In Charities and Not-For-Profits

The state of the Canadian web nation (SON report) is the largest Canadian survey of its kind: over 500 charities across Canada participated. The survey asked 26 questions about everything from website strategy and revenue tracking to metrics and digital fundraising activities. This much-needed fact finding report was produced by Fraser Green, Holly Wagg and myself and the results were astounding, with Holly calling it The embarrassing state of the web nation.

The phrase “a social media-friendly website” shouldn’t just be an item on a checklist. I believe most people agree that allowing your web users to share information on social media is important. Likewise, I feel most people understand that engaging on social media can drive visitors back to their website.

But I also believe many charities are missing the point. Plopping social media share buttons at the bottom of every page and congratulating yourself on a box well-checked will not get the job done. Now we wait for the fish to bite. Guess what? It won’t work. You have to go out there and start talking to people.

I wanted to see how widespread this misunderstanding of social media was in the charity sector. I found out it was pretty endemic. As you can see from the answers to the question above, a good 23% of charities polled do not know if their social media-friendly site is getting results. Just under 30% had a social media-friendly site that they were confident was working well.

We surveyed 500+ charities in our State of the Nation survey and here is how they responded:

  • 29.84% Yes, and it’s working well
  • 24.03% We’re just not there yet
  • 23.26% Yes, but we have no idea how well it works
  • 14.3% We’re in the process of doing that
  • 8.53% I don’t know

Why Should You Care?

Too often, social media is viewed as a one-way method of communication, like broadcast media. That’s not how it works. Social media is an opportunity for you to have human conversations with the people who will support your cause, and if you’re throwing up like buttons without any strategy behind it, they’re pretty unlikely to care.

Furthermore, social media is becoming increasingly important in SEO. Many studies continue to indicate that social signals (likes, shares, follows, etc) are becoming a major factor in the way search engines rank your website.

But we don’t have enough time! Can’t we just copy what others do?

NO! Unless you cater to the exact same audience, copying the strategy of Charity:Water or the World Wildlife Fund won’t get you the desired results. Instead, you need to be thinking about your donors’ needs and wants. You need to find what will work for you.

How Can You Improve?

  1. Think about the audience you’re trying to reach. What social media platforms do they use? What content do they like? Are they interested in photos, stories, videos etc.? Are they male or female? Neil Patel writes: “Just because a social site is popular doesn’t mean it is a good fit for you business.” His infographic provides some useful information about the audience of the more popular social media networks.
  2. Share what they care about. Now that you know them, give them what they like, and what they’re likely to pass around. If you have an advertising budget, we’ve found niche advertising to work very well.
  3. Measure your outcomes. It’s important to know what’s being shared about your website, and which social media platforms you’re popular on. You can use these metrics to get an idea of how well your strategy is working. Your web developer should be able to allow you to measure both likes (going to social media sites) and visits (people coming to your site from social networks).
  4. Adapt. On a regular basis, make adjustments to what you share and how you share and even when you share. This might be as simple as changing the location of a like button or changing the times you engage, or as complex as completely rethinking your content strategy or trying a new social network.

Don’t let yourself be caught up in the excitement of social media without understanding what it can do for you and how to make sure its getting results. Don’t let it just be a checkbox.

Interested in More Insights From the SON Report?

If you would like to take a look at the full report you can download it here. If you would like to discuss it with us send us a tweet. We would love to hear from you. You can reach us here: Fraser Green, Holly Wagg and yours truly, Todd Jamieson.

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