What is Social Media?
Social media has made it easier than ever for NGOs around the world to connect with an audience of potential beneficiaries, donors, government officials, and other people interested in supporting a cause. Very broadly, social media is a tool that allows users to join a larger network through sharing, commenting, and engaging with different kinds of posts.
Examples of social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, YouTube, and Instagram — any website or application that allows its users to socialize with a wider group of friends or strangers. Social media has huge potential for grassroots NGOs, and it’s now possible for organizations to market their cause for free.
Numbers released in 2016 show there are more than 2.3 billion people active on social media. That’s approximately one-third of the global population. With the rapid growth of Internet access in the developing world, and with new tools making it easier for mobile users to access social media, this number is expected to continue to rise at a fast rate.
Today, the question has shifted beyond “should an NGO use social media? to one of “which social media platforms should my NGO be using to most effectively communicate and fundraise?” This is the question this resource guide will help answer.
By the end of this guide, you will have an understanding of the most popular social media networks currently available, and how each may be used to benefit your NGO. You will also learn the importance of using these platforms strategically, to engage new audiences and connect with donors. Finally, we will provide specific examples of how you can use social media to improve your current fundraising efforts.
It’s easy to sign up for social media accounts. But before you click that signup button, there are a few considerations that should be made first. Here are a few of them.
- Strategic social media: Each communications project your NGO undertakes should be in aid of achieving a goal or goals. Some sample goals can be to increase donations to your organization, make donors aware of your work, or to inform potential beneficiaries about programs available to them.
- How does this fit in with your communications strategy?: Social media accounts should not operate as singular entities, nor should they be something you make because “everyone else is doing it.” Consider how creating a Twitter account, for example, contributes to the goals and objectives set out in your NGO’s communications strategy. If your organization does not yet have a communications plan (here’s a helpful step-by-step guide on how to create one), dedicate some time to answer the following questions: what are my goals, who is my audience, and what is my message. This exercise will help you better understand which social media platform is right for your NGO.
- Audience: Different social media platforms have different audiences. These factors must be considered when setting up an account for your NGO. For example, if your NGO is trying to communicate with donors, you may not want to create a SnapChat account. That’s because the audience demographic does not match — SnapChat is used primarily by a younger group.
- Account management: Consistency is important on social media. Does your NGO have a communications team member or someone else who can regularly update and monitor your social media accounts? It should. Consider the capacity of your team before eagerly creating a half dozen new social media accounts. One account managed well is a more effective tool than four neglected accounts.
- Technology constraints: What are the technology constraints of your audience? What are the technology constraints of your NGO? These are two key questions to ask before signing up for any social media platform. Visual and video social media tools such as Instagram, YouTube, and SnapChat all require a certain level of Internet bandwidth to upload and view content on the platform. Not only that, but Instagram and SnapChat require users to upload using a smartphone rather than a desktop computer. If your NGO does not own a smartphone, a staff member will have to use their personal device. While it is possible to view Instagram and YouTube content on a computer, Internet connectivity must be strong enough to load those photos and videos.
- Email sign-up: Social media sites require either an email address, phone number, or Facebook account to register a new account. Avoid signing up for an organizational social media account using an individual’s personal email address or phone number. If this person ever leaves or becomes disgruntled with the organization, you risk losing that account all together. Instead, create the account using a generic email address that multiple members of your team can access.