Thursday, 12 September 2013

# Hashtags, likes, and maintaining followers and friends: what we have learnt using social media tools

By Fatema Rajabali

Social media has multiple recognised benefits: it not only enables the quick dissemination of information to a wide global audience, but it also encourages immediate feedback and engagement with other users. Many development-related institutions are present on these platforms and use them actively.

The Eldis Climate Change Resource Guide (CCRG) has been experimenting with social media tools in 2013, with the support of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). Viivi Erkkila captured our learning in a paper that we would like to share with the wider development community. Although the guide already has a wide global audience, social media presence is considered a valuable addition in broadening CCRG’s global outreach and directly engaging with its users. Our social media work focused on:

•    Twitter (@EldisClimate)
•    Facebook
•    LinkedIn 

We had two primary objectives in experimenting with these social media tools:

1.    Increase the outreach of Eldis content to new audiences
2.    Engage directly with Eldis users to become more demand driven

So what did we learn from this pilot project?

Define your target audiences and research how and why they use social media

Even when using social media, it is important to define your target audiences: Who and where are they? How do they prefer to receive information? Which social media tools do they use or do they use them at all? This does require a little of knowledge of how your user base seek and access knowledge.

Social media platforms are not all alike and people use them for different purposes: make sure you adjust your updates according to each medium used. For example, we found that facebook users respond more to visual content so interesting images with posts are important.

It is important to have adequate resources so that sufficient levels of activity take place within the social mediums being used – especially, if you want to build a profile and following which generally requires a reliable number of updates daily.

Define metrics for success

Define specific metrics for success: What does a certain number of followers or likes mean for you? Are you reaching you target audience? These metrics should not only include numbers of followers and likes, but also look at audience behaviour – for e.g. do they comment or share posted content?

If one of your aims is to bring social media users/followers to your website, it is worth looking at how much time users spend on your website vs. other users who may be directed to your content in other ways. Is social media contributing to an increase of return visits to your website?

Make sure you have a clear editorial policy

Define a clear editorial policy to ensure quality and consistency across platforms. If multiple people are using the accounts, make sure everyone knows these boundaries. Much of social media content is opinions and it is important to state disclaimers, if personal opinions are shared using an institutional social media accounts

Social media is a two way process: participating in discussions is more effective than simply disseminating your own material. Remember that your audience may be on different time zones.

Monitor activity and engagement

Monitor content posted by others and respond to comments in a  timely manner, because failure to reply may result in unfollows and/or unlikes.

Monitor current events and news to be able to offer relevant, engaging and well timed contributions
Set up M&E measures in the beginning and make sure you know how to use them. There are many online tools for tracking your posts and ‘influence’.

Positive impact

We’re continuing to use and explore these mediums – the impacts to-date on the Eldis Climate Resource Guide has been positive. Since April 2013, we have had over 600 unique page views to various climate change resource guide resources via Twitter, Facebook and linkedIn – and we are hoping this number will keep growing as we interact and engage with new and current users via social media.

Fatema Rajabali is the Climate Change Convenor at the Institute of Development Studies. This is an adapted version of a blog originally published on Eldis Communities.