Making sense of social is still a challenge for brands. The third sector is no stranger to the task, with multiple stakeholders, communication channels and aims to achieve on one platform. e3’s recent working lunch: Building a Social Media Framework for the Third Sector, was devised to bring together senior charity marketers to discuss the shared obstacles they face and to show how frameworks can improve on their delivery of social to market.

Social Media and the Third Sector

“A great solution needs to be built around audience need. Balance your insight with your requirements and organisational aims,” senior strategist, Kate Fitzpatrick announced as she launched the event with an overview of social media in the third sector today. 

There are many definitions of social, but Kate summed them all up simply as “people having conversations online.” Relationships are key to creating a connection between the user and the cause and giving is, both fundamentally and psychologically, a social act that inspires others to do the same. “Social media allows the building of a network of relationships by facilitating 1-2-1 interactions at scale.”

Social can also bring people together, allowing charities to see a conversation online they wouldn’t usually be privy to. However, Kate warned, you can’t rely on social media to do everything for you, it can help you achieve some goals but its purpose needs to be clear and not one-size-fits-all.

Charity has been at the forefront of some viral campaigns, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Cancer Research’s No Make-up selfie being two of the most famous examples.

Kate broke down some of the reasons why these campaigns went viral:

  • Excellent timing
  • Good assets to hand
  • Luck

You could put a lot of time and effort into trying to create viral content, but without a solid framework and team, she warned, you could be doing it for naught.

Building a Social Framework

e3’s expertise has helped Arthritis Research UK, providing them with a social framework to improve their organisation’s communications. One of the largest charities in the country, they commission research to support the 10 million+ people in the UK who live with over 100 different types of arthritis.

After an internal strategic shift, they are moving from their research-based heritage to focus on helping people suffering with the symptoms of arthritis, but were unsure how their social media platforms played a part in that shift.

Our aim was to deliver something practical, yet ambitious, that the charity could execute and develop themselves from day one.

Steps to delivering a social media framework:

1. Define a scope and context for social

Social activity should sit within your communications planning, alongside press, TV, Outdoor etc. A social audience has particular needs. e3 focused on the owned and earned platforms providing a strategy that could be expanded and distilled to include niche networks, blogger and online communities

2. Produce the framework

There are two core components to creating a framework.

Direction: strategic components
Delivery: operational components

We used past research and insights, current sector trends and on-site visitation, to get a real understanding of the organisation’s roadmap for social. This is also where e3 looked at the metrics for success (aims, goals, objectives, KPIs etc.) as well as operational constraints (teams, processes, planning and analysis).

3. Implement

Putting these recommendations in place involved looking at the internal team’s skillsets, so everyone across the organisation, from senior executives to the team members who would be carrying out the work, understood the framework completely. To ensure this we also produced a playbook which distilled down the strategic components and clarified what they meant in the delivery of social media activity.

Kate summed up by highlighting important considerations that need to be understood before creating an all-encompassing social media framework.

  • Change takes time
  • Lots of people like to get involved
  • Don’t underestimate the basics
  • Think beyond the ask
  • Followers and likes don’t mean success
  • Social can’t do everything

The Discussion

e3 digital agency at charity working lunch

After Kate served up lots of food for thought, lunch was served and the discussion flowed freely as senior marketers from organisations such as the British Heart Foundation, Barnardos and Shelter mulled over some of the talking points in the presentation.

Lindsay Grieve from MacMillan kicked off the discussion. “Social can be a postbox for lots of different things. You’re reliant on the person who owns that postbox to manage it well. However, we see social media accounts created for our brand by well meaning supporters, but we can’t manage it or influence it. I’m not sure how to manage the Internet Wild West so to speak.”

Kate responded: “It’s difficult trying to shut down individuals, especially those who are becoming louder that owned social properties. It’s important to make sure it’s obvious from every communication strand where your verified accounts are. The Royal Navy has some regional accounts but the policy is that they clearly signpost to the main Royal Navy accounts.”

Athar Abidi from the British Heart Foundation agreed with Lindsay about the difficulty of managing supporter social accounts, “You can’t stop it happening. Our issues with this particular problem comes from our retail space, we have lines of communication and policies set up to help people understand who the official accounts are.  The first route is to understand how large the problem, social media listening tools is a good way to figure out the scale. The balance is figuring out whether an account is a reputational risk to take them down, we’ve set up an internal social media network which allows social advocates to find approved content, images etc. to post.

Sophie Clark chimed that Barnardos had similar policies to make sure brand identity was maintained, “Like Arthritis Research UK we have a playbook which helps give our regional accounts direction which follows the path of our main account. However, we do also use ZeroFox which is digital risk software, which will take down accounts if they are considered enough of a ‘threat’ to the brand.”

Chris Hosker from The Children’s Society praised listening tools as best practice for them and asked the room what tools did they find useful. Digital marketers love their tools, so we’ve listed the ones mentioned below:

Hootsuite – social media management
Sprout Social – social media management
Synthesio – social listening
Sprinklr – social listening
Answer the Public – social audience research
Crimson Hexagon – social media data
Clarabridge – customer experience management

Kate Fitzpatrick remarked that charities sometimes face unique legacy issues, which leads teams to sit in silos “At Arthritis Research UK, the social media team were set across five different teams. When so many teams share responsibility, then nobody owns that process so somebody has to be given that authority within the PR, Social and Communications team. As well as talking to the brand team, so that campaigns are all aligned perfectly across all platforms.  This was really important for us to implement, but how does social sit in your departments?”

Grace Haughton from Shelter was first to answer, “We are about to restructure the ways the team sit, at the moment Marketing, Online, PR sit within the communications team.”

Kirsty Clark from Barnardos echoed Grace’s statement, “We are restructuring as well. Social currently sits across our policy, communications, marketing, digital, paid, content and digital projects team. It’s really drilled down, so we’re very much in silos like Kate mentioned. Social can sometimes act as a service desk to other people in the organisation, rather than having any creative control.”

Sofia Nazar-Chadwick from Woodland Trust answered next, “Social media team sits within branded comms team, but we communicate as effectively as we could. I’m from a theatre and arts marketing background and I’m looking to introduce a bit of lightheartedness to our social.”

Restructuring is obviously a trend in the third sector at the moment as Antony Rathbone from Bloodwise stated that they were also in that process, to the knowing smiles of the other attendees.  “Social media sits within our media and patient experience team. We can sometimes have issues with comments on social media being very blunt, and very upsetting. We’re unsure of the best way to deal with detractors publically, without pumping them up more or negating their comment entirely.”

Kate touched on the aspect of community moderation. “Bridging the gap between the campaign side and the customer service side is vital to third sector social media. You need to give your team the confidence to respond in the best way. Provide training and support to understand how to respond without making it worse, or simply making the commenter feeling ignored. Operational social media managers need to have that real care aspect and the knowledge when to pass that person to the correct member of the team.”

Athar Abidi, BHS, agreed in principle with Kate and Antony’s points but disagreed with the action, “you need to shield your other supporters from a situation that could potentially upset them, you can use software that will hide it completely (Smart Moderation).”

Off the back of Kate’s comment about having trained operational social media managers, Harriet Bignell from Tommy’s discussed their unique set up, “We have medically trained midwives answering questions on our social media accounts when medical questions come through. It gives our supporters immediate information and helps bond them to us through open and honest communication.”

As lunch wound to a close, Business Director, Miranda Glover reminded the room of the importance of discussion challenges with your peers in sessions like these, as it felt like we had solved a few problems over lunch already. Due to the success and demand of this session, Kate will be presenting it again for other senior charity marketers to listen and share ideas on March 29th at WeWork Moorgate.