Digital Marketing for Charities and Social Causes: A beginner’s guide
Digital Marketing for Charities originally appeared as part of Brand the Change, the branding toolkit for social entrepreneurs, disruptors, not-for-profits and corporate trouble makers. Mates of Montfort can get 25% off the toolkit using this link.
Digital marketing is the term for any activity that promotes your cause online. It covers everything from a blog post, to a tweet, a YouTube video to an advert on Google. This includes how people consume your marketing content - on a laptop, mobile or other device.
As more and more people get online, digital marketing has become increasingly important. In fact, many organisations now think ‘digital first’. They market themselves online first, then think about how to promote themselves offline.
The lines between marketing online and offline become blurred. As things that happen in the real world are captured, posted online and shared through social media. The online conversation around an issue then informs what happens offline, so it goes full circle. That’s why we are seeing organisations lose the term ‘digital’ from their marketing. But they make sure that their offline and online activity is working together.
The wide range and low cost of digital tools and advertising makes digital marketing and is a great way to find and connect with your audience. It takes less resource than ever to get started and get noticed, but the large range of options available can make it difficult to know where to start.
Where do you start with your own digital marketing? Given the wide availability of digital marketing channels, how do you know which ones to concentrate on? How do you focus your limited resources into the online channels that will work for you?
Here’s a step-by-step of priorities to follow that will get you on the right path to excel in digital marketing.
1. Concentrate on your own website first
Your website is the main place that people will find out more about your organisation. It’s her that people will read about what you do, why you do it and how to get involved. That’s why before you do anything you should have a website in place that gives the who, what, where, when and why of your organisation.
It’s important that your website can be easily viewed and interacted with on mobile (“mobile-optimised”). As mobile usage increases globally, it’s vital that your website works on mobile. This means that it has to load quickly in areas with slow mobile coverage, and work on feature phones as well as smart phones. Think text first and don’t post large images on to your site - reduce the size of your photos to around 100Kb before uploading to your website.
If you do not have budget available to hire a professional website designer, there are plenty of free website creators out there that will help you get a simple but effective website up and running. Take a look at Wordpress.com, or Striking.ly, as these services will give you a modern, fast, mobile-optimised website for free.
- Build your organisation’s website
- Make sure it loads quickly
- Ensure your site is optimised for mobile devices
2. Write as much about your area as possible
Most of the people who find your website will come from a search engine, like Google or Bing. For your website to show up in search results, you need to be writing about your topic area so that those search engines know what your website is about. This means writing a lot and publishing lots of text-based content to your website.
The more you publish to your website, the more the search engines can see your site and the more traffic you’ll get to your website from the likes of Google. This can be about pages, frequently asked question (FAQs) pages, team pages, etc - or blog posts about what is happening with and around you.
By concentrating on your own website, you will be less reliant on other people’s services. For example, lots of organisations built up a large fan base on Facebook. But now it is increasingly harder to get your content seen on Facebook - even reaching your own fans is much harder now than it used to be. Building up your own website means you’re more visible on search engines and get more reliable traffic than through social media.
- Based on your brand and what you want to be recognised for, consider your audience and which information needs they have that you could write about
- Publish more content on your website
- Start a blog
- Post about the work of your organisation
3. Take photos when ever you can
An essential activity that will help your digital marketing is to take photos of your organisation as it goes about its everyday work.
A picture paints a thousand words. Photos are the easiest way to show your organisation’s work. Images tell a story about what exactly it is your organisation does, who you help and the impact it creates.
Create a list of events and activities that your organisation does. Identify if you have existing photos that capture these moments, or if you need to create more photos. Develop a ‘reporters’ mindset: be alert to what is going on that your audience would love to hear about.
Once you know what photos you need to get, either work with a photographer or encourage your team to take photos when they are doing their work. Your photos don’t have to be perfect - it’s better to capture the photos when you can, rather than miss an opportunity and have nothing to show for it.
Now you have photos, you have lots more content to share on your website and to post to social media.
- Create a checklist of events and activities that you can capture photos from
- Create an archive of photos from your organisation’s work
- Send a message to your team to encourage them to take photos of their work and events they attend
4. Think about social video
The explosion in video on social media has meant that brands of all shapes and sizes have had to create or evolve their video strategy. Social video can offer incredibly high ROI and be produced cost-effectively from scratch, or simply adapted from existing video.
The absolute best way to save yourself money (and time) is to repurpose and recycle the existing video in your archives.
Think about the videos you’ve already created: Are there any longer videos that you could slice up into shorter 15 or 30-second clips? Can you succinctly help illustrate your brand or campaign story by taking a small piece of a longer video and sharing it on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook?
For more help on using social video, download our guide to social video.
Lastly, have you tried Facebook Live for your brand yet? If not, you should. Facebook Live is picking up. In 2016, video posts had a whopping 135% more organic reach than those without video.
The subject matter and real-time interactive element is what appeals to people watching a Facebook Live video, not the backdrop. So there’s no need to worry if your budget is limited and it doesn’t matter what sort of resources you have available: you can make it work and you should still be experimenting with Facebook Live.
- Find out what video content you organisation has that can be reused for social media
- Experiment with Facebook Live
5. Use organic social media to build an audience
Facebook is the biggest social network in the world, so it makes sense that your organisations has a presence on there. To build an audience and keep your fans engaged, you need to be posting to your Facebook page often. You should be aiming to post your organisation’s page at least 2-3 times a week - more if you can manage it.
What you post doesn’t have to be your own content. It can come from a news site or be a YouTube video. But try to post interesting, engaging or fun content that your fans will be interested in.
There are some great guides for how you can use Facebook at facebook.com/business
Twitter has less people using it than Facebook, but it is more of a specialist platform. Twitter is great for reaching journalists, politicians, activists and other influencers that are relevant to your cause. Make sure to follow people relevant in your area, so that they can see you are following them and find out more about you.
There is a great list of how you can use Twitter at business.twitter.com/basics
Make sure you plan what content you are going to post. Rather than posting whatever comes to mind, focus down on a few areas that are directly relevant to your cause. By focusing on less, you’ll be able to much more easily find content in that area and your fans and followers will know what to expect from your profiles.
- Set your organisation up on Facebook and Twitter
- Aim to post at least once a day to both networks
- Use content from your website and elsewhere
- Plan what content areas you are going to focus on
6. Use paid advertising to drive more traffic
If you’re struggling to get traffic to your website, then paid advertising can help. Facebook offers the best value and best targeting options at the moment, but it’s also worth looking at Google Adwords and Twitter Ads.
While it can be tempting to spend a lot to buy visitors to your site, it’s better tart with a small budget, say $100 per month, then expand as you get more confident in what is working for your organisation.
You should also test variations in ads: Does Facebook work better than Google? Do video ads work better than images? What photo and copy combinations work best? Run several ads against each other to test and learn what works best.
Facebook has some excellent training resources at facebook.com/blueprint - take a look at these courses before starting your ad campaigns and you’ll be off to a much better start.
- Take the beginners Facebook Blueprint courses
- Experiment with ads using a small amount of budget
There’s lots more we can get into around digital marketing, including email marketing, SEO, paid media and video. But concentrate on these basics first and you’ll be off to a flying start with digital marketing for you social cause.
Ben Matthews – Director
Social media and press consultant specialising in technology, media, government and charity. Offers senior client consultancy and trusted counsel, sets strategy, and ensures well-executed implementation for campaigns at all levels.