Social Media campaigning is difficult. But it works.

Alison MestonBy Larry Kilman

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

When I asked Alison Meston to talk to my NGO management class about social media campaigning, I knew she would demonstrate the combination of exuberance and expertise that make social campaigning so effective.

The dancing was a bonus.

Meston, who conducted a successful social media campaign on behalf of UNESCO’s World Radio Day, presented a case study that illustrates how social media is an ideal tool for amplifying attention and building communities – something every organization needs.

She also demonstrated the enthusiasm needed to make such campaigns work.

As a video created for the campaign played behind her, Meston danced along to the musical soundtrack. Not something you expect in an academic seminar, yet her presentation captured social media campaigning in a nutshell: a combination of attention to detail, and a honest passion for the work.

Meston provided a deep look at the elements necessary for running a successful social media campaign, from securing appropriate addresses, to developing content, to strategies for boosting engagement to measuring results.

It is a detail-oriented, time-consuming process.

I invited her to speak last week to my graduate seminar in NGO management – an American Graduate School in Paris program devoted to the practical skills needed for running a successful NGO: communications, fundraising, performance metrics, organizational structures, ethical practices, advocacy and more.

Social media campaigning is important enough to have a seminar on its own. It is a natural tool for NGOs for building audiences, drawing attention to projects and attracting supporters and donors.

But it can be notoriously time consuming and difficult to use effectively. And while organizations recognize the value of social media, they too often treat it as an afterthought, not quite incorporated into everyone’s daily responsibilities.

In a survey of nearly 5,000 NGOs conducted for the 2017 Online Technology Report, the vast majority of respondents said social media was effective in raising awareness, creating social change, recruiting volunteers and for fundraising.

But the survey also showed that NGOs aren’t yet quite sure where to incorporate social media into their structures. Only 11 per cent of respondents employ a dedicated social media manager. Thirty percent assign responsibility to communications staff, 20 per cent to administrative or program staff, 18 per cent to volunteers, 15 per cent to executive staff, and 6 per cent to fundraising staff.

To be effective, social media has to be the responsibility of everyone in the organization. And to be really effective, people outside the organization need to be engaged as well: the communities served are the best ambassadors for the programs.

But it takes a really good social media campaign to get people involved. Sometimes, you have to be able to dance to it.

For more on AGS’s NGO Management program, click here.

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