Social media should be a cornerstone of your digital fundraising campaigns. You can have the most exciting project, with the most compelling message, but without using social media, you will miss out on the many potential people who can help you reach more donors and raise more money.
Nor should you launch your campaign and then decide whether to use Facebook or Instagram... your social media strategy should be embedded into your plans in advance of your launch.
Apply offline etiquette to your online presence - in the good old days when you met someone face-to-face for the first time, you wouldn't dream of asking them to give you money! So build your network, and raise awareness of your school and its priorities, before asking a stranger to share your campaign or make a donation. Here's what you need to consider when using social media:
Studies suggest that an average person's social-media browsing can occupy more than 20 percent of their total time online. With so much of your audiences' time spent browsing their social accounts it clearly represents an opportunity for you to communicate your campaign messages. But how do you decide where to post, and how can you structure these in order to get the most from each message you create?
Facebook is still king of the social media castle. As of early 2017 there were 1.86bn active monthly Facebook users - a 17 per cent increase on the previous year. This means Facebook is too big to ignore, and should always be a key part of any social media plans. However, focusing solely on Facebook will limit your ability to reach everyone. Remember that a good proportion of your audience will not be on Facebook or will prefer to be contacted through another medium.
WhatsApp is increasingly becoming a popular social tool, as users can create fun groups to instantly communicate with friends or other contacts. Online giving platform JustGiving recognises this and has introduced WhatsApp integration into its fundraising pages. In terms of worldwide popularity, WhatsApp currently sits in second place behind Facebook.
Instagram had about 600m active users as of January 2017, making it another interesting option for communicating with potential supporters. Snapchat, meanwhile, saw 300m active users, with the platform particularly popular among millennials - and this popularity is causing many companies to use Snapchat to reach this coveted demographic.
Twitter seems to have suffered from the growth in other platforms, with user numbers decreasing in the past few years as many move on to other options. But Twitter still had 317m active users as of January 2017, so shouldn't be dismissed.
LinkedIn, the primarily business-related social platform, has 106 million active users.
With each social media platform having its own key audience, you will want to figure out who is using which platform and how to communicate with them. A simple way to do this would be to organise a quick survey of your supporters to find out which platform they prefer. Doing so will enable you to work out if there are consistent trends among your supporters that could help you target different audiences based upon not just the platform they prefer, but also on their age or demographic.
For example, parents may be predominantly using Facebook for all of their social media, while students may opt for Snapchat, and business contacts may prefer to use LinkedIn to receive communications. If you have this information then you can appropriately tailor your messaging and strategy to deliver it to the specific audience, right where they want to receive it.
When setting up your campaign pages within each social media platform, make sure you use consistent imagery and messaging. If you have guidelines for this, make sure you adhere to them, if not then it would be worth establishing some. Using consistent visuals for a campaign will help 'brand' it in the eyes of your supporters and their extended networks. Visuals can help tell your story, communicate why you are fundraising and create a connection to your campaign goals.
When developing your campaign, think of a snappy hashtag to use. This should be something that people can include in their posts so that others can quickly find related information. Take a look to make sure your hashtag is fairly unique so that it isn't confused with one already in use, and choose a few keywords that help broaden the reach of your campaign. For example, if your appeal is for a new playground you could include the keywords #playground, #school, #appeal in your social media messaging.
Create a calendar for your social media posts and decide what you will post when, where and to which audience sector - parents, students, businesses, etc. You will want to warm-up your supporters prior to campaign launch, make a big splash on the day of launch, then post a variety of communications throughout the campaign to maintain engagement. Think of your post-campaign communications too - for example, how you intend to show your supporters what impact your project has had. This will increase their affinity to your cause, and mean they are more likely to help in the future. Read guidance on how to schedule a campaign.
Use a mixture of 'asks', together with examples of how the fundraising will help, and other engagement tools such as creating events or groups that your supporters can join. Varying the content will mean that you are less likely to have people switching off, and more likely to get your active supporters sharing your content throughout your campaign. Some good ways to do this are to use loss-aversion messaging such as 'Don't miss your chance to help' or examples of how funding will help, or has helped before.
Make sure you review and adjust your social media activity based on the results of the work you are doing. If your intended schedule and communications are not working, take a look at what is, and where your supporters are engaging with you. Try different times of publication to see if that makes any difference.
If all this sounds overwhelming, and you don't have the time or the resources, there are some online tools that can assist you in publishing across the various social media platforms. Hootsuite, Buffer, CoSchedule and others provide all-in-one management options, meaning you can organise and tailor your messaging for each platform within one handy interface.
The wonderful thing about social media is that it creates a link between your cause and a person, whose friends and family will be able to see that connection. This allows you to expand your audience exponentially, reach more people, and raise more money.
Matt Ridout is Content Editor at JustGiving, the world's leading online giving platform. Matt is well versed in all aspects of digital fundraising, including campaign creation, event fundraising and crowdfunding. He is passionate about helping schools explore new methods of income generation.