Inserting a trustee perspective into social media

What if you had another easy way to listen in on the performance of your charity, understand key stakeholders, raise awareness and manage reputation? Well, the tools are literally at your fingertips through social media.

Why should I do this?

76% of all internet users are using some form of social media.

Communication - whether awareness raising, transparency or reputation management - is important for good governance. As trustee, you are part of your charity’s connection to the outside world. The Charity Commission’s expectations include: “Ensure your charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit” and “Act in your charity’s best interests”.

If you want to learn what’s going on and understand what people think from a different perspective, grow relationships, bring different networks together, share your experience and expertise, then social media offers an easy win.

What's my role?

Be interested and be interesting. 

You have your own personality and should express this online whilst remembering your charity’s reputation and your responsibility to look after it. Social media works best when it follows a clear policy and guidelines. If there isn’t a policy then get involved in putting one together.

You’re unique to your charity. No one else has your exact networks, personality or way of putting things. In the same way you might work a room, charm a funder, listen attentively to the needs of a group of stakeholders, you can "work" the online space from the comfort of your computer or smartphone, without any of the travel implications.

What's my plan?

Learn, practice and reach for support when needed. Most things seem overwhelming at first and social media is no different. Experience and "training" are key to overcoming your fears - go to your trusted sources, read/watch the brief guides and practice.

Define your purpose for getting involved and be clear what you offer. Exposure to different networks and connections (the influence you have on the people you know)? Awareness within different communities (listening in and helping reinforce messages)? Showing a different perspective?

Understand your charity’s key messages, what’s being said, why and how you can help. Building that relationship internally will also help increase the level of honesty and trust. Part of your offer is the ability to share information to different audiences in different ways. Stay briefed (and know when to stay quiet).

Just as a blank piece of paper (or screen) can be daunting, so can the need to ‘post’ when you have nothing to say. Carving yourself a niche on a particular topic (curating and sharing resources), commenting on specific subjects (in line with key messages) and sharing about yourself (meaningful hobbies or a health issue) will focus you. Remember the 4Cs of content – create, curate, combine and comment - and aim for a mix. Not every post needs to be original.

Decide your tone of voice – how you will express yourself. It matters how you say it.

Making it happen

So you have a plan, some ideas for content, a "tone of voice", a reason for doing it and you’re briefed on key messages. It’s time to choose a tool.

Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube should be the focus of your attention initially.

  • Twitter is ideal for spreading ideas quickly across diverse networks and reaching out to people you don’t know. Hashtags, @mentions and curated lists help organise the volume. Be concise, be human, be topical, converse.
  • LinkedIn provides credible connections and content. Build/search profiles, pages and groups, share across professional networks and recommend people and resources within a community.
  • Facebook is more informal and visual and offers more personal interactions through pages and "personal professional" accounts.
  • YouTube helps express and share via video through high quality resources or something shot on a smartphone in the moment. Keep it short, interesting and share it – don’t underestimate a talking head with something worth saying.

You can plan/schedule key content once a week and check into your social media accounts for a few minutes twice a day (using a smartphone) to respond to comments or highlight (retweet/share) something interesting.

Profiles are important. They may be one of the first things others look at. Craft your profile before you start using a tool in earnest (the best way to learn is to look for others who do it well and copy their ideas). LinkedIn profiles offer particular credibility but in the end it’s the content and expression people will judge you on.

Sorry, are you ignoring me? One of the biggest mistakes is to overshare and not pay any attention to what is coming back. If people are commenting, contradicting or replying, it’s both polite and sensible to respond. It’s the online equivalent of having two ears and one mouth for a reason.

Deeper connections come in time. Start with a single post/tweet or simple LinkedIn profile. Listen, comment, and share. Be proactive, follow but also engage – connect and get to know stakeholders by engaging them in conversation. Use the keyword search function of your chosen tool to find relevant content and connections - searching for keywords, individual names and organisations will cut through volume and make and enhance the right connections faster.

Am I making a difference?

Your time is valuable so use it wisely but it will take time to build a following and develop engagement so don’t judge yourself too harshly. Key metrics to look out for include (i) number of followers/connections, (ii) number of retweets/replies/comments/shares and (iii) whether it makes any difference in the face to face world, e.g. increased awareness and takeup of services.

Be careful

Beware the unintentional serious damage of one ill-timed or ill-judged comment: (i) never post/tweet anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page, (ii) think how you might be interpreted, (iii) publish and be damned. You’re judged on everything you say anyway – the internet is no different.

Identify key players and engage them in conversation. Share and support and cheer others on – create meaningful interactions, much as you would face to face. Listen and be proactive in your responses.

Social media is a key engagement platform for your charity. Offering your individual trustee perspective provides another angle. It complements existing communications and relationship building and gives you a chance to tell (and hear) more of the story more of the time.


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