In this section, we will cover the 10 steps to developing a social media strategy.
STEP 1: Identify your goals and objectives
STEP 2: Evaluate what resources you have
STEP 3: Look for examples to inspire and inform your plans
STEP 4: Develop a plan for creating shareable content
STEP 5: Decide what social media platforms you will focus on
STEP 6: As you create content, ask yourself how important it is to your organisation to reach an international audience
STEP 7: Articulate the tone of your social media activities
STEP 8: Remember that social media is a conversation, not a broadcast
STEP 9: Use the right tools to help manage your social media efforts
STEP 10: Review your results and refine your efforts
IDENTIFY YOUR GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
A GOAL is the long-term purpose towards which your efforts are directed.
AN OBJECTIVE is a mid- to short-term specific, measurable action that moves you forward on the path towards your longer-term goals.
Your organisation’s vision and mission set out overarching long-term goals for your efforts. For instance, in IFEX’s case, the organisation’s goal is to defend and promote freedom of expression as a fundamental human right.
Your communications plan should set out communication objectives.
Your digital communications plan should set out specific digital objectives.
EXAMPLE: If you are developing a social media strategy, your objective in your communications plan may be: Increase organisation’s Twitter profile.
Your digital communications plan would then break this objective down into a series of specific digital objectives. These could include:
- Analyse best-performing Tweets by February
- Articulate organisational Twitter voice by March
- Develop Twitter content plan and set follower and website referral traffic goals by April
- Work with content team to produce three website infographics to promote via Twitter, one each in April, June and August
Some segments of your audience will be more active on social media platforms than others. Be clear in your plans:
- Which audience are you targeting?
- On which platform?
Target your content accordingly. For instance, members of the media are often active on Twitter, so you may decide that your Twitter activity will focus on reaching out to and building your media audience.
Your audience is made up of people you want to:
- INFORM: provide information to.
- TRANSFORM: change their attitudes through compelling storytelling, data and arguments.
- MOTIVATE TO ACT: prompt them take a specific action, such as signing a petition or writing a letter to a legislator, by providing the information and tools they need to do so.
As you plan the content you will highlight in your social media efforts, consider:
- what audiences you are trying to reach,
- how you want the information you share with them to inform, transform or motivate them to act.
For more information on understanding audience and defining key messages for your audience, refer to IFEX’s Communications Strategy Step by Step document.
EVALUATE WHAT RESOURCES YOU HAVE
Be realistic about what you can take on. Money, staff time, volunteer time and the technical ability needed to achieve your social media goals and objectives can all be in limited supply. Be certain to consider the on-going effort required to keep your social media accounts up to date.
ASK YOURSELF: Are your plans realistic? Can you maintain this level of activity on an ongoing basis? It is better to limit your social media activity to one or two platforms and engage fully on those platforms, than to launch on many platforms and struggle to maintain your presence. Focused, full engagement on one platform is better than scattered, infrequent engagement on half a dozen.
Even if you are not going to engage fully on a particular platform, you may decide to set up an organisational account simply to ensure that no-one else is able to adopt your organisational name on that platform. Be consistent in your account name across platforms, so that someone who is familiar with you from one platform can easily recognise you on another. For instance, when Venezuela IFEX member Instituto Prensa y Sociedad redesigned their website, they used the opportunity to rename their web address so that it was consistent with their social media identity. The site became ipysvenezuela.org. The Twitter name is @ipysvenezuela, and the Facebook name is ipysvenezuela.
LOOK FOR EXAMPLES TO INSPIRE AND INFORM YOUR PLANS
Where can you turn for resources and inspiration? As you begin to develop your social media plan, it is useful to have a sense of what is possible.
- Observe before you launch: Spend time as an observer on the social media platforms you are considering taking part in. Get a sense of the culture on the platform:
- What do users expect from one another in terms of sharing and interaction?
- What types of content do users expect to see?
- Is the tone of interaction casual or formal, informational or opinion driven?
- What kind of humour is acceptable?
- What kind of behaviours do users not want to see, or criticise when they do see it?
- Look for successful users on each platform. Follow and where possible, connect with them: These may be thought leaders in your own field, or they may be high-profile or successful users in fields unrelated to yours. Analyse their efforts:
- What do they do well?
- Why do other users follow or interact with them?
- What kind of content are they creating, curating or sharing?
- What is their tone or personality on this platform?
- Find users within your own circle that are already on the platforms you are considering, and ask for their insights and help: For instance, you may have a high-profile user on your organisation’s board or among its volunteers. Ask for their insights. Once you launch your organisation on that platform, ask that they share your content with their followers or suggest you as an account to follow.
There are also a wide range of online resources that can provide background information, insights and examples to aid you in your efforts as you develop your social media plan.
For the latest on social media news: Social media sites are constantly adding new functionality. They also often change the terms and conditions on their sites. This can include changes in privacy policies, copyright policies and user agreements. It is important for you to stay up to date on what is happening on the platforms you are participating in. Some sites that can help include:
Platform-specific and advocacy/nonprofit-specific advice:
Some social media platforms have their own resources for users. There are also guides and resources available specifically for nonprofits and advocacy groups.
- Twitter Help Center Includes basic Twitter FAQs.
- Instagram Help Center Includes basic Instagram FAQs
- Pinterest Basics
- Tumblr Help
- Facebook Help Center
- Best Practices for Using Social Media for Human Rights: A downloadable booklet produced by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, outlining general best practices as well as platform-specific information for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare and Google+.
- Facebook: Includes examples and resources. Click the Resources tab to find their “Guide for Nonprofits” offered in English, Spanish, German, French and Hindi, as well as other case studies and tips. Twitter Nonprofits Highlights examples of great uses of Twitter in the nonprofit community.
- Nonprofits on Pinterest: A round-up of nonprofits on Pinterest; a good starting point to see what other NGOs are doing.
- Google for Nonprofits community: Information for all Google products, including Google+ and YouTube, including case studies and the Google for Nonprofits Blog.
- Nonprofits on Google+: Advice and guides for nonprofits,including how to use Google Hangouts and how to promote your organisation using the +1 button.
- YouTube Charities Programme:
- Information on how to join the YouTube Nonprofit Program (available in a limited number of countries), as well as the YouTube resource guide “Playbook for Good.”
- Nonprofit Tech for Good: A social and mobile media blog for nonprofits, including information on social media generally, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn and YouTube specifically. Also features webinars and other training opportunities and resources.
- Tactical Technology Collective: An organisation dedicated to the use of information in activism. Includes toolkits and guides such as Security in-a-Box: Tools and tactics for your digital security, Visualising Information for Advocacy, The Info-Activism How-to Guide and more.
DEVELOP A PLAN FOR CREATING SHAREABLE CONTENT
Social media platforms are specifically designed for sharing content: articles, photos, videos, opinions, news, infographics and more. But some content is more “shareable” than others—more likely to get prompt recipients to share it with their followers, fans or circle.
Why do people share content? The New York Times Customer Insights Group published a study looking at why people share content online1. They found that people share content online:
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
- To define ourselves to others: What we choose to share transmits our values and interests
- To grow and nourish our relationships: Sharing helps us connect with others who share our interests and concerns
- To feel more involved in the world: We share because sharing makes us feel connected, involved and self-fulfilled
- To get the word out about causes or brands: We share because it is a way to support causes and issues we care about
Based on these insights, they developed a list of factors that influence sharing:
- Appeal to your audience’s desire to connect with each other
- People won’t share your content if they don’t trust you as a source
- Simple content with a straightforward message is more likely to get shared
- If appropriate, humour can help improve shareability
- More urgent content is more likely to get shared, so if a deadline or time element makes sense, include it in your post
In formulating its Twitter strategy, IFEX member Cambodia Center for Human Rights decided to focus on five kinds of tweets that research told them were most likely to be retweeted:
- Powerful stats that spoke to their mission and programs
- Quotes that inspired social good
- Well-formatted, easy to read factual tweets
- Position statements spoken with clarity and conviction
- Tweets that tap into breaking news cycle*.
Ad agency Ogilvy & Mather has also explored the question of what factors help make content shareable. According to John Bell of agency, the seven principles of “social design” are:
- Value: What will your audience find valuable? To know what users will find valuable, you need to understand your audience(s).
- “Disruption”: People notice content that challenges our understanding of the way the world works.
- Story: People make decisions based on emotions as well as rational reasoning. Connecting your issue to a human story helps to add emotional impact.
- Fresh: What is new or interesting?
- “Social proof”: Content that has already been shared by many picks up its own momentum: This is known as “social proof”—when we see others doing something, we are more likely to join in. This is why have a counter or tally for number of shares, or number of signatures on a campaign, can help to foster sharing.
- Participation: Especially creative participation: asking a user to sign a petition can be powerful. But asking them to share a personal message of support in a photo may help them to engage more deeply and personally with your cause.
- Ease: Users are more likely to share content if they can do it in one or two clicks than if it takes three or four.
As online social media platforms become more and more driven by visual content, adding photos, data visualisations or infographics can help increase shareability. IFEX member the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility in the Philippines has had particular success in creating infographics to support their campaigns and information-sharing objectives. With funding from an IFEX grant, Lebanese IFEX member MAHARAT Foundation developed a set of guidelines to help them produce better infographics. As they put it “visualizing data is a way to tell a story, not just copying and pasting information.”
DECIDE WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS YOU WILL FOCUS ON
Globally, there are a number of major social media platforms you may choose to be active on, in addition to region-specific platforms. Few organisations have the resources to participate on every platform. Be strategic in your choice of platforms.
Factors to consider in choosing your platforms:
- Is your audience already participating heavily on a particular platform? In launching its Tumblr account, IFEX member Derechos Digitales recognised that Tumblr appeals to a younger demographic, and that in Chile, younger people were more likely to care about digital rights and free expression. Bonus: Once content is posted to Tumblr, it is simple to syndicate it to Facebook and Twitter, making it more time-effective to create and post to three sites relatively easily.
- Are people with your audience’s demographics more likely to be found on a particular platform? For instance, more women than men participate in Pinterest, while more men than women participate in Google+. Younger users typically congregate on new platforms and are often the first to leave established ones.
- Is the kind of content you have to share particularly well-suited to the a particular platform? Breaking news content is highly suited to Twitter. Sharing of video is well-suited to YouTube. Sharing of images is well-suited to Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram. When IFEX member IPYS Venezuela embarked on their digital development project, they decided to focus their Twitter efforts on posting links, videos and images that are newsworthy. On their Facebook page, they focus on material that is more detailed as well as providing audiovisual content.
When Lebanese IFEX member MAHARAT Foundation developed their social media plan, they trained staff about the strengths of various social media platforms and the content that works best to achieve different types of goals. They also created a “conversation calendar” to schedule and track planned social media content.
People who follow you on one platform are likely to follow you on other platforms as well, if they know you are there. For instance, share the link to your Facebook page in your Twitter feed, and vice versa.
Should you join a just-launched platform, or one that seems to be the next “hot” platform? You may at least want to sign up to reserve your preferred social media account name. In deciding how active to be, ask yourself the same questions about a new platform that you would of an established one:
- Do you have the resources to maintain an active account?
- Is this a platform where your desired audience(s) is likely to congregate?
- Does the content you have to share suit the platform and its culture?
- Two additional questions to ask about new platforms:
- Does this platform allow you to do something new, innovative or creative that you can’t do on another platform? If so, it may have the added benefit of helping you to create buzz around your activities by doing something few others are doing.
- By being an early adopter on this platform, can you create more visibility for yourself?
AS YOU CREATE CONTENT, ASK YOURSELF HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO YOUR ORGANISATION TO REACH AN INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE
When focusing on a local or regional audience, you may be able to assume that your audience knows certain key facts, recognises certain key names and understands the context behind your content. However, if you aim to reach an international audience as well, you should consider what additional context or clarification you need to add to your content—both to your social media posts and any content on your website that it links back to—to provide international audiences with the material they need to fully understand your issue. This could include adding “issue backgrounders” to stories on your website, for instance.
ARTICULATE THE TONE OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVITIES
Website content tends to be slightly less formal than printed content, and social media content tends to be even more casual in tone. However, for most organisations, it is still important to be seen as credible and authoritative, so the tone you use in posting to social media platforms should be carefully considered so that it does not erode trust in your content.
What is acceptable on the platform? First, spend time on the platform before you begin posting. This will help you develop an understanding of what the acceptable tone of posts is on that particular platform.
What adjectives describe your organisation’s desired tone? Develop a list of adjectives that describe the tone you will use for your organisation’s posts. These should be aligned with the list you have developed to describe your website’s tone, though they may be slightly different to reflect the tone of the conversation on the particular platform.
Your list might include words such as:
There may also be words that would definitely not apply to your social media posts. For instance, many organisations avoid being witty or humorous because of the possibility that users will misunderstand the humour.
Capture your tone in three or four adjectives, along with a couple that definitely should not apply. This can be helpful in establishing guidelines for the tone of content for your social media activites. The same adjectives may apply to most or all of the platforms you participate in, though you may decide that some platforms are suited to slightly different tones.
IFEX member Derechos Digitales does a very good job of understanding the appropriate tone for social media activity. While the organisation produces academic papers and reports on key digital rights issues, when posting to social media, they focus on simple messaging and the most intriguing facts from that content. So, for instance, if your organisation authors a report on a particular piece of legislation, rather than Tweeting “Report on Bill C127 and implications for free speech” with a link to the full report, you might Tweet “3 ways Canada’s Bill C127 will limit your free speech” with a link to a blog post that lists how the bill will limit speech for citizens.
ASK YOURSELF: Do you need to post content in multiple languages? As part of its social media plan, IFEX member Cambodia Center for Human Rights posts its Facebook updates in both Khmer and English.
REMEMBER THAT SOCIAL MEDIA IS A CONVERSATION, NOT A BROADCAST
Social media platforms are about engaging with your audience—not simply publishing at your audience.
Your audience expects that you will:
- respond to questions
- engage in conversations
- repost or share content they post
In planning your social media activities, ensure that you build in time for that engagement, and that you develop a plan for how you will respond.
IFEX member Derechos Digitales engages with their followers on Twitter by asking followers questions, and then taking part in the conversation that follows.
In its digital strategic plan, IFEX member Cambodia Center for Human Rights committed to interacting with its audiences on Facebook and Twitter. This includes:
- answering comments and questions from users
- encouraging debate and discussion
- thanking users for their efforts and interest
- forwarding specific inquiries or suggestions to appropriate staff members
- following and retweeting other individuals and organisations
Do you have a social media crisis plan?
How will you respond to online users who try to provoke you into responding angrily?
Will you seek a correction if people post misinformation about your organisation, cause or campaign?
- What will you do if someone (accidentally or deliberately) posts inappropriate content using your social media accounts?
- Who in your organisation has control of your accounts, and knows the passwords?
- Who needs to be alerted if a social media crisis flares up on one or more of your accounts?
Think about and plan for these issues in advance: it will be much easier to come up with a clear crisis plan in advance than in the midst of a brewing social media storm. (For more information on creating a social media crisis plan, see Social Media Todayand the U.S. Air Force Web Posting Response Assessment).
USE THE RIGHT TOOLS TO HELP MANAGE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA EFFORTS
There are a wide range of tools that can help you manage and track your social media efforts. Most will allow you to post to multiple social media accounts from one dashboard, preschedule posts, generate analytics on your posts and help you manage followers. Below are details on some of the common tools, but there may also be additional tools available to you in your own language and country.
FINDING THE RIGHT TOOLS
|Price||Free, Pro and Enterprise packages||Free||Free and Paid options||Free and Paid options||Paid options, with free trial|
|Languages||Ongoing Translation Project to localize the Hootsuite dashboard in a wide range of languages. Online help provided in English, French, Portuguese and Japanese||Available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, French and more.||English||English||English|
|Features||Allows you to manage social media activities from one dashboard, and post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Wordpress, Mixi, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr and more||Manage multiple Twitter accounts, schedule Tweets for future posting, build custom timelines, filter searches and more||Allows you to manage Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and App.net activity from one dashboard, and preschedule posts||Allows you to manage Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, RSS feeds, blogs, Plurk and App.net from one dashboard||Allows you to manage multiple social media platforms through one social inbox|
|Analytics||Yes||No||Yes||Depends on package||Yes|
|Multiple posters||Depends on package||Yes||Depends on package||Depends on package||Yes|
While it may be tempting to post the same message to multiple social media platforms research shows that you shouldn’t. Why? Because each platform is unique. The tone that is appropriate on one platform may not work as well on another. The type of content that works well on one may not work as well on another. Boost the effectiveness of your social media activities by creating unique posts for each platform, posts that take into account the type of content and tone that works on each platform. This section will help guide you through the steps you need to take to create a solid campaign cycle that will help your campaign achieve its goals.
REVIEW YOUR RESULTS AND REFINE YOUR EFFORTS
The social media environment is constantly evolving. Use the analytic tools at your disposal to track what is effective: what are you doing right? What isn’t working? Improve your future results by monitoring and adjusting your activities based on your past results.
Social media platforms are constantly evolving, and your efforts will need to evolve along with them. The principles presented here should apply even as the specifics of the platforms change. The keys?
- Align your digital communications strategy with your overall communication strategy and organisation’s mission and vision
- Understand who your audience(s) is and what they want and need from you
- Remember that social media is about engagement with your audience: it is a two-way conversation, not a one-way broadcast