If you believe everything Facebook or Twitter tells you (and frankly that’s a bit of a rabbit hole to go down right there!) about building your charity’s social media profile, you’d believe you have to spend money on paid social media advertising to make that happen.
Facebook will tell you “If you boost this post, all these wonderful engagement things will happen!” or Twitter reminds you on a regular basis that they can put your tweets in front of all the right people whenever you need them to.
The same goes for Google, Instagram, YouTube and all the rest.
For some profit making enterprises, social media and a chunky marketing budget go hand in hand like a soft drink and ice on a hot day. If you try and do one without the other, it just doesn’t work. And there is a significant amount of evidence to suggest in certain retail and commercial sectors, paid social advertising (and spending big) is almost compulsory if success is part of your plan.
So what about charities and social enterprises? Is it the same rules for them too?
What about the growing charity that wants to increase its fundraising returns? The start-up social enterprise trying to raise its head above the crowd or the not-for-profit community organisation trying to let people know there’re there when they need them?
The truth is, spending money on social media can deliver amazing results. It can open up whole new audiences, raise your profile, deliver massive engagement jumps and so on. The more you pay, the more you get. But before you think it’s that simple, there is one huge catch. And that is, you have to know what you’re doing. The truly misleading element social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter will get you with is the notion that you hand over some money, they do the rest and then it’s all good. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s remarkably easy to give them a lot of money and get absolutely nothing in return. You have to understand your market (really well!). You then need to know how to create an audience targeting profile that works well with both that market and the social media platforms methods. You need to be able to design content that generates interest, social media platforms can only put it in front of people, not make them like it! And whilst social media platforms are only too eager to tell you how many people may potentially see your post, they won’t be able to give you anything even approaching accurate data on the engagement you’ll actually get in terms of donations, service sign ups or new volunteers etc.
So, what are your options if you’re a plucky charity who doesn’t fancy forking out a fortune of your valuable budget on something that only might work?
What we’ve put together here are five tips for any charity that wants to achieve similar goals to paid social media marketing but don’t want to actually spend any money. We can’t promise they’ll work, but they’ll give you a fighting chance of doing better than you are and as they’re free, what’s to lose right?
1) Vary you output — Don’t simply post text, solo images or just videos all the time. Social media likes variety and profiles that put out near identical content all the time can sometimes be confused with spam-like profiles and in turn be rather ‘shoved to the back’.
2) Don’t post exclusively via scheduling tools like Hootsuite — Again, spammers don’t sit at their desk day and night tapping away on new content. They put together a limited amount of content then use scheduling tools to post it all again and again and again. If you post 100% of your content via scheduling tools and nothing organically at the time, social media platforms spot this and start to suspect you’re not a real person.
3) Generate NEW engagement — You may think getting a few likes for every single post is good. It makes your content seems well engaged? But those crafty social media platforms are able to spot if the ‘Likes’, ‘Re-tweets’ or comments are always coming from the same people. After a while, they won’t even consider it actual engagement. Whereas a couple or few likes and comments from new people who don’t engage with everything you do makes it look like you’re reaching new audiences and putting stuff out there that has broader appeal. So social media platforms are more likely to put your content in front of new people.
4) Don’t #Hashtag too much — If your post is about a broad topic and you chuck in a bunch of #hastags that are equally broad then you will just be one tweet or post amongst millions and incredibly unlikely to be spotted. Avoid the temptation to think “If millions of people are #hashtagging this, and I do, then millions will see this!”, it doesn’t work like that. Find #hashtags that are relatable, relevant to the post and used by a healthy but not huge number of people. You’re far more likely to get results from using them that way.
5) If in doubt, don’t post — We’ve all done it. Thrown something on social media just for the sake of it. The problem is, every time you throw something uninspiring on for the sake of it, and predictably it gets zero engagement all this does is add a few more negative points in the social media platform’s eye as to how popular your profile is. There is ZERO benefit to posting something online that no-one engages with. If you have nothing to say, don’t post. If you have nothing interesting to post, find something. Not having posted anything for a few days is not, by itself, a good enough reason to post something.
If you abide by all these rules, we’re not going to promise you engagement levels beyond your wildest dreams (we’ll leave that sort of thing to the social media platforms) but we do genuinely believe you’ll see better results than you have been seeing.
Just remember, social media is a tool. A tool to help you raise your profile, generate revenue or find volunteers etc. Like any tool, you need to know how to use it properly. If you don’t use it properly, it’s just going to make a hash of the job you’re trying to do.
You can learn more about how to use social media effectively as a small charity or social enterprise at our online workshop SOCIAL MEDIA FOR SMALL CHARITIES — MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU — Click HERE to find out more.
Remember, social media marketing paid advertising doesn’t need to be a mystery!