Should social media be part of your organisational strategy?

By Victor van Reijswoud

Social media is useful for more than just social connectivity and entertainment. Social media opens new possibilities for organisations all around the world. It changes the way organisations communicate and engage with their clients and stakeholders. Social media expands the communication reach of organisations at a lower cost and these relations become more intimate and frequent.

Social media opens up new horizons for civil society organisations (CSOs) and and many CSOs worldwide are making use of this cost effective opportunity. Although you may think that this is only the case in the developed world, Africa is following at a rapid pace because there is a lot to gain from the use of social media for CSOs on the continent.

In this blogpost we will take a look at how we can integrate the use of social media in the strategy of an organisation and how to design a good social media strategy to be successful in the digital world (and ultimately in the real world).

Social media in Africa

As per mid November 2015, 29% of the population in Africa is connected to the internet and with the rapid introduction of mobile internet this number is growing fast. At the same time, Africa had about 125 million Facebook users. That is a bit less than the 10% of the internet users worldwide[1], and 17% of the total population in Europe[2]. These are significant numbers for this biggest global social network. Reason enough to take these developments very seriously.

NGOs and social media in Africa

A recent survey by Tech for Good[3] among 210 NGOs in Africa revealed that the expectations of these NGOs of the role that social media can play for their organisations is high. Therefore 90% have invested in the time to set up a Facebook page, 74% use Twitter and 47% have a YouTube account. With regard to the facebook page, small NGOs have an average of 1,627 likes, medium NGOs have 5,790 and large NGOs have 21,073. This means that they have even more views in the information they post. Other social networks like LinkedIn and Instagram score less but the numbers are still high.

81% of the NGOs in the survey state that social media are expected to play an effective role in fundraising for the organisation.

The figures should be convincing enough to consider using social media to support the organisational strategy of your NGO or CSO.

Organisation strategy and social media strategy

Social media can provide useful support in implementing the strategy of an organisation but it should be integrated and aligned with the strategic goals and target audiences of the organisation. The role that it can then play really well is engagement, especially donor engagement and donor retention, getting people to pay attention—capturing and keeping their attention[4].

Social media provides in the first place support to the communication strategy of an organisation. It therefore needs to be considered in line with the other communication channels that are already in use, like the website, blog, newsletters, among others. It also needs to be aligned with the target group. Facebook reaches a different target group from that which you will reach on Instagram or LinkedIn.

So, when using social media, your first step will be to determine what you want to achieve and what will be your target audience. Engaging your community will require a different approach from engaging and retaining donors, or even developing and displaying a leadership role in your domain. Based on these decisions, you will have to develop a content strategy; what type of content do you want to communicate and will this interest your target audience? A social media content calendar will help you to publish selected content with the right frequency. Twitter requires high frequency and daily postings, while weekly or bi-weekly posts on LinkedIn and Facebook are enough to start with and to build up your visibility and relationship with your target group.

When you have the social media content strategy in place, the real work begins: Engagement! You will have to actively engage with your followers through discussions, liking their contributions, providing them with personalised content and responses. If you are using Twitter you will have to tweet but also retweet content and tweets of your supporters. This part of the work is often underestimated. You need to remember that just being present on social media platforms is not the same as getting noticed!

Measuring and monitoring is therefore an important part of the social media strategy. You will have to analyse constantly whether you reach your target group, if your content is being appreciated. Listening to what is happening to your accounts on the social networks needs to become your second nature.

Is it worth the investment?

Organisations, NGOs and CSOs in Africa need to realise that social media is here to stay and that a very rapid and pervasive adoption on the continent is observed. You will be able to reach more people and in specific target groups than ever before. The costs are relatively low for the organisation but it needs to be carefully planned and in line with the organisation’s mission, vision and strategy. Stagnation means decline! So, you better try to take advantage of the possibilities this new means of communication offers.

About the author

Victor van Reijswoud

Victor joined the Well Grounded team in Yaoundé as regional director in January 2016. He is originally from the Netherlands and offers expertise in the application of information technology and social media for organisational strengthening.