Social media secrets revealed at Charity Digital Insights’ debut event » Charity Digital News

Social media secrets revealed at Charity Digital Insights’ debut event

On Tuesday 29th September Charity Digital News hosted the first in our brand new series of Charity Digital Insights events, designed to help charities discover how they can use digital technologies to engage with supporters, donors and the wider world.

The inaugural event, focusing on social media best practice for charities, saw 100 professionals from across the third sector gather to hear case study presentations from Cancer Research UK, Rethink and Beating Bowel Cancer, a keynote presentation from charity communications expert, Zoe Amar, followed by a lively networking session, drinks and pizza.


How does Cancer Research UK use social media?

Charlotte Beaty-Pownall, senior social media manager at Cancer Research UK, spoke about how Cancer Research UK uses social media to engage with donors, connect with the public, raise awareness and share stories about real people.

We really like to create a dialogue with our supporters,” she said.

The charity also uses social channels to talk about its research, inspire action and create a buzz. But how is social media used to raise money?

Last year, Cancer Research UK’s campaign #nomakeupselfie managed to raise £8m in just one week. Pownall pointed out that, with most viral campaigns such as this, they are “started by someone else”.

Beaty-Pownall advised that, when it comes to social media, it’s important to “be ready to hop on opportunities”, as you never know when a viral social media campaign will take off.

Other social media campaigns carried out by Cancer Research UK include: World Cancer Day (#wewillunite), My mum and me (which was for mother’s day) and the #HeresTo hashtag.

Attempting to ask the million dollar question – can charities raise money via social media? – Beaty-Pownall said yes, “but it might not always be a main focus”.

She added that it’s important to consider how social media can tie in with a wider campaign that a charity is working on.

Her top tips include:

  • Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. (For example, avoid relying purely on social to drive texts to donate)
  • Think about what your supporter is getting back
  • Don’t lose sight of your social objectives
  • Say thank you to your donors
  • Think about your content journey


When a campaign snowballs

For his presentation, Nigel Campbell, associate director of communications at Rethink, spoke about his charity’s social media campaign #findmike, which went viral last year.

Campbell took his listeners on a quick journey of the campaign, which started when a man named Jonny Benjamin asked the charity to tell his story.

In 2008, at the start of his treatment for schizoaffective disorder, Benjamin was about to take his own life on Waterloo Bridge when a stranger stopped him and talked him out of it. The man managed to convince Benjamin to change his outlook; however he never managed to get his name. Benjamin wanted Rethink to help him find the person who had saved his life.

On the 14th January 2014, the Find Mike campaign began. According to Campbell, the key to the campaign was to keep it simple. They created the hashtag #findmike and timed the campaign on the sixth anniversary of the incident.

Rethink created a YouTube video recording the search for the man who had helped Benjamin. The campaign was backed by celebrities such as Stephen Fry on twitter and the search was primarily hosted via social media.

Just a few weeks later, the charity received a message on Facebook from the man they were looking for, Neil Laybourn. The hashtag was changed to #foundmike and the reunion was captured on YouTube.


Every channel is different  

The event’s third case study, Marko Batarilo, is the digital delivery manager at Beating Bowel Cancer.

He started his talk by delving into the charity’s most successful campaign: Decembeard.

According to Batarilo, this campaign – which started in 2011 but really took off last year – works better on certain social media channels according to the content being produced. For example, case studies work really well on Facebook, whereas other material – such as the funny, short video ‘What’s in the beard?’ – are more successful on Instagram.

When it comes to social media, Batarilo’s top tips include

  • Be flexible
  • Use humour (but only where appropriate)
  • Engage
  • Experiment
  • Be bold
  • Don’t try to please everyone or be on every platform
  • Don’t ever give up
  • Don’t be an egg (this refers to the image that appears when your organisation’s twitter account does not have a picture)
  • Adapt and be human


How to create a great charity social media campaign

The evening’s expert speaker was Zoe Amar, the founder and director of Zoe Amar Communications.

Within her talk, Amar spoke about the key things that charities need to remember when dealing with social media. These include:

  • Any charity can do a good social media campaign by following some simple rules. For example, it’s important to know your audience and use the right tone of voice.
  • Every social media campaign starts with a good story. In response to the question “how do you fundraise successfully on social media?” Amar said: “I am a great believer in hitting people between the eyes with a strong image that tells a story.”
  • Brands need to make the shift from broadcast to conversation. According to Amar, “digital is ripping up the brand rule book”. Today, it’s not about being digital by default, but about being “conversation by default” and interacting and engaging with donors as much as possible.


Want to join us next time?

Watch out for full details of our next Charity Digital Insights event, coming very soon!

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A headshot photograph of Jo Barnett, Executive Director of Virgin Money Giving.