Social Media is an ever-growing communications tool. It is a particular focus for charities that are trying to find new ways to engage with their supporters to encourage giving and their service-users to provide extra support. Following the success of CharityConnect, the online community for the charity sector, we interviewed Anna Bland to get some advice on community management!
“Hi, I’m Anna Bland. I am the Community Engagement Executive for CharityConnect, a community for people in the charity sector, enabling them to share and learn together. We launched in October 2016 and have grown to nearly 6000 members in 6 months. We encourage blogging and discussion about the things that really matter to charity professionals, trustees and volunteers.”
Tell us about your community?
“CharityConnect is an online community for people in the charity sector. Discussions have varied from how to fill out trust funding applications, to the newest digital innovations, the process of starting a charity and reading recommendations. We have built a space that creates a true culture of collaboration, ensuring charity people feel supported in their role and are part of the wider conversations in the sector. CharityConnect also provides an opportunity for charity professionals to collaborate with people they wouldn’t normally meet, either because they’re in a different part of the country, or because they do a slightly different role. There’s so much to learn from people across the whole sector!”
What benefits can charities get from paying close attention to their online community?
“In my experience taking some time to look after your community creates a group of engaged and supportive members and is a totally awesome part of the job. Being in conversation with your service users, supporters and the rest of your audience is wonderful because it builds genuine relationship with them. It means that you can improve your community with a clear and precise understanding of what your audience wants. It also creates a group to bounce ideas off and get honest feedback from because they are invested in what you are providing. If they know they are valued and feel confident they are more likely to keep contributing and spread the word about your community in an organic way.”
A common concern with social media and online communities is negativity which is out of your control. How do you handle negativity or criticism of your brand (whether accurate or fabricated)?
“We really encourage people to let us know what they think. I think we are unique because the community is our brand. We want people to feel ownership of it and know that this was created for them so they can shape it. We have a very obvious feedback box on our home page to make sure people know the appropriate way to voice their opinions. I keep a document of all feedback that is then discussed with the team and fed into future development of the site and the brand.”
So, if we were a charity with a strong online following and an audience that seems quite engaged with our occasional posts across a few platforms, how do we start improving, supporting and nurturing this community?
“My top tip would be more one-to-one communications, it is time consuming but it makes the community feels so much more human. In this increasingly digital and brand-filled online world, knowing the human behind the brand is important. For your most active users, it’s important to let them know you value them and that you know their name and who they are. The good news is that this is also the most fun and fulfilling part of managing a community!”
And how would we grow our community and reach more potential fundraisers, activists and service-users?
“This massively depends on type of community, content, capacity and budget. We have used social media advertising as a useful way to reach new audiences. For encouraging engagement from dormant users, email is still a surprisingly effective channel.”
What is the key metric or analytical data point that we should be looking at to see if we’re doing a good job managing our online community?
“I think percentage of engaged users is very important. This the most important outcome – that people are actually finding something they want to interact with and be a part of. So look at your user base and calculate how many dormant and how many active users you have; aim to reduce dormant users by re-engaging them in what you’re doing and do what you can to support and nurture your active users to encourage them to become more active.”
A big thank you to Anna Bland for sharing her fantastic insight into the world of community management. Don’t forget to check out CharityConnect, the social media platform for the charity sector. And if you have any comments, ideas or feedback on this article, don’t hesitate to get in touch and your comments might make it into the blog!