3 Mistakes Charities & NGOs Make on Social Media

About 7 years ago, my mother asked me if I could help set up her NGO (non-governmental organization) on Facebook. Little did I know that this favour would snowball into a career in digital marketing. Since then, I’ve worked with countless not-for-profit organisations and charities, aiming to create digital strategies which promote key information, aligns with offline marketing campaigns and draws together a community of loyal supporters.

As expected, NGO’s have tight budgets and therefore don’t often experiment when it comes to their marketing. They typically appreciate the need to be online but haven’t got the tools or resources available to implement a cohesive online marketing strategy.

In this blog we’ll discuss some of the common mistakes I’ve noticed NGO’s make on social media and how to improve their social strategy moving forward.

Trying to grab attention in the wrong way

Cue CAPITAL LETTERS and overuse of punctuation!!!! Combine these with some pretty hard hitting images and you’ve got yourself a piece of content that is going to grab attention for all the wrong reasons.

Sure, you want to get your message out there, but presenting startling images and aggressive copy is not going to produce the desired effect. It’s important to remember that users come to social media in their downtime, to interact with carefully selected content they care about. Any content that is too aggressive is only going to result in the user scrambling to get away.

Sure, you need to have a variety of content, but make sure that it is all tasteful as well as engaging. Attention grabbing headlines and an inappropriate use of grammar only makes your organisation look less polished and unprofessional.

It’s also important to note that throughout Facebook there is now an option to add context to an interaction: sadness, anger, love, shock or laughter. Most platforms don’t have this additional feature, so content that promotes a reaction outside of the general love/like parameters, will fall short on engagement.

Inconsistent tone of voice 

One of the best uses of social media for any NGO is to showcase their brand’s personality.

I always advise our clients to think about, if your brand was a person, how would they speak? What would they talk about? Who would they talk too? The answers to these questions help to define your digital voice.

Brand guidelines aren't just for print, they’re essential for representing your brand on social platforms that are designed for two-way communication. Be sure to have these guidelines clear and available for anybody who interacts with users.

Not implementing a crisis management plan

I’ve seen this mistake made a lot before. NGO’s who realise just how big an impression their social presence can make when it’s all too late.

A scandalous story or an unfortunate turn of events can land NGO’s, rightly or wrongly, in the midst of a social media storm. With comments coming in left, right and centre at an alarming rate, it’s difficult to keep on top of and, more often than not, the NGO’s become overwhelmed. If there’s one thing you don’t want to appear as in the middle of a PR crisis, it’s being unprepared and out of control.

All NGO’s will have people who support them and those that don’t. They also often have plans that didn’t quite work out and mistakes they’d prefer were never brought to light. That’s okay, but what’s important is that you don’t let one mistake ruin the image you’ve worked so hard to build. Have a general crisis management document with uncomfortable topics that may come up and a template that a community manager can respond with. You should also create crisis management documents for specific crises.

Finally, be sure to have a statement prepared and on your site that you’re able to link back to, so that the response is clear and concise. If something goes wrong, do not go dark. Saying nothing at all could make you look guilty of wrongdoing and cowardly. Openly admit to mistakes and use the opportunity to humanise your brand, utilising the additional PR to showcase the good work you do.

So, is your NGO guilty of making any of these mistakes? Have you ever been caught in a social media storm? Let me know in the comments below.

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