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Social media and charities – to tweet or not to tweet?

June 18 2015

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How can charities, such as Livability, make the most of sociaI media? I recently attended a seminar alongside other third sector senior executives where we had the opportunity to discuss that most topical of subjects and candidly share our experience of using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs, such as this one, as a way to communicate the work of our organisations. We had a frank exchange on the opportunities and challenges that this brings. Generally the feeling was positive and its was clear that social networks are a good thing and that they are widely used by our customers and beneficiaries.

For me it is really exciting that social media allows us to communicate directly, in a less contrived way with our existing supporters but also with those who have never heard of what we do as a disability charity. Disabled people and their families, friends and carers have embraced the medium. They use it regularly to highlight injustice and challenge the barriers that they still face every day, or simply to show what it is really like to have a disability or work on the frontline with disabled people in 2013. Decision-makers and the media take note of what is being said, it is crucial that we are part of these conversations and inform these debates.

Using social media is also a way for us to share our successes and the amazing stories of the people we support every day. Donors and volunteers want to be inspired and want to see concrete examples of what we achieve with the funds and support they give us. We can use social media to tell these stories, for example through videos. Twitter and Facebook are obviously very popular with younger people and this is an opportunity for us to reach them and engage them in what we do, hopefully for years to come.

Of course this is also a two-way conversation, we want to communicate our work but we also should listen to what our supporters, volunteers, other organisations involved in disability issues and politicians have to tell us online. Social media opens a door to large audiences and does so for a very small cost. The fact that social media is so interactive and immediate is a real strength. For example at recent events like our Charity Awards success, London Marathon and our very own Rabbit Run race in Regent’s Park, we used Twitter and Facebook to communicate with our supporters or runners before, during and after the event.  Being able to share pictures, encouragements, videos and race timings just as we received them kept the excitement going. This made these events even more special. It also keeps us motivated when we read messages from our runners telling us how much they enjoyed the experience and asking how they can sign up to do it all again next year.

Of course social media has its own challenges, especially for charities, how do we make sure that we update our content regularly and keep it fresh and relevant at a time when capacity, time and resources are such precious commodities? How do we make sure that we don’t just use social media for the sake of it and keep our messages cohesive and focused by seamlessly weaving social media into our overall marketing, campaigning and fundraising activities? How do we measure its impact, is it simply by keeping an eye how many new followers or comments we attract or by being able to find out how social media affected a supporter’s “journey”? Those are all issues to bear in mind but nothing should detract us from using these wonderful platforms and from learning as we go by always listening to the feedback we get and keeping an open, informed conversation going.

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