Social media refers to the range of online communication channels dedicated to community based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. It can be a great way for organisations to engage with and connect to their communities and stakeholders, build trust in their brand and personalise the experience to make it more relevant to your target audience.

It can be very cost effective compared to traditional forms of marketing but be aware that is can take up a lot of resources in terms of your time.

It's not enough to set up social media sites for your organisation and then forget about them. You need a clear strategy for social media use and how you're going to engage with your audience. Social is two way - it's not just about broadcasting your message, it's about listening and responding to your community.

Don't use social media to talk about features and benefits. To make your message engaging and memorable you need to tell a story and connect with people in a way that is relevant to them. Think about what would add value to your audience and how you can create great content that your community wants to share.

Social media plan

If you're going to undertake social media it should form part of your overall marketing and communications plan. Social media shouldn't happen in isolation, it is simply another tool in your communications kit. Be clear about your marketing goals and objectives and how you will monitor and measure whether you are meeting them.

In developing a social media plan think about:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • Who will be the spokesperson and voice of your organisation?
  • Who will respond to conversations?
  • Who will monitor social media?
  • What are your goals?
  • How will you measure them?
  • What content will you create?
  • Which social media platforms will you use?
  • How often will you post content?
  • When's the best time to reach your audience?
  • How will you evaluate success?

If your monitoring shows that social media isn't helping you achieve your aims, you will need a plan to refocus your efforts or to exit your social media platforms.

You should also develop social media policy which outlines rules abut who can access the organisational social media accounts, what types of postings are unacceptable and how to ensure safety and security online. 

Which social media platforms to use

You don't need to be on every social media platform and when you're starting out it's a good idea to try one or two to see if they work for your organisation. The most important consideration is to understand where your clients and stakeholders are. Find out where they spend time on social media and choose the most popular.

Think about your organisation's mission and goals and which channels can best help you meet those goals. Then work out a way to monitor whether you are achieving them.

Other things to consider include what type of content do you want to create and share, how often will you post content, what tone of voice will you use, who will be responsible for social media. 

It's worth looking at other organisations similar to your own to see how they use social media and what platforms they use.

For more information on choosing a social media platform and how to get started visit the ImproveIT website.

Idealware's decision guide for social media provides a comprehensive manual for nonprofits on all the major social media channels, how to choose between them and how best to use them.

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