The SMA Trust is the only UK charity dedicated to funding medical research into Spinal Muscular Atrophy. The Trust works with SMA stakeholders across the world to advance clinical trials for potential new treatments. The SMA differs from the many charities that exist to help sufferers manage their condition, because its focus is on funding research into treatments. Its image is a serious one, but also soft enough to acknowledge and be sensitive towards sufferers and their families.
As part of PROJECT:PLEDGE, mark-making* helped the SMA Trust with their social media strategy. We were aiming to boost donations and raise awareness about the charity’s potentially life-saving research.
Compared to other businesses, charities face a harder ‘sell’, because they ask for donations. If all a charity does is ask on their social media, the communications quickly become monotonous, one-way, and even pushy or annoying. The SMA still have to ask. But, with their brilliant volunteers and fundraising, research data updates, and a wish to thank people for donating, the SMA had great content resources at their disposal. This way, they could give back to the community and avoid the dangers of one-way barrages.
There were three simple objectives: – more awareness – more reach – more donations. To include and engage researchers on one hand, and the SMA Trust community of sufferers, carers, supporters and volunteers on the other, we decided to split the efforts across Facebook and Twitter. We made recommendations and targets for each channel:
- provide a community touchpoint for those living with SMA and their families, friends and carers
- make the profile more human and user-friendly, to work in lieu of a website while the new one is completed
- educate and warn people affected by SMA about the false ‘cures’ and treatments sold all over the world
- showcase the fundraising efforts of volunteers and those who give their time
- drive donations
- reach out to researchers across the world
- use imagery to raise awareness and tell the visual story of the SMA Trust’s work, documenting the progress of their research among the scientific community specifically.
We started off by creating a schedule of consultation meetings, which highlighted what the SMA Trust needed help with. Every month we organised a 2-hour meeting during which we covered specific features and not-for-profit best practice on different social media channels. We helped to identify which metrics would be the most beneficial to monitor in the short time allocated.
One training element in particular was the usage of Google Analytics and Hootsuite to create reports that others can understand, clearly communicating the ROI (return of investment). In these sessions, we related tips and tricks to help manage the accounts and outputs efficiently. We discussed the best techniques to craft posts and how to make them easy for users to read. We looked at content strategies – what and when to post, as well as campaign ideas – and forms of interaction. The community doesn’t just want to listen, they want to be involved and became part of the social offering. One element in particular was the usage of imagery to boost donations, as users are more likely to engage with posts that contain imagery. This bite-sized approach allowed the users to ease into the technicalities of social media gradually, learning, practising, and observing the results of each new trick or technique, before taking more information on board.
There is still a lot to learn, and for a charity with limited time resources it can feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. In the face of all this, the SMA Trust’s online community is growing, their fundraising events make lots of noise, and get more and more people involved.