The new financial year offers many charities and organisations the perfect time to think about how they can get their online presence right, especially when resources are tight. Here are a few tips to help your thinking...
It can be confusing when there are so many platforms and networks vying for your attention and teams of people asking you to prioritise their campaign, event or news story!
But remember, websites and social media are your friends, and your direct link to very supportive friends, friends who haven’t been in touch for a while, and friends who are totally unaware of you right now but who are basically going to be the charity equivalent of your best friends forever.
To make the most of these online interactions and to ensure that your charity is the go to place for people needing support or information about a specific issue, here are some top tips on how to improve your online presence.
Love your website
If you want your online engagement to flourish, you must be saying something that is interesting, useful or better still both. That is why great content is the key to getting people to your website, and feeding your social media outlets.
People love calls to action, humour, controversy and hypocrisy and luckily it all makes great content; Clean Up the Dirtiest Thing on the Internet (Greenpeace), Just How Safe is Your Sex Life? (THT), Give some good luck to a black cat this Friday 13th (Blue Cross) all tick the box and get their charity’s key message across.
You need this great content to share on social media in order to drive traffic to your website, where your brand and message can be better controlled, and where you can continue a deeper relationship with your supporters.
Know and grow your audience
Your audience will be interacting with you via your website, Twitter and Facebook, but they will be interacting with you in different ways and won’t necessarily be interested in the same things.
Spend time on your social media, identify how people are using different networks, the general tone and which topics users are engaging with the most. This will help you get to know and communicate with your different audiences.
But what about growing your audience? You need to go to where the people are and build relationships out on the internet, not just on your website.
Just Google the issue your charity deals with and you’ll find people blogging about it – many of whom are potential influencers and supporters for your charity.
Get your charity’s voice heard on the forums where these influencers are talking – be relevant, but be respectful too. Also, build relationships with key bloggers and encourage them to communicate on your forums or guest blog on your website.
One charity who have engaged with a new audience brilliantly are the RNLI – they wanted to raise awareness of the charity with young people. So they started interacting with 12 of the UK’s top YouTube bloggers and sent them ‘mystery packages’ which they were to open live on their YouTube blogs. This was the beginning of their relationship with the bloggers who helped them reach 11% of the 15-20 year olds in Britain.
You can find relevant bloggers using Google blog search and tools such as Twellow, WeFollow and Twitter’s own search to find tweeters around particular topics.
Getting to grips with Google
There are some really simple things you can do to ensure your charity is performing well on Google. Make sure you are including keywords in your titles, this helps your search engine optimisation, meaning you are more likely to rank highly on searches.
Some charities have benefitted from using Google AdWords. You can create ads and choose keywords, with words or phrases related to your charity. When people search on Google using one of your keywords, your ad may appear next to the search results. Charities can apply for Google Grants to help buy Google Adwords. This can have a huge impact on your online presence when you consider that the internet is the go to place for information and advice for most people.
Also, links can do wonders for your search engine optimisation. Google loves it when your website gets linked to from another reputable website. You can also link keywords in text to make them stand out and to take users to more relevant and engaging content on your website.
One step at a time
It’s best to set some clear goals before dabbling in a new social network or a digital communications channel. Measure your performance against those initial goals and, if something isn’t working, try a different technique or network. Evaluation is crucial – funders may demand it and a sceptical board or senior management may require evidence of the impact your organisation is having online.
For more help and advice on improving your online presence email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and for more on getting it right online visit the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network.