In so many ways, it is easier than ever before to use social media to promote and announce your fundraising event. But the more difficult tasks are those of engaging and holding people’s attention.
Today, internet users are regularly asked to sign petitions, join mailing lists and attend events for this charity or that social justice campaign. The task of breaking through apathy is today matched by the task of engaging people beyond superficial actions.
Social media – with its potential for dialogue, immediacy and ever-expanding networks – is an important part of establishing a sense of meaning around fundraising events and amplifying other kinds of marketing.
Where do you begin?
The obvious sites to begin with online promotion are those places you know and use. If you have a network of interested people accessible via Facebook, Twitter or blogs, it makes sense to start there. And the “you” here means the person chiefly in charge of social media work at your organisation – but it should encompass everyone directly involved in the project.
The internet may offer expansive horizons, but we most often act on the recommendations and guidance of those we already know and trust. Most likely to become enthusiastic are friends and those people who already support your organisation. These two groups are also the most likely to pass on information to other people they know.
Beyond this initial release of information, the tactics for online promotion are those that are tried and true offline. It is too easy to get lost in the bright lights of social media – the fancy new technology – and forget the basics: engage people, respond to them, tell them all you can. You answer the phone if it rings in your office, so answer the tweets and messages when they are directed at you online.
Using the Twitter Hashtag
Technology can help you keep track of discussion and ensure that a broad range of people know about your event. The hashtag function of Twitter is one way to promote and then monitor discussion around an event.
Establishing an easily memorable hashtag term is now one of the earliest tasks to undertake. Kick this off yourself and ensure – in the least intrusive ways possible – that others continue to use the tag in their tweets. If you can successfully manage this, the conversation can then easily be tracked. Be sure to respond and integrate users into your replies. A site like hashtags.org allows you to search for specific tags, find relevant tweets and note the trends over hours, days and weeks.
Engaging users in dialogue, so that their followers then pay attention, will help spill beyond your initial pool of Twitter followers. Be sure that your Twitter profile includes a link to your main website – a piqued interest must be allowed to follow its path! Likewise, any event website should have a button allowing people to easily “share” the URL or information with others. (Do the same in any newsletters you send out – it’s worth it.)
Frequency of Updates
Discussion and excitement about an event will only continue if the online presence is an active one. Our attention span online can be incredibly short, the taste for novelty incredibly strong. A regular dripfeed is better than an initial flood of information. Popping up again and again on update feeds with quality news, links and information will serve the dual purpose of informing people and attracting attention. Retweeting and Facebook sharing are more likely if users think the content is original, inspiring or important.
Focus intently on a few sites – I am favouring Twitter and Facebook here as they are, for now, the biggest and most active networks – rather than spread yourself thinly across every possible outlet. For example, it’s probably not worth bothering with Myspace these days, as it is used by fewer and fewer people. Likewise, anything that is too new – anything that has not reached tipping point – is likely to service a too-small community. The stretched resources of most charities and not-for-profits need to be used wisely.
If you have a larger budget or a particularly energetic group, put some time into creating the type of content that procrastinating people online love to share: videos, quizzes, apps for their phones. These can be hard to do in a way that doesn’t seem token or naff. So perhaps this is only worth pursing if you have a strong concept – rather than simply for the sake of it.
And that’s a worthwhile approach to using social media in general:
Use it with a strong idea in mind and commitment to doing it properly.
Your event will attract positive attention if the online presence feels genuine, committed and meaningful. Users tend to respond to a sense of real excitement and enthusiasm around an event – while running away from anything that smells too strongly of stale PR. Social media can allow you to cover new territory, find new supporters and generate interest in your event – but it can also be a tool for giving everyone a flavour of your organisation and what it does.
How have you used social media to promote your events?