Posts Tagged: social media

Is Quora the next Twitter? And should charities have it in their sights?

Twitter has been alight this past week with
talk of the online craze Quora.

While the website isn’t new (it was
actually founded in 2009), momentum has been growing over the last few months,
with opinion seemingly split on the network’s merits.

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To tweet or not to tweet?

The recent discussion about the use of Twitter and other social media sites by fundraisers flagged up some really interesting points both for and against.

Both sides were compelling. However – and this is probably unsurprising, considering I’m the online editor of Third Sector and champion of all things digital – I came down in favour of using social media, and Twitter in particular.

As an initial Twitter doubter, I’ve since seen the error of my ways and now can’t imagine my working life without using it in some capacity – whether to help source stories, read comments or do research.

There was some concern among the commentators that Twitter is an invasion of privacy and that it would therefore be inappropriate for fundraisers to use it to approach donors. However, I think this misses the beauty of this social networking tool.

Users willingly sign up, knowing that they may be messaged by those that follow them and those that don’t. It is the very nature of the site. It promotes engagement and discussion and, most importantly, interaction.

It can help give an organisation a more human face by making a charity more approachable. And it offers engagement on a level that chugging and door-to-door fundraiser hasn’t been able to, by providing a open, relaxed environment where a donor or charity supporter can raise any concerns or issues they have with an organisation immediately, without having to wait weeks for a letter or phone call, and maybe even for no response at all.

It is also an information-sharing space, where people can learn more about organisations, about what’s new and interesting, and helps to develop relationships and connections.

It’s true a charity’s Twitter feed shouldn’t be a series of mundane messages, and nor should it become overly familiar or unprofessional. There is a balance to be struck. But it’s definitely worth a try.

And I don’t believe it should replace other forms of fundraising, which have been tried and tested and are successful. Instead, it should sit alongside them, because charities that aren’t using Twitter are missing out. So go on, give it a go…

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Parkinson’s UK’s online woes show charities are still struggling with social media

Charities are still floundering with social media. A robust debate that broke out last month on the Parkinson’s UK website forums among its feisty and outspoken members proves the point.

Many of them are expressing dissatisfaction about the charity in more than 230 posts on its public-facing website, and it’s clearly causing embarrassment because chief executive Steve Ford has tried to step in. His solution looks like a desperate attempt at damage limitation.

The catalyst for the thread was the charity’s re-brand, which reportedly cost £200,000 and prompted one member to say her granddaughter could have created a better logo, and another that the slanted angle of the new design will make people want to straighten it.

Charity re-brands are always criticised, but it’s Parkinson’s UK’s public response to this discussion that’s really interesting, because basic mistakes have been made. After the first post – a reasoned, articulate criticism of the re-brand by a member called Wobbly – a forum moderator called Tim left a post that trotted out the charity’s position in corporate-bland lingo. It read as if he’d cut and pasted the press release.

If Tim thought his post would fob Wobbly off, he was sorely mistaken. Post after well-informed post appeared expressing dissatisfaction with his response, and bringing up more and more grievances about the charity’s ‘lack of ambition’ and ‘wasteful expenditure’. To his credit, Ford tried to join in the discussion and answer criticism, but by that time it was too late – it was powering ahead without him.

Now Ford has offered to hold an ‘online meeting’ on 10 March with forum members, which sounds open but actually isn’t. Members wishing to participate must pre-register and the forum will be pre-moderated. His suggestion looks like an attempt to take an embarrassing discussion out of the public arena – another social media mistake – and members are already posting to say ‘count me out’.

The problem with online public forums is that people will use them, particularly if they’re not happy. It’s a mistake to try to fob online critics off with old media-style ‘position statements’, and it’s another mistake to usher inconvenient discussions to a quiet corner, because participants are likely to simply take it elsewhere.

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Making sense of social media is like herding cats

We had half-an-hour to go before the panel I was chairing at the Media 140 event on social media in the third sector event last week was due to face the audience. Fear was setting in.

Huddled in the corner, the panellists and I were chatting about the kinds of questions I would be putting to them before opening up the session to the audience in the room and on the web. And while we had all worked with social media, the sense that we might be out of our depth was creeping in.

“What does that question mean?” asked one panellist, pointing to the question ‘Where is our community?’ which had been suggested as a discussion topic.

“Er, not too sure to be honest,” I replied. After a bit of thought I figured we had better skip that one, much to the panel’s relief. No one could be quite sure if it was an important question or just gibberish (although I’m almost certain it was the latter).

Trying to identify what works and what doesn’t in social media is like trying to herd cats. Sometimes social media initiatives fail for no discernible reason. Sometimes they succeed, but we’re at a loss to know why.

Ten years ago most people were only just online, and we still had time to make a cup of coffee while our dial-up connections loaded up websites. So it’s laughable to think that anyone should already have some magic formula for something as emergent and bottom-up as social media.

We really shouldn’t get intimidated or worried by it, especially since there’s so little financial risk involved.

Social media is a chance to experiment and play. Your social media experiments might not result in what you planned, but the unexpected isn’t always the unwelcome.

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