How to use social media to find new supporters

Over the past decade, social media has outperformed all other communication methods in the UK and with it, young demographics have developed their own behaviour trends and platforms for interacting digitally.

The trick for the third sector is utilising this with the right strategy; communicating with young people in an authentic way which signposts them clearly to online but also, offline action.

According to a report by Ofcom, we are now spending twice as much time online than we did 10 years ago, with a recent survey by Media Kix highlighting the average person now spends over five years of their life on social media. The medium is now firmly embedded in the day-to-day lives, habits and friendship-patterns of the population, and none more so than the youth.  

Younger generations now interact, digest information and seek out authentic connections based on purpose and values, not necessarily just material items of monetary value. With the growing list of distractions that social media and the internet provides this core audience of potential activists, for many in our industry, engaging with them can be feel difficult.

The trick? You have to have a presence in the digital spaces they inhabit. You have to go to them – rather than have them come to you. And it must feel authentic. Whether through issue awareness, membership growth or fundraising, in order to ensure we continue to impact global issues and enact change, we have to look to younger generations; cultivating them over time and understanding the very different way they want to engage with the third sector.  

Generation Y and Z were raised by baby boomers – being told that they can be anything they want to be – and they can achieve anything they put their mind to. But fast forward to adulthood and the world isn’t as they were promised.

Entering employment at the exact time of the financial crash of 2009, millennials have developed a deep distrust in economic stability and thus, value purpose and authenticity above everything else.

Charities must adapt and change the way they are engaging potential funders and members, in order to build the next generation supporter base. It has to be more about what that product or service means, than how much it costs. It has to feel authentic and so much more than a monetary transaction.

Cancer Research’s Stand Up To Cancer campaign demonstrated this so well last year by replacing their annual telethon with a 12-hour live-stream event at YouTube HQ, London.

This took Comic Relief’s tried and tested model of familiar faces hosting a show with various acts and challenges and introduced an updated twist, livestreaming the show exclusively online across YouTube and featuring influencers rather than celebrities.

The algorithms which power Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat are perfect for young people to amplify their voice, cultivating and accelerating an audience of thousands. In turn, these influencers therefore provide brands and third sector organisations with a unique way to find that authenticity in their advertising, marketing and general communications.

By working in proactive partnerships with the young, we can capture their imagination and their support. When we launched the NHS Go app at Shape History, the aim was to engage young people in sexual and mental health awareness.

To do this we enlisted the help of YouTubers – creating a fun and compelling public service announcement to build a fresh following for the app, as well as branded campaign content hosted on each of the YouTuber’s personal channels. Given these influencers already created topical content, we gained access to a previously closed off ‘owned audience’ and a collection of likeminded young people.

Content on the app was co-produced with young people in focus groups, ensuring that the language used and information shared was built specifically with our target audience in mind. The result was 55,000 downloads in 3 months and young people starting their own events and activities off the back of the main campaign.  

Through Shape History’s work, we’ve seen that you can truly generate real world change by tapping into an audience of social media change makers, made up of engaged youth. We encourage the sector as a whole to look to the digital world to inspire younger generations.

Whether your goal is membership growth, increased fundraising or issue awareness, make sure you approach the matter through an authentic strategy and the result will be sustained growth and organisational development.

Mike Buonaiuto is an activist, campaigner and executive director of Shape History

Photo credit: " target="_blank">Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash