector (subscription required). Certainly when (and if) things get ugly, it is vital to consider the wellbeing of those colleagues in the “firing line”
Let’s face it though, among the challenges that of course need to be balanced, measured and managed, the benefits of social media for the charity sector generally pretty great. We’re big fans of how social channels allow us to connect with the micro-donation movement and we will continue to share the happiness we feel when we see the huge impact we are making together through Pennies. Thank you for being part of it!