Are you on Facebook?

Recently, I shocked my colleague when I told her I didn’t have a Facebook account. It was more of a shock because as a communications professional, my job involves using various social media platforms every day. It is my stock and trade.

How easy is it then to find someone with a Facebook account? Just ask around and look at the stats and the answer is; very easy.

Facebook has 1,310,000,000 active monthly users and the total number of minutes spent on Facebook every month is 640,000,000. It’s a similar story for Twitter, with 645,750,000 active registered users and 135,000 people signing up to Twitter every day. Social media is now the number one reason people use the internet. At fundraising events, conferences or networking events the next question after introductions is “do you have a Facebook page?” and your organisation climbs the legitimacy ladder the minute you say “yes! yes, we do” But surely it is more than that? To start out with, it shouldn’t be just a Facebook page but A Social Media Strategy.

Ask a PR or communications professional, especially one working for a small charity, and you’ll find the consensus is that using social media is the easiest and most effective way to get your message out there. Its about time this approach is structured and planned out. After all, Facebook allows you to monitor “likes”, the number of visits to your page, where these visits are from and also when is the best time for you to post something- it can tell you when most of your audience is online. A statistician’s delight! Twitter is not far behind with tweet deck allowing you to use multiple accounts, schedule tweets and cross-post from other accounts. Online tools such as Twitonomy provide expert inside information or “analytics” if we are being social media hipsters. Then there is the holy grail i.e. SocialBakers, providing statistics and monitoring tools that are country-specific, sector-specific or for a particular person.

Many small charities are still finding their feet with social media and its possible they haven’t quite realised the benefits of using social media or the knack of actively posting updates. If you’re a small charity, it is pretty much guaranteed that marketing budgets are tight and the impact of this can extend further. What can you do in the face of this problem? Social media isn’t just a tool to network. Using social media effectively can help raise awareness of your work, engage more people to be involved with you and help your fundraising ability. As a whole, it adds towards your accountability because ultimately, you are making information available in the public domain. Naturally, this does not mean simply having a Twitter or Facebook page alone. Social media is never enough as a standalone. Incorporate your social media strategy into your wider business strategy, and you’ll see immediate results. Using social media for fundraising, policy messages, and to communicate with stakeholders is what will make the difference between simply having a Facebook account and having a social media strategy.

The content you put on your social media sites is key for success. Videos, pictures, hashtags and blogs are much more effective than longer stories. The frequency with which you post content is important and never forget to engage with users. Social media has changed the way charities communicate with people. It is no longer a one way message giving service. It’s about engagement. Having the ability to let people know you are there.

This isn’t the easiest time to be a small charity anywhere in the world. But when an easy and effective option presents itself, smaller charities should be ready to make full use of its potential. That, is what social media is.

Rabiah Hussain is a Freelance Communications Specialist who works in the charity sector. She has also worked in the banking and public sector. Find Rabiah on Linkedin

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