How to use social media for social good

Image of heart in a speech bubble held up by hands

The past 12 months have brought us Brexit, Trump, and a period of general political, economic, and social unrest. This has spilled out across social media with the rise of fake news, where people unwittingly read, believe, and share disputed content, believing it to be true.

Fake news, sensationalism, and the mass hysteria that accompanies it, are the negative by-products of the digital revolution. This means it’s more important than ever for brands and organisations to share positive, inclusive and authentic messages, cutting through the noise of fear and anger that can so often consume Facebook and Twitter feeds.

At its best, social media brings people together. It gives them a space to tell their stories, share viewpoints and connect. For charities and non-profit organisations harnessing the power of social media for positive good is a no-brainer. It offers a cost-effective marketing solution, where campaigns can be shared with millions of people, and awareness and funds can be raised about important issues. Executed well, a social campaign for social good can have a real impact on society.

Starting a conversation

The beauty of social media is that it allows you to engage directly with your target audience. By striking up real conversations with fans and followers, organisations can gauge views, accumulate research and shape campaign strategies.

Using social media to engage directly with people is particularly effective in helping to raise awareness of issues that people find difficult to talk about, such as mental health and bullying. The mental health charity, Mind, for example, directly responds to individuals who reach out to them on social media, pointing them in the right direction for support, if they need it, and ensuring no one has to suffer alone.

Telling true stories

The rise of fake news has made people increasingly cynical about what they read online. Audiences are increasingly savvy and can smell spin from a mile away, so it’s never been more important for organisations to be upfront and honest in their communications.

Charities and non-profits can use social media to share real-life case studies of people connected to – and who have benefited from – their cause. Video is particularly powerful at generating an emotional response and prompting people to take action.

Connecting with influencers

Twitter gives charities and non-profits a direct line of communication to politicians, decision-makers, media and influencers. For example, by blogging and directly tweeting a politician about a cause or issue, you can raise awareness, lobby and challenge, build relationships, and invite them to become part of the conversation.

By connecting with celebrities or social media influencers aligned to your cause, you can use their marketing clout to reach a wider audience. When celebrities say something genuine that resonates with their followers, the impact can be huge, especially when their messages are about societal change or social justice.

Pop star Katy Perry regularly uses her Twitter page to tweet her support of LGBTQ rights. With 97 million followers, she is a hugely influential figure and can use her status to promote positive messages about inclusion and equality.

Creating a community

Social media is an ideal platform to bring people together. If you see something on Facebook that resonates with your feelings or values, more often than not, you’ll like or share it, increasing the post’s reach. Charities and non-profits can tap into this community spirit by bringing together like-minded individuals. For example, if your organisation supports people with MS, you can create a virtual community for those living with it to support each other.

It can also be used to reach out to volunteers, as it allows you to target people living in specific areas. You can also connect with other groups and organisations that might be able to support your cause.

Viral fundraising

People love to share, so an effective way for non-profit organisations to make an impact on social media is to encourage people to post their own photos or videos in aid of a good cause. Think of the #nomakeupselfie trend in 2014, which raised awareness for Cancer Research UK, and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, of the same year, which raised more than £88 million for motor neurone disease research.

More recently there was Disney’s #ShareYourEars campaign, which encouraged people to post pics of themselves wearing Mickey Mouse ears. For every photo posted, Disney donated $5 to the Make a Wish Foundation, raising over $2 million.

This article originally appeared on FleishmanHillard’s FH4Inclusion blog