Monday, 26 January 2009

Charity Web 2.0: The Social Media Exchange

I don't generally say much on this blog about Dogs Trust and our social media work because if you're reading it, you generally have the idea that online = good are here, and we're going to work our (obviously, svelte) behinds off making sure that you can find us online, talk to us and get a conversation going.

However, today was one of those days where I get immersed in explaining to other charities why we do what we do and how they could do their own version of it too. This was courtesy of the Social Media Exchange.

The day was created to support charities by Sound Delivery, a communications agency that devotes itself to working with the 'third sector'. As such the guest list covered a range of social media evangelists and consultants like Steve Bridger and Rachel Beer and representatives of a host of diverse charities. Some - like us - were there to present, others - also like us, if we'd been able to stay! - were there to listen. The format wasn't the usual keynote-and-speeches, variety, though, but small, more informal and to my mind more useful masterclass sessions.

These were 40 minutes which roughly broke into half-presentation, half Q&A. We were presenting a case study to talk about the reasons why we use Facebook, MySpace, bebo, Twitter, DoggySnaps and, of course, Blogger; we also touched on how we use these sites to ensure that it's the supporters doing at least 50% of the talking whilst respecting the online space (e.g. not spamming supporters constantly with Facebook updates). Finally we covered what we've learned from being online: what worked, what didn't, and what our most satisfying achievements have been so far. Why the Royal We? Because I was lucky enough to have Digital Marketing Manager Jacqui by my side for moral support and because no-one know Dogs Trust online like she does.

I had a brief presentation prepared with some notes on each site, but we had a projector malfunction so I ditched the PPP and spoke straight to the audience. I explained why I was so passionate about social media; in a quick podcast vox pop taken by Sound Delivery afterwards, I was asked to finish the sentence "for me social media is..." and simply replied "a conversation". Asked to elaborate, I continued "with our supporters, with each other... with the world!". It sounds a bit trite put into one sentence, but for me communication is what makes social media important. We're not on Facebook because it's just the place to be, we're there because 32,000 people now have the chance to start discussions, share photos and videos, ask questions, give their opinion and generally feel like there's an online corner where they and Dogs Trust can meet and have a virtual cuppa (maybe a biscuit too). We like to return the goodwill our supporters show us, partly because we want you to continue to support us and encourage your friends to do so too, but also because you deserve a voice and a listening ear, so we're working on giving you that!

It was very useful to have a number of interesting questions put to us from the likes of Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme. A lot were to do with community management - moderation, frequency and nature of updates, whose job it is to actually do it. Some were to do with measuring the success of what's happening; that, of course, depends how you define success. I hope we were able to give useful, considered answers to these, and was glad they gave us something more to think about. The best thing about my job is the variety, and always looking forward; listening to the way other charities work gives us ideas, too!

It was a pleasure and an honour to be asked to present, and we both felt productive and relieved at the way things panned out. A few people nodded, though no-one nodded off and we didn't have to dodge any tomatoes! I look forward to seeing all the blog posts, Twitter chatter and more that will have come out of today.

If you didn't have a chance to attend the Social Media Exchange and would like to know more about what happened in our session or would like to see the (very simple!) presentation, please feel free to email me.

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