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How do you get the most out of social media for promotion and turn this awareness into fundraising?

In my humble experience, countryside teams are made up of a disparate bunch of people with passion, who have a wide variety of skills and a broad range of tasks. Their level of social media use stretches across a broad spectrum, from ‘I don’t get it’ to the digitally extrovert.

Here’s my guide for countryside teams using social media for promotion that will lead to fundraising

Run a commentary

Rangers, and on-site staff, should be taking lots of pictures. Show us things you’re lucky enough to come across because of your job; great views, incidents, wildlife and characters. Images should be tweeted live and loaded on to Facebook. Use Instagram for an arty effect (also makes sharing on to Twitter and Facebook easier) then pin it to your Pinterest page.

Tell us where you are. Most of your followers are watching your social media output from an office and looking forward to the weekend when they can get outside. Use Facebook to check in at places (you can create a Place that isn’t a building), tweet where you are right now as countryside places have engaging names, Velvet Bottom being one of my favourites.

Show your vulnerable side. Don’t be afraid to show the latest fly-tip, or the piles of poo on the footpath.

Mendip Hills AONB Facebook page (Mendip Hills AONB)
Mendip Hills AONB Facebook page (Mendip Hills AONB)

Tell us about your volunteers, the work they’re doing and thank them through social media. Everyone likes to be publicly thanked, chances are they have social media accounts and will share your message, meaning you make even more friends.

Countryside teams, project officers and rangers are seen as the font of all knowledge as we cross disciplines from archaeology to farming and community development. Reinforce this impression by sharing the local news you pick up on. Make sure the facts are correct.

Teams often have a ‘strategic’ officer focussing on planning or landscape development. Let them become the media, sharing latest legislation, latest applications and government policy. Encourage them to see themselves as conduits of information from national bodies to local organisations.

The community that you work in and around are all sharing content through social media. Be a part of that community by liking and following them. A simple retweet of a local B&Bs offer will win you a new friend instantly, then they’ll probably share your content. I guarantee you have an amateur (or professional) photographer taking local shots and putting them online. Share these and you’re making a local friend and showing us things we wouldn’t normally see in one go!

Gather all the above into a weekly briefing enewsletter for ‘partners’. Simply cut and paste into one email. Make yourselves relevant, thought-leaders integral to the future of our countryside and worthy of more funding.

From chaos to coordination and then campaigns

Retweeted post on twitter (Mendip Hills AONB)
Retweeted post on twitter (Mendip Hills AONB)

It’s a team effort. People will need encouragement to do this. The ‘communication’ officer has to lead from the front. Make sure social media is on the agenda of your team meetings. Text on-site staff with the message ‘what are you doing right now?’ the answer is invariably fascinating for everyone else. Ask them to take a picture and email it later if need be.

Strategic campaigns that focus fundraising efforts start on spreadsheets (CJS – there are also free templates available online). Map out the digital platforms you’re going to use, e.g. website news and blog, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and the enewsletter. Plot what content will go out on which day, write the content and specify what image will go with it. Create bespoke graphics, we use Canva, and specify when they will go out.

Then schedule all your content up front so you’re not adding last minute. As you’ll have done your audience planning you’ll know the best times of day to schedule your content? Scheduling is easy on Facebook but you’ll need to use Hootsuite or a similar tool to schedule Twitter and Instagram.

While your campaign is running build in monitoring time. Check the reach of your posts against your Just Giving page, are there peaks that you can learn from? Was there a piece of content that had an amazing reaction?

Campaigns need creativity but they are 90% organisation that needs to happen up front.

The one thing we all have in common is the people we deal with every-day; visitors, land-managers, partners etc. They are using social media. By not using social media teams are missing out on community engagement, professional news, funding sources, local incidents, sightings and gossip. These are common currency for countryside teams and social media is just another way of dealing with them.

Most of all never forget that we are privileged to work in places that many never will and see inspiring wildlife and views all the time. Use this position through your social media.

Make them jealous and emotional.

Jim Hardcastle, Mendip Hills AONB Unit Manager

Facebook: Mendip Hills AONB    Twitter: @mendiphillsaonb             Instagram: mendiphillsaonb

(CJS uses Corel, TweetDeck & buffer to introduce a few more programmes)

First published in CJS Focus on Fundraising & Promotion in association with the Environmental Funders Network on 22 May 2017

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