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Social Media

Facebook (almost) rolls out donate button

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 11.05.38

Currently only selected charity partners can take donations directly through Facebook

For the last two years, Facebook has allowed a small number of charity partners to collect donations directly through their pages. Now the are rolling the service out to all non-profits – but not fully.

Charities will be able to add a Facebook-native Donate Now button to their page – however, unlike the partner programme charities, you won’t be able to directly donate to the charity through Facebook.

The button is more of a call-to-action, taking users off to the charity’s own donation platform. It’s believed this has been done by Facebook to avoid accusations that it is endorsing donations to unpopular or controversial causes.

Despite this, the feature may still be helpful in driving users to donate, as up until now having a static, permanent and clear call to action to donate on your Facebook page has been a bit of a challenge.

The idea of sending users away from Facebook to continue their engagement with an organisation goes against a lot of what Facebook has been trying to do recently in terms of making Pages the core of user interaction with an organisation. So it will be interesting to see how the button develops and if Facebook extends full integration to all sometime in the future.

From the Horse’s Mouth – HorseWorld’s winning way with Social Media

patty the donkey painting

Patty - HorseWorld's painting donkey - was a Facebook hit

We’re delighted to see our client HorseWorld shortlisted for the Communicator of the Year award at the prestigious Bristol Post Business Awards next week.

It’s particularly pleasing for us as we’ve followed them through their journey with social media, from tentative first steps to it being a key part of their communications strategy.

We advise a lot of clients on social media strategy, but HorseWorld are one of those who have really grabbed the reins (pun intended!) and created something that we now use as an example in our social media workshops.

Like most clients, HorseWorld were a little unsure of how to approach social media when we first met them – and even whether to do it!

With a strong marketing team already getting results through existing channels and working flat out, there was the question of capacity – who would actually do it? – and also understandable caution at opening up public communication channels without the experience of managing it.

High percentages

They needn’t have worried – after taking the plunge, HorseWorld’s team have delivered a level of social engagement that puts many bigger organisations to shame.

As we tell all our clients, it’s not about the numbers – in two years they have gathered close to 4,500 Likes on Facebook, a good number but still plenty of room for growth.

What they are great at is turning those likes into conversations and actions that benefit the charity. The level of interaction is remarkable – at any one time, as many as a quarter of those Likers are actually active: talking to HorseWorld, sharing posts, having a conversation.

To put that in perspective – HorseWorld’s usual interaction rate is between 15-25%, compared with the Facebook average for even well-known brands (with huge social media budgets) of 1.4%.

In fact, while a rival horse charity has 5 times as many Likes, the level of active users they have is no higher than HorseWorld’s – and active users are really all that matters.

Managing conversations

Social media is not about marketing, it’s about managing conversations and turning those conversations into actions.

HorseWorld’s Facebook page has seen them re-home horses, increase visits to the point that they are almost at capacity, generate national press coverage – and even get one of their animals on Britain’s Got Talent!

They’ve done this with the same limited social media capacity that most charities have – and they’ve done it by not thinking about the technology or trying to come up with gimmicky ideas, but rather just by having that winning formula all conversations need in order to flow – “be interesting, be interested”.

They know their audience and share their passions, and they talk to them – it is simply people talking to people about stuff that interests them both. Sounds easy, but it takes a certain talent to pull it off as effectively as HorseWorld.

Their online community feels listened to, and knows their opinion is important and that the people at HorseWorld genuinely enjoy interacting with them.

HorseWorld MD Mark Owen told us: “Social media has helped HorseWorld establish a real-time two-way communications dialogue with our supporters from all over the world at extremely low-cost.

“We have been able to truly engage with the public and involve them in every step associated with our Charitable work of Rescuing, Rehabilitating and Rehoming Horses in need.

“We are also able to quickly garner options from our visitors, supporters and Equestrian enthusiasts about our work and the Equine Welfare sector in general – which is invaluable feedback when planning for the future.”

The Bristol Post Business Awards are being held on Wednesday 27th June.

Social media and tourism

Tourism and social media seem to be the theme of the week this week, yesterday saw the topic covered at the annual Exmoor Tourism Partnership where I was a keynote speaker. This morning I was talking on the same subject on BBC Radio Somerset, and today it’s the major theme of Somerset’s Annual Tourism Conference.

I was asked the same question on radio as I was when giving my talk – why is social media so important for tourism.

The simple answer is “because it is how a huge proportion of holidaymakers make their decision on where to go”.

A recent survey suggested that nearly 50% of people who did any social media research when considering a holiday (and that’s most people these days), changed their mind about where to go as a result of social media.

That’s quite a stat – nearly half the people thinking of going somewhere then entirely changed their mind because of how people were talking about places online. You need to make sure they are talking about you.

Talk amongst friends

It’s actually not hard to see why that happens. When people simply search online, they find information about a place written by the place itself. Or they may find reviews by people they don’t know.

When they search on social, more often than not they are finding reviews from people they know – or at worst a friend of a friend.

How much more persuasive is a recommendation from a friend than an advert?

The beauty of social media is that you can, in effect, join in a conversation between friends about things that relate to your business.

Unlike and advert, that has to be watched or read, or a website that has to be searched for and found – your social media is there, live, in the conversation, when people are deciding where to go.

You’ve posted pictures of your guests having a great time (with their permission of course!) and tagged them in it. You’ve connected with networks that are interested in things you have – fishing, horses, cycling, rambling, good food etc – and given them useful information that they like to share. You’ve posted videos, you’ve tweeted about the river levels, or the weather, or things to see and do, or events going on in your town.

So when they think about where to take a break, you are there – on their own platform, in their living room or on their phone, at the right time in the right place.

Social media doesn’t require an enormous amount of technical knowledge, what it does require is careful planning, proper strategy, and – most of all – your voice with something interesting to say.

Using Social Media to Engage and Empower Local Communities

In today’s “Big Society”, there’s increasing importance for local authorities and other public bodies to engage directly in a two-way dialogue with the people on whose behalf they are working.

Social Media  can be an extremely effective tool for empowering and giving a  voice to communities, but its use needs to be carefully planned and managed.

On the positive side, Social Media is in widespread use, and has low barriers to entry in terms of cost and technical difficulty.

On the negative side, without being part of a wider engagement strategy it can exclude important sections of the community and can become directionless,  with no real ROI.

Although Social Media is about learning by doing, often the lack of basic IT skills and experience with using Social Media platforms can prevent valuable members of a community from being included in a wider online consultation and engagement.

A multi-agency engagement approach

The Somerset Coastal Change Pathfinder Project (SCCP) is a multi-agency body tasked with consulting coastal communities on the future of the coastline.

As part of our work with SCCP, we have been running social media engagement workshops – bringing in interested groups and members of the public in the communities affected by coastal change.

The philosophy behind the workshops is to educate and enthuse local people in engaging with the project via social media.

The keys to making this work include:

  • Its about engagement, not social media – not everyone who want to get involved in the consultation will know, or want to know, about social media. It’s important that the workshop is sold and promoted as a platform-neutral engagement opportunity. Members of the public can engage in consultation any way they want to, but it’s good to let them know how useful social media is as an engagement tool, and to help them use in case they want to learn how.
  • Creating a shared learning environment – rather than just showing people “how its done” you allow them to work together to solve problems and find solutions.
  • Identifying levels of engagement – make sure you understand where individuals are in terms of their understanding of social media and allow those who know more to help those who know less.
  • Keep the project at the heart of the workshop – any training or practical examples should be focused directly on engagement with the project. Let delegates actually have their voice heard as they learn.
  • Make it goal-focussed – if you are showing people how to use Flickr, for instance, teach them by allowing them to create – for example in this case – a gallery of images of coastal change in  particular part of the coast which will feed directly into the consultation programme. By creating something that is directly relevant to the consultation, you are doing more than just teaching skills you are beginning the engagement process.
  • Evaluate and follow up the session to help drive future engagement with the community project.

You need to bring not only expertise in the technology involved, but also in the project issues and in the local community. The best workshops are those where the delegates feel empowered and because they will know their own community better and the project issues, they should be  the  real experts in driving forward the social media.

It is important to remember it isn’t about the technology, but about the conversation. People need to be shown how to use the technology initially, but then they should forget about it and think about the engagement. Just like we don’t think about the fact we are using a telephone when we call someone up,  or even the mechanisms of using e-mail.  True engagement through social media begins when it is just about the engagement, not the social media platform.

Public Sector Business Engagement Benefits to the Local Community

When I saw a tweet adverting a local event: Local by Social (Apps for Communities) I instantly knew this was something not to be missed.  As a business you can’t fail to notice that times are a changing, the economic landscape is almost unrecognisable in a relatively short period of time.  For some businesses it has been like sailing a choppy sea, battening down the hatches and weathering a fiscal storm.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Isn’t this a time to seek out new opportunities a bit closer to home?

Putting ideology to one side, Government has tried to argue that it’s time for business and the community to work together, the obvious area is where the public sector is withdrawing its investment.

The Regional Growth Fund has been set up to seek out and invest  in “private sector employment in regions where there is an imbalance with the public sector” and “to build up the private sector in the long term.”   For the RGF bid I was involved in that meant an opportunity for a solid public/private partnership with an “oven-ready” business model and vision to get investment.

To benefit from a substantial RGF grant, sustainability and providing wider benefits  such as job creation, new skills training and encouraging new business start up, were key words with real meaning rather than buzz words.

Local by Social seem to sing the same tune as RGF.   During this two day open forum, we were asked to consider how can technology solve everyday problems and develop ideas, there was even a cash prize for the best App idea.   Essentially we were asked to look at Apps in a different way ie consider the wider benefits to the community.

One example given was an app developed by local Bristol company Overlay Media.   The “Hills are Evil“  App has a very practical purpose, “the creation of a dynamic map overlay that provides people with restricted mobility, cyclists, skateboarders, the elderly, and people pushing pushchairs, the ability to identify the most appropriate route between two places.”  They’ve made this app “fun” by providing “a pain scale to make levels of steepness more meaningful to users, as the raw numbers of distance, ascent and descent are not conducive to the best user experience”.

Users can upload their accessibility issues, such as unexpected drop curbs, troublesome cobbles and steep hills “that kill” and this data can be used to improve people’s lives not just by taking the pain out of not being able to get to your destination, but also by feeding back to say those who make decisions about where to spend money on roads and pavements.  One Councillor said that money was already being spent on consultation with the public on accessibility issues, but with this app that could mean such consultations would not neccesarily be required.  A win win and cost saving.

Hills are Evil was commissioned by Media Sandbox – a project that invests in smaller and local creative technology companies to  develop inspirational ideas and projects that have an emphasis on community.  So I guess I’m getting around to the idea of Social Enterprise.  The reason Hills are Evil is so good is that innovation and “inspirational ideas” came from investment in the right people for the right reasons.  At the same time these savvy technological social entrepreneurs get their idea off the ground.

The ambition for Hills are Evil’s concept is to be as ubiquitous as Google Maps, yes this makes sense, but wouldn’t that start to attract the attention of  business investors?

Social by Local was missing something for me and that was any mention of Enterprise.  Businesses looking to adapt to the changing economic landscape and seek opportunities by working with the public sector can lead to benefits to the local community.   Local by Social was an ideal forum for this discussion, making us think of Apps and technology in a way that has wider benefit to society, I see also an opportunity for business as well, but there wasn’t many of us (business investors) there to share our ideas.

Businesses are often seen as totally separate to the local community by the public sector, even though we often live and work in the very same community.   Social by Local needs to engage with the local business community as should Local Government.   The RGF initiative kind of forced this into being by providing an investment opportunity aimed at businesses but wrapped up in the language of the public sector.  There needed to be public/private partnership to understand the application form at the very least!   We have firsthand experience of three local authorities that find engaging with the business community challenging, maybe this was why only 400 bids were submitted to the RGF fund, when 6000 were predicted.