How your charity can turn social media criticism into social media success

How your charity can turn social media criticism into social media success

Social media is undoubtedly one of the most successful streams of fundraising and brand awareness in the sector today. Nearly 1/3 of all online donations are now a result of peer-to-peer fundraising, which makes shareable content a valuable and cost effective fundraising tool for charities.

This month my colleague Claire Kafker has been following a high profile campaign by Unicef, which has received a mixed reaction from its intended donor audience.

Unicef’s previous social media success story is documented here: the charity had a campaign goal to drive awareness globally that 16 million babies were born into conflict zones in 2015. Users who had first or second hand experience of fleeing their homes due to conflict commented on the video, supporting the content and its aim. Among the results included reaching more than 15 million users via paid-for posts and 17.6 million users organically.

Their latest campaign has focused on children – with some powerful images of children who need support, food, a home. A refugee arriving without his parents, a boy malnourished from famine:

social media success

All powerful content. Thirty years ago, these were the images that made the world sit up and listen. But now, and largely through social media, charities often face a backlash from the very audience they are trying to reach. Unicef’s sponsored donation campaign has received a great deal of comments, on everything from charity CEO salaries to conspiracy theories about refugees to accusations of Swiss bank accounts:

How your charity can turn social media criticism into social media success

So how can charities effectively reduce or react to negative social media comments – or even turn them into a positive? After all, if a potential donor chooses to engage with the comments rather than the campaign, it has the potential to negatively impact not only on the brand but on the fundraising capability (did we mention peer to peer fundraising makes up 1/3 of online donations?).
Here is our four-step approach to social media campaigns:

1) Target promoted posts well. Identify any trends in negative comments from previous campaigns and tailor your posts to fit the audience that you think is likely to give to your cause. If you don’t have a brand profile already, then start to put one together from the data that you do have. Then segment your campaign audiences across your brand profile data – by location, gender, age and interests.

2) Monitor negative comments closely and categorise them into those you think it is better to ignore, those that you want to challenge and those that you think should be deleted. The last category should be an extreme measure – only delete anything that is offensive or inflammatory. You can attempt to address any misconceptions and potentially engage people with your campaign if you challenge comments that you feel make a valid point. For example, this comment questions follow-up donations and the perceived pressure put on donors to become regular givers:

social media success

In this case, the donor is potentially open to making a donation but is fearful that it will lead to more pressure to donate. This is an ideal opportunity to engage in conversation and clarify your charity’s fundraising policy.

3) React. Try to turn a negative into a positive. The grass roots campaign Calais Action setup a fundraising page after trolls started to attack them online. Aptly called TrollAid, this was a direct positive response to counter negative comments about refugees and the people trying to help them. Calais Action founder Libby Freeman says about TrollAid: “We don’t just want to shut people down, more importantly we want to educate. Some of these people are out and out bigots, they’re BNP or Britain First – you can’t change their minds. But a lot of people just don’t understand the situation, and if you can get just one person to change their attitude, who knows, maybe they’ll pass it on to their friends.”

4) Champion. Be transparent and keep challenging the negative perception of charities. As a sector, we know that ‘charity’ can be something of a ‘dirty word’ within some facets of the media. Charitable organisations are under more pressure than before to show accountability and good governance – particularly in the face of high profile charity crises such as Kid’s Company and the tragic death of Olive Cooke. Be clear within your campaign comments about how the money is being raised, how it will be used, and who it is helping. Have a consistent message and link back to content on your website that champions the important work you do.

If you would like to discuss audience profiling, social media, crisis communications or brand strategy then we would love to help.

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