What can small businesses learn from charities?

What do charities and small businesses have in common? Watch award-winning Communications Assistant Dama Sathianathan from HelpAge International tell us how she creates engaging content on social media – and how it can work for you too.

When you’re a small business, everything can feel that little bit more difficult. With smaller teams and smaller budgets than bigger business, getting big results and more bang for your buck is an exercise in ingenuity, persistence and assembling a team of fantastic, multi-skilled people who can get the job done.

Dama Sathianathan, Communications Assistant at HelpAge, says the same is also true of charities. HelpAge is a global network of organisations working with and for older people. They promote the right of all older people to lead dignified, healthy and secure lives, through the reduction of poverty and age-related discrimination while giving a voice to those who may not have one.

So with such an enormous task to undertake, finding a way to maximise their time and money is a constant struggle. Dama relies heavily on social media as a way to stay up-to-date on current affairs all over the world and as a way to get their message out for very little financial outlay.

“That’s why we focus on social media, as it’s an amazing, free resource that allows us to share a whole range of meaningful content.” She says.

The content she develops is for major humanitarian campaigns, so it’s essential that it’s impactful and really does the good work of the charity justice. The principles of creating this content are the same as creating content for any brand. Equally important is that the content connects to HelpAge’s audience and reaches people who wouldn’t normally hear what they have to say.

“During this process, we constantly iterate and test our content to see what our audience thinks of our work. We then use web apps like TweetDeck and SocialSprout to manage our posts, ensuring that we can be responsive.”

Being reactive and listening to what you customers are saying means your content can be tweaked and changed to be even more effective. Using analytics and keeping track of usage statistics also helps to create content that people will actually see:

“80% of UK-based users on Twitter access it on their mobile. So making sure there is a mobile first approach, looking into what content and formats will work best. There’s more digital engagement from our audiences when it comes to showcasing just the human aspects of the stories we want to get across.”

Because of this strategic and reactive approach to digital marketing, HelpAge International have managed boost engagement across Twitter and Facebook.

This process only works if her team are all able to communicate freely. The beauty of embracing digital is that you can work from anywhere you have an internet connection. Whether you’re on a bus on Oxford Street or in a basement studio in Portsmouth, it doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’re mobile.

Dama posts content from wherever she is and because of her connectivity, she’s able to use Skype and other messaging apps to stay in contact. And apps like TweetDeck allow her team to stay in-tune with trends and audience reactions, while managing and planning their responses.

She recently won a CharityComms Inspiring Communicator Award, showing all of her hard work has paid off. But not content to rest on her laurels, Dama is already thinking about what she can do next for the digital communications:

“In the future, I really want to move our work on from awareness pieces to more digital engagement. We need to use social media to create advocates for our cause, so that we can help people of all ages can lead better lives.”

Check out Dama’s top three tips for making engaging content:

Use free tools for visual storytelling

“Visual content has more potential of being read and shared. There are amazing, user-friendly tools available that let you create stunning visuals in seconds. Tools like Canva and Piktochart are free to use and provide you with great examples to choose from and adapt for your business.”

Test, test and iterate – and then do it again

“Testing your copy as well as the format of your posts can you give the special edge to stand out from the crowd. Make sure the images work with your copy, ensure legibility across different devices, and try to find out what content resonates best with your audience.”

Don’t reinvent the wheel – use your data

“Use in-platform analytics (Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics) to look at past metrics from your social media engagement. Looking at what content worked best can help you to adapt your content. It’s especially important to check the mobile footprint of your audience and make sure a mobile first approach is integrated in your social media strategy.”

To connect with HelpAge International and discover more about their mission and the inspiring stories they tell, check out their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Get involved with their and share to make people aware!