Resource review: how NGOs can use social media for their workSocial media is a powerful platform in many aspects of personal and professional life, having both positive and negative impacts. However, increasingly social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are being used to raise incredible amounts of money for charities and NGOs through memorable campaigns. In March 2014 a campaign dominated the newsfeeds of British Facebook users who were raising money and awareness for Cancer Research UK. Users took selfies with no makeup on and posted them on Facebook with the hashtag #nomakeupselfie then nominated their friends to do the same; every time someone posted the image they donated £3. It went viral within days and in the end raised £8 million for Cancer Research and they have tweeted that this money will fund 10 new trials. The campaign included celebrities and extended internationally. It wasn’t initiated by Cancer Research themselves but the results speak for themselves: social media is a brilliant way to fundraise and raise awareness.
How NGOs use social media for fundraising
• Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding raises money from communities of people of the internet. Generally people pitch an idea, set a goal of the amount needed and a deadline of when they need the money. People can then review the projects and contribute towards funding them if they think it is worth it; it is not an investment as donors do not own any part of the project. On most sites no money is transferred until the donation goal is achieved. There are specific crowdfunding sites for NGOs: www.firstgiving.com and www.causevox.com .To increase awareness of the campaign and reach a wider donor audience it is important to use your existing NGO social media platforms to share the campaign, as your audience may not be familiar with crowdfunding. This resource from Social Media Examiner gives helpful guidelines on how to make a crowdfunding campaign a success. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/11-tips-for-crowdfunding-how-to-raise-money-from-strangers
• YouTube: YouTube, owned by Google, is the largest video sharing website and can be used to create short films to promote you NGO. It is also useful for fundraising. YouTube is a very powerful means of conveying an NGO mission; it enables sharing of videos that show supporters real stories of how a project has benefitted people and how more donations are needed to carry on essential work, triggering an emotional response. Showing where money has been spent and how it has helped also builds trust with supporters, making them more likely to donate again. Overlaying a campaign design over the video with details of how to donate embeds the link between donations and real stories even further; supporters are responding to a call for action. Google for Nonprofits offers a free and enhanced service for qualifying NGOs which allows them to add premium branding capabilities, have increased uploading capacity and presence on specific NGO pages. However, this service is only available in certain countries and currently in Asia only Taiwan, India and Hong Kong have access to it. It is hoped that Google will extend its applications for non profits to other countries. An example of an appeal video from Oxfam aiming to fundraise for the Sudan crisis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGQQQ-MZvz4
These 2 articles provide guidance on making an effective fundraising video. http://social-media-for-development.org/top-10-tips-for-making-an-ngo-video/
How NGOs use social media to create impacts
• Twitter: Twitter is an online social networking and micro blogging service that enables users to send and read short 140-character text messages, called "tweets". Communicate one on one in real time with supporters. Start conversations with other local and national NGOs spreading your mission in a wider context and try to encourage mentions from larger NGOs who endorse your projects as it will be seen by their (usually larger number of followers). Do your research and discover what hashtags people are using related to your mission; there is little reward in starting your own obscure hashtag with little followers (in the beginning). Latch onto an existing, popular hashtag and your tweets will be seen by those already researching the topic. If you do make your own hashtag, be sure to check it out first to make sure that any other content linked to that hashtag will not impact your reputation.
General tips for NGOs on Twitter: http://charitymash.com/2009/10-tips-for-ngos-on-twitter/
Lists of hashtags to use for different social change topics: http://pir.org/50-hashtags-to-spark-social-change/
• YouTube: Would you give your jacket to Johannes? A video from SOS Children’s Village in Norway posted in February 2014 aiming to provoke thought and bring world problems closer to home, making terrible situations more relatable. It went viral and had 9 million views in the first 3 days and now over 14 million views. The video is in Norwegian but the storytelling is so well done that it makes you put yourself in that situation and ask yourself what you would do. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9O8j9QPZc8
This method of making a distant problem more relatable by setting it closer to home has also been used by Save the Children in a video posted in March 2014 showing a second a day in the life of a British schoolgirl as conflict breaks out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBQ-IoHfimQ&feature=kp
How to curate nonprofit videos on YouTube: http://www.nptechforgood.com/2014/01/28/how-to-curate-nonprofit-videos-on-youtube/
How NGOs use social media for policy advocacy
• Twitter: News breaks on Twitter and people start having conversations about events before they make the news on TV and websites, sometimes days before newspapers. Listen and monitor what other people are tweeting about the same cause by following relating hashtags, and join in their conversation and widen the picture to your followers. It can also be used for lobbying change and connecting with policy makers and governments to show them the work you are doing. Twitter is useful to rouse supporters to take action. This is a helpful resource detailing how to use social media for advocacy. It is specific to mental health issues, however the guidance and examples are transferable to NGOs in Vietnam: http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/State_Advocacy/Tools_for_Leaders/Media_Tool_Kit_Using_Social_Networking_Tools.htm
• Blogging: Traditionally a blog is referred to as an online multimedia journal of someone’s experiences and thoughts that people follow for new posts. Increasingly it is being used for how-to guides on certain subjects such as crafts, baking, car maintenance etc. Organizations are also involved in blogging for their company, cause or mission as it gives a platform for personal story telling. NGOs can use blogging for policy advocacy by going into detail and explaining why certain policies and changes are important. There is freedom to write more on the subject than on other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Blogs are a good place to express views about particular legislature and lobby for change. A guide of 10 ways NGOs can use blogs to raise awareness of their cause: http://www.netsquared.org/blog/britt-bravo/10-ways-nonprofits-can-use-blogs#.U4Vaw3KSxr0
This resource has simple explanations of how to use social media for digital advocacy and a long list of really helpful further resources at the bottom. It is a useful starting point: http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/advocacy/direct-action/electronic-advocacy/main
This PDF gives legal advice for using social media for policy advocacy in the US. Social media makes expressing opinions blurred and it could get organizations in to trouble. It is worth checking if you NGO has any existing rules on communicating advocacy and then apply these rules in your social media plan. http://bolderadvocacy.org/wpcontent/uploads/2013/01/Tips_on_Using_Social_Media_for_Advocacy.pdf
How NGOs use Facebook
Facebook is currently the most popular social networking site with 1.15 billion monthly users worldwide. It is also the place to pull together fundraising, creating impact and policy advocacy. An NGO Facebook page should represent all aspects of the work of the organization, incorporating other media such as photos and videos (posted from YouTube). The best way to demonstrate your mission and works through Facebook is to include links to other sites; for example posting a YouTube fundraising video and then including a link to your crowdfunding page. An NGO Facebook page should be an all incorporating advert for your organization with links to all different aspects of your work. Twitter has a similar function, but with less capacity for detail; use twitter for connecting with people and joining in conversations and Facebook for engaging with your supporters and giving them the tools they need to find out more and continue to support you.
Key principles for NGOs when using social media
• Plan for success: Before creating any social media accounts, first identify your goals for using social media and identify your intended target audience and the appropriate channels to reach them on. You should create a social media plan and social media guidelines to always refer to and make other colleagues aware of it. To be significant online you need to have a strategy. This is one NGOs social media guidelines for staff to adhere to: http://networked-ngo.wikispaces.com/HANDS+Social+Media+Policy
Social media policy tips: http://mashable.com/2009/06/02/social-media-policy-musts/
• Remember your resources: Social media is free, right? Wrong. The sites are free to use but making great social media accounts need dedicated teams and time. Many organizations have dedicated paid social media staff which is their main focus. Evaluate your office resources and plan your social media accordingly, make sure it is manageable; if staff are low on the ground look to build one or two accounts and make them really impressive rather than making an account for every site possible and never updating them. You will have more impact with one great Facebook page rather than a few inadequate pages. Remember that social media is important for reputation too. Social media employees will need access to a computer with internet and an up to date internet browser.
• Training helps: If there aren’t social media experts in your team, and even if there are, it pays to attend a course. Get new ideas and understand how to interpret analytics to make your page better.
• Be recognizable: Make sure that supporters can identify your brand. Social media streams are a full of different brands and users often only scan the page for mere seconds; it is vital your brand is portrayed correctly. Your profile picture on Facebook and Twitter should be your logo as that is the photo that appears in people’s news feeds. The cover photo is the largest photo on your page and is your opportunity to convey your mission and real work. It could be used for particular fundraising campaigns like Oxfam UK: https://www.facebook.com/oxfamGB or for reinforcing your NGO mission like Education for Nature Vietnam: https://www.facebook.com/EducationforNatureVietnam . These URLs are custom with the organizations name, you can set this once you have 25 followers, however once set it can’t be changed so make sure it is clear from the start. On Twitter it is also important to choose your username wisely to make it easy to search for. Your username on Twitter can be 15 characters long and has @ prefacing it. For example for the Center for Education and Development could choose @CED_NGO or @CEDVietnam. However you name that appears on your page can be 20 characters and is more identifiable and could be Education & Development. Both names show up on the Twitter feed and would look like: Education & Development @CEDVietnam.
• Tell your story: Engaging content should be easy for NGOs and creating it should be free. Film real people about how your work has benefitted them on something as simple as your phone. Get volunteers to make films and come up with inspiring content but make sure that whoever updates the accounts keeps the content consistent. This is where tone of voice comes in. Decide how you want to speak to your followers and supports and always follow your chosen tone of voice; remember you are representing your organization and it does not want to sound like lots of different voices on your news feed.
Links to further resources