Cambridge became a bustling hub of knowledge sharing recently, when the fifth annual ‘Learn & Share Event’ brought together an array of support groups, charities and government organisations. The idea behind the event is to allow various groups to share stories, techniques and insights in order to better raise awareness, build membership or increase donations. Workshops varied in content and included ‘Dealing with Government Bodies’, ‘Wellbeing Our Way’ and ‘What is Mindful Compassion?’. I ran a workshop titled ‘Using Websites and Social Media to Boost Engagement’, at the end of which, I ran through 12 tips for support groups and charity websites that I have outlined below.
- Start a Facebook group
Facebook groups are easy for people to use and access. Self-hosted forums allow you to style it however you like and allow visitors to come directly to your website instead of Facebook, however, I have found that a lot of forums soon become ghost towns with fewer and fewer updates. Facebook groups are very similar to Facebook profile pages, so you will have less to learn when it comes to being a group administrator. Similarly, users can log in via Facebook and will be familiar with the interface. Google Groups are great for those with Gmail, but they are not quite as established as Facebook.
- Ask for interviews or shout-outs
Everyone has a story. Ask sufferers, survivors, doctors, celebrities or influencers for interviews or quotes to add to your website. Similarly, ask for a shout out (a social mention of your group) on other channels to raise awareness.
- Ask for emails
A newsletter list will allow you to contact your audience directly and is proven to have great returns. A newsletter signup box can be added to most website builders and should you need to entice them, offer a free e-book to new sign ups. Regular content is essential for staying at the forefront of people’s minds.
- Write an e-book
Over the course of time, you will write blog posts, conduct interviews and create useful lists. These can be combined together to create an e-book that can be shared on social media, offered out to new newsletter subscribers or used to build backlinks to your website.
- Use ‘Meetup’ for your regular get-together
For groups looking to have regular ‘real world’ gatherings, Meetup.com is a simple way to organise your meet-up. It costs around £8 a month and the cost can be shared amongst members.
- Take your meet-ups online with Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts is a fantastic tool to host a video meet-up. Up to 10 people can video conference together, whilst 150 can take part in the chat window. After a hangout, it can be published to your YouTube channel easily and added to online content.
- Create a simple social media policy for groups with multiple administrators
It is helpful for all involved in running a Facebook group to abide by a simple set of rules that can include ‘what happens when negative comments are posted?’, ‘how to welcome new members’ and rules on the types of images or links you want to share.
- Use automation where possible
Crowdfire will send an automated Twitter message to new followers. Auto replies can be set up in Facebook and IFTTT allows you to set up an array of automated responses. These are useful for cross-channel awareness and to send new users useful emails and documents.
- Partner with others (main organisation, other support groups)
Collaborations with others often result in a wealth of content and increased awareness. Whether you create a video together, run a meet-up or interview each other, the amount of social buzz and content that it creates is more than you think.
- Check your website and post insights and analytics
By understanding what resonates with your audience, you can create more content they like. Similarly, if certain posts get more engagement, you can plan future posts armed with useful user data.
- Post, re-post and re-post
The average lifespan of a tweet is seven minutes, whereas a Facebook post can last for around four hours. There is a good chance that people missed the first tweet of your blog post, so don’t be afraid to keep posting your articles (within reason).
- Use the free Google apps for sharing and collaborating on content
Google has a range of fantastic free apps capable of opening documents, spreadsheets and presentations. They save automatically, can be used by multiple people and have lots of free storage for all your group documents, images, spreadsheets and presentations.
These 12 tips will help you to be more efficient, and increase collaboration and engagement, whilst bringing your members closer together than ever before. If you have any more tips to add, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The full presentation can be downloaded here, and includes a useful links page containing the following:
- Groups and forum links
- Scheduling & automation software
- Essential WordPress plugins
- The best charity-related WordPress themes
- Useful apps