In the current market, it is imperative that companies – big and small – create and invest in a winning social media and digital content strategy. By now many people use these tools in our personal lives, so why and should you use them in your marketing strategy?
The first obvious reason – which also happens to be the subtitle of this post – is that many of them are free! Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pintrest, blogging sites…all of these platforms are readily available for anyone who desires access to the online community. Not every charity is the same, and so not all social media tools will be appropriate for their cause – Instagram would work very effectively for a charity like Macmillan Cancer Trust as a lot of their supporters fundraise on their behalf using public events such as races which could be celebrated through capturing the moments with photographs, but this wouldn’t suit many others. So it is important to remember that just because something can be used, doesn’t mean it should be.
This brings me to my second point; when they are used as tools of a wider campaign strategy, they can be seen as every bit as important as email or press releases. In order to engage with you audience through traditional means, you would normally have to rely on traffic being directed to the site through a search engine or for them to have already signed up to your newsletter – which is very limiting in terms of your potential audience.
In light of this, it is key to decide what you want to use and how much time you can invest in it, as a halfhearted attempt or not giving the campaign enough hours will make the exercise a lot less effective. It is best to choose what you want to invest in initially, and spend time growing and nurturing your online presence. Social media success is like a flower; first of all you plant the seed, eager to see some shred of a plant, and become somewhat downhearted when a couple of weeks later there isn’t much to see. But it is necessary to carry on nurturing the seedling until it eventually grows and blooms…which is when all the work will have been worth it! Furthermore, if you are trying to grow several platforms with limited resources, then they will all suffer unless you prioritise.
The recent Cancer Research UK #nomakeupselfie campaign which sprang spontaneously within the major social media platforms, is an excellent example of how charities can harness the power of social media to their advantage once they have invested time in their social media persona. Of course it can’t be seen as a typical success story, however it serves as an excellent case study to demonstrate that with an inventive hook which captures the attention of the public, it is possible to run a successful campaign solely through these free platforms.
Furthermore, the informality of these platforms lends them to informal campaigns - creating the opportunity to be playful and experimental in your content and messages. On the surface taking a photo of yourself without makeup has little to do with raising awareness for Cancer Research UK’s fundraising, but another way to look at it is this is the 21st
century digital native’s equivalent of a cake sale or fete. Rather than selling people your home made half-burnt fairy cakes, you show your support through effectively selling an unflattering photo (the issues surrounding why a women wearing no makeup is such an attention grabbing Facebook post is not important here!). For whatever motives, altruistic or narcissistic, the concept of posting a make-up free photo with proof of sending a text donation and nominating friends is ingenious because it 1) it manages to capture the attention of the reader, despite competing with other content 2) communicates the details of how to donate 3) obligates at least a couple of other people through nominations. It is easy to see how the campaign became exponentially widespread when you consider the fact that the average user has between 180-500 Facebook friends and over 200 Twitter followers, depending on your demographic.
It doesn’t matter whether you want or need a campaign on this scale for your charity however, as the key with using social media is to create the beginning of a conversation between you and the individual. This requires the production of high quality content which relates to your brand image and promotes engagement. The traditional KPI’s relating to your marketing success are longer restricted to page views and emails opened, you must also monitor social sharing of your content which indicates engagement and in turn generates more traffic directed to your site. Therefore creating a well thought out and properly executed digital strategy which utlises these free social tools effectively is key to building a more natural and streamlined conversation that will begin with content, create engagement, and end with a donation or registration.