A good way to start to think about your organisation’s use of digital channels and platforms is to start with what your aims are. Are you hoping to draw in new audiences, market a series of events, or fundraise? Having a sense of what you’d like to achieve through your social media presence can help you navigate the various channels and platforms available to you.
This may mean enhancing your organisation’s website, creating a YouTube channel or setting up a Twitter account. When deciding about which platforms or channels will work best for your organisation, you should consider:
- the needs of your organisation
- what the different social media platforms can provide
- You may find the related resource The leader’s guide to social media useful here.
- the platforms your audience uses
The capacity of your organisation to run digital platforms
Effective use of digital platforms such as social media requires research, planning and creating content. You need to think about what type of content or media you want to create and how many accounts you will need to open across different social media platforms. You will also need to think about the time and resources your organisation has for content creation and analysis. You may need to recruit or retrain your staff or volunteers.
After creating and uploading posts, you will need to analyse and reflect on the success of your posts and your account. Success might look different depending on the aims you are trying to achieve. You might measure success by how many people have engaged with your content or you might delve more deeply into the kinds of engagement you had such as the number of likes, retweets or comments.
You also need to think about how to keep your social media accounts up-to-date. If your social media account lacks recent updates and exciting fresh content, this could reflect badly on your organisation.
Social media skills in your organisation
Social media is a fast-moving field. New platforms and applications are created frequently and existing platforms regularly update their functions, interfaces and tools. This means that you will need to continually keep abreast of changes to the social media you are using within your organisation to help you get the best out of your chosen platforms.
Your organisation may also find it useful to develop new ways of creating content. For example, your organisation could create videos for YouTube and TikTok, to reach a large audience quickly. In a recent example, the Black Country Living Museum gained a global audience after releasing light-hearted videos on TikTok. These featured historians providing snippets of life in the past. You can see some examples of these in the resource created to answer the question ‘What is the relationship between a digital strategy, a digital content strategy and a digital marketing strategy?’
You also need to consider what your organisation can currently create. Although smartphones have made it easier to create and edit videos and photographs, staff and volunteers may need to be recruited or trained. You might find it easier to tweet a link to an event on a website as you build your skills towards more difficult-to-create media across multiple platforms.
Costs of running digital platforms
There may be costs associated with running a digital platform beyond wages, training, or volunteering costs. These include the costs of running a business account and promoting posts. Business accounts on social media platforms are useful because they offer more advanced analytics. This means that the platform can capture and provide your organisation with data about the people who engage with your content. Paying to promote posts is necessary to reach a larger or targeted audience on some platforms, particularly Facebook.
The platform your audience uses
As the graph below shows, 50% of all UK internet users used social media in 2020. Younger people are more likely to use social media; two thirds of those between 16-24 do, but there is still a significant amount of older social media users.
Different platforms tend to attract different kinds of users. These differences should be taken into account when considering which audiences you want to attract and selecting a platform or platforms. Below you can see an explanation of the main demographics for the most popular social media platforms, including the number of their users worldwide, the number in the UK, and their age and gender profile in the UK.
Using social media for marketing data and insights
Social media platforms can provide useful market research tools for your organisation. Each platform has a slightly different approach to market data and insights. Business or professional accounts usually give you access to a suite of analytical data. You can then use this data to find out who engaged with your posts, where they were and when they engaged with it. This can give you information about your primary market’s age, location and gender, and disclose when they were online. You might also be surprised to find groups outside of your imagined target audience are engaging with your content. You can use this data to measure the success of your attempts to reach new audiences. You can also use this data to refine your social media strategy by learning when to post to reach certain audiences.
Begin by identifying what your organisation’s aims are for using social media and other digital channels. Once you have a set of aims, use the five criteria below to help you formulate your next steps:
- The capacity of your organisation to run digital platforms – Begin by considering the capacity of your organisation. How much time and resource do you realistically have to devote to running digital platforms? Understanding this will help you to focus your efforts so that you don’t become overwhelmed.
- Social media skills in your organisation – Next, complete a skills audit for those in your organisation who will likely be overseeing digital channels and platforms. Reflect on which skills can be developed and which already exist within the team.
- Costs of running digital platforms – Consult your budget and determine how much resource your organisation must devote to running digital platforms. You might decide you want to focus on free platforms and skip this step.
- The platform your audience uses – This is directly related to the aims you began with. If you are looking to attract a new audience segment, you will want to focus your efforts on platforms that segment is most likely to use. Narrow your scope of platforms to those which are most relevant to your aims.
- Using social media for marketing data and insights – Once you have an idea of which platforms and channels you plan to use, investigate what sorts of data and insights you can draw out that will help you reflect on your success. Be sure to feedback these insights into future content creation so that your organisation continues to improve its outreach.
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Please attribute as: "Selecting the right platforms and channels for your organisation (2022) by Dr Patrick Glen supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0