Whitney's big hair and social media success. Image courtesy of Huffington Post

Guaranteed success on social media

Did I just write guaranteed success on social media? Can I guarantee it? A little part of me was scared to write it, but yes, I can. You can too. It is simple and proven and you already do it in other parts of your life. Now, all you have to do is take those tricks and do them on social media.

Big hair

What do you remember about the 1980s? I remember, as a child, standing in our garden after being told we were emigrating to America. When I got there, I remember big houses, Whitney Houston’s big hair, big cars and an outdoor swimming pool at the end of our road.

I also remember the five-storey school I went to. I remember feeling like I had landed on a different planet. I remember not knowing how to do joined-up writing like the rest of the class. I remember the tension and bullying in the class when the teacher left for a few minutes.

Get involved

But, there was a valuable lesson learnt. Being shy, at first, I kept quiet and life was hard in school. Then, I started to open up, talked to a few people. They were interested in Ireland and we became friends. More friends emerged and the tension disappeared.

I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences of new places and a new crowd. The way we often handle that – talking to people and building relationships – is the same way we need to approach social media.

Immerse yourself

It seems simple, but many organisations ignore it: we must become a real member of that social community. This is how you do that.

Daily diet

Here at Concern Worldwide we’ve had some great success on social media. That is because we learnt that lesson: talk with people, not at them. Initially, we thought it only worked on Twitter. Then, we applied it to Facebook. Now, we’re applying it to Instagram, YouTube and beyond. The results are always the same: deep engagement and wide reach. It is not just us. Last night, I talked with Lawrence Ampofo, the founder of Digital Mindfulness, and they have started to use this technique too and have seen big improvements on Twitter and SoundCloud.

I’ll give you an example of how it works. Every day on Twitter, the web team in Concern has a list of tasks that we have to do. We call it our daily diet:

  • We reply to at least five tweets
    • (This can be hard at first, read this to find out how best to approach it)
  • We re-tweet at least five tweets
  • We try to keep the number of times we tweet low – maybe three a day

Listen first

The reason this works is because it slowly builds relationships with people. You listen and talk with them and they respond. Then, their followers will notice and get involved. It seems simple, but lots of organisations think social media is there to push their views on people. But, most people prefer you to talk with them rather than at them.   

This focus on listening first, talking second, has guaranteed us success on social media.

Now it’s your turn

Pick your most important social media site. Resist the temptation to talk first. Instead, listen and enjoy your daily diet. Success guaranteed.

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David versus Goliath: lessons in digital strategy. Courtesy of Wiki Commons

David teaches Goliath a lesson in digital strategy

Once upon a time, David (the small one) had a fight with Goliath (the big one). It ended badly for Goliath and so began the story of the underdog winning against all odds. I saw a similar scenario recently and it got me thinking: what lessons in digital strategy can small organisations teach big ones?

The journey begins

They leave their cigarettes at the gate and walk up the lane to the New Hope residential care centre. Those first few steps are a commitment to leave their addictions behind them. The new arrivals are entering a drug treatment programme that is built on abstinence. They face a difficult journey.

New Hope is a small organisation run on a tiny budget and a team of committed volunteers. I had the honour of advising them on strategy recently as part of a great event called CharityHack.

As another charity, Concern Worldwide is at the opposite end of the scale to New Hope. We work in many of the world’s poorest countries with thousands of staff, helping millions of people. But, even for Concern, it’s a struggle to get people’s attention online and a further struggle to turn that attention into action.

Concern isn’t the biggest charity around (think World Vision, Oxfam and more) and it’s dwarfed in size by lots of massive companies in other sectors. There’s always a bigger fish in the pond. But, whatever the company, the one thing all organisations have in common is that they’re built on values. Or, they should be. And their behaviour, branding and strategy should fall out of these values. It’s these values that everyone is trying to turn into something that will grab our attention online.

When it comes to that, a small organisation like New Hope can teach us all a few lessons:

No substitute for passion

At CharityHack, Aine (from New Hope) stood up in a room of people she didn’t know and told us a story. We were riveted. She told us about a person who’d beaten his addiction, gotten an education, graduated out of New Hope and was about to get married. There was no denying Aine’s genuine passion and it was contagious. I think many people there were hoping they’d get a chance to work with her that day. Real passion makes people sit up and take notice. When an organisation communicates with passion we pay attention. This honest and passionate communication should be central to any digital communication strategy.

In their words

We pay attention to people we trust. We also listen when we feel a real connection with someone. That’s why companies are bending over backwards to find credible brand ambassadors. New Hope runs an addiction treatment programme. The volunteers who run it have been through the programme. They are living proof of its value.

Do you tell the story of your service (or product) through the words of the people who use it?

Here in Concern we try to do that, in a way. We try to give the people we with work with a voice – a chance to tell their story. This should be central to a social media strategy. Here’s a good example of that.

Opening up

Sometimes the biggest organisations dominate their competitors. Big doesn’t always mean best and a dominant position can lead to complacency. Operating on a tiny budget with no paid members of staff isn’t an ideal situation either. But, the need to survive can produce an openness to change.

New Hope came to the CharityHack with a willingness to listen to constructive criticism, to be open to change and to try something it hadn’t done before. This flexibility is something a lot of organisations lose as they expand. In this constantly moving digital world, retaining a culture of experimentation, at least in some teams, is essential if organisations are going to survive.

As the CharityHack finished and people prepared to leave, Aine said that the day had given her a new slogan: “turn no hope into New Hope.” I wish New Hope well and look forward to seeing David teach Goliath a few more lessons.