Survey Shows UK Charities Not Making The Most Of Social Media Trends

In London on 13 October a social media trends survey was conducted at the CharityComms conference which focused on digital communications. The survey was part of a digital benchmarking report being compiled by CharityComms using interactive voting technology supplied by conference sponsor LiveGroup. Out of the 91 senior charity PR professionals who attended, a staggering 52 per cent were reluctant for their organisations to use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, as they had concerns about reputational risk, which prevented many from making the most of the communications opportunities provided by social media trends.

These PR and marketing professionals believe that the possibility of negative comment in a public forum diminished trust and support of social media within their organisation. Jonathan Waddingham, product manager at JustGiving, a fundraising initiative, speaking at the event said, “Whether organisations are active online or not, those comments will still take place. It shows the need for charities to learn how to deal with such comments and how to have public conversations with people. Once you start a conversation with people, you might not always like the outcomes. But being open and transparent means you’ll develop greater trust with your supporters.” He added that the perception of the risk is higher than the risk itself and said, “It is rare for charities to get negative comment because public trust in charities is so high. The fear comes from not knowing how to listen and respond.”

Though it is fair to say that many small charities do not have the resources to fully engage with social media trends, yet when they do, they soon see that positive results far outweigh the risks.

However, 48% of the delegates admitted they had difficulty convincing management of the value of social media trends and tools and Waddingham suggested a way to convince colleagues and that was to use case studies of what other charities had achieved through social media. He believes communications professionals can do some social media activity “under the radar” and then once they have results, such as evidence of greater engagement or more visits to a website, they could take the outputs to senior management. This was far more effective than saying “we need the money to do this because others are doing it.”

I believe charities need to get to grips with and understand that social media trends are here to stay. Many are struggling to deal with the loss of control and how some of their supporters are using Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media trends to promote their favourite charity brands. Previously, a charity’s relationship with a supporter would only begin when the person became a donor, yet now through social media trends a charity can begin its relationship with people well before the donor stage. Some charities have embraced social media, like the MS Society. It has an active forum where people discuss issues that concern them; it has saved them a lot of expensive research.

Photo Credit: one Village Initiative

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