Being social on social media with Kirsty Marrins

Episode aired Oct. 28, 2020: Being Social

As a digital communications specialist, Kirsty Marrins knows that nonprofits who are broadcasters won’t see success on social media. There’s a reason it’s called ‘social.’ In this episode Kirsty discusses

  • why scheduling and forgetting about posts doesn’t work
  • how to encourage audience engagement 
  • what a social media strategy has to include 
  • the difference between Facebook and Twitter and
  • why Twitter is a great platform for nonprofits to take advantage of.

Below you can listen, watch or read this podcast episode.

Ephraim: Welcome to this edition of the Your Weekly Dose of Nonprofit Podcast, the podcast that delivers actionable items you can implement at your organization right away. I’m your host Ephraim Gopin of 1832 Communications. Today I’m really happy to have with us a nonprofit marketing, digital and communications expert, Kirsty Marrins. Kirsty, how you doing today?

Kirsty: I’m really good, thank you. How are you?

Ephraim: I’m doing good, thanks. Let’s introduce you to our listeners, watchers and readers.

Kirsty Marrins specializes in digital communications. As an accredited trainer, she has helped hundreds of charity staff hone their social media and digital marketing skills over the years and understands the importance of good content. She’s a regular columnist for Third Sector in the U.K. and is a trustee of charity Comms. Kirsty has worked with charities such as Action Against Hunger, British Red Cross, Barnardo’s, Care International, RNLI, Teenage Cancer Trust, Hospice Lotteries Partnership, Cruise Bereavement Care and more. In her spare time Kirsty loves to travel and write about it over at What Kirsty Did Next.

Stop Broadcasting!

In today’s episode we’re going to discuss being social on social media. Let’s dive right in. Kirsty, What is social media broadcasting and why should nonprofits stop doing it?

Kirsty: Great question. So essentially social media broadcasting is when nonprofits put content out on social media but they don’t bother to really engage with any of the audience. So often the content is sort of like statements and sometimes people will reply. I often find that nonprofits don’t then reply to those replies, so it’s almost like they’ve put together their content plan for the week or the month, they’ve maybe scheduled it on a social media management tool and then they’ve just forgotten about it. So essentially it’s just them putting out information and not really sort of having conversations with their supporters or their beneficiaries or you know influencers in this sector.

How To Engage Followers On Social Media

Ephraim: Okay. So today’s actionable item: Please tell us three things a nonprofit must be doing, now that we’ll follow up on your last answer, three things they should be doing in order to engage and be social with their followers on social media?

Kirsty: Sure. I would say the first thing that they should be doing is posting content that their audience wants and needs and not what the nonprofit thinks that they want to know. I think sometimes nonprofits make a lot of assumptions about their audience and what content they’re looking for and they sort of push their own agenda. But it’s really important to know what your audience wants and needs and then to provide that content and if you’re providing content that they want and they need and they find interesting, they are naturally then going to engage with that content.

I think the second thing that they can do is a really easy one. Instead of just sort of posting a fact or a statement you, ask a question, ask your audience to maybe share a tip or advice of their own experiences, so that way you’re encouraging them to leave a comment.

And then the last thing you could do is actually use the platform’s inbuilt engagement tools. For example Twitter has polls, so you could poll your audience, ask them a question um that they then need to vote on. Instagram for example has the question sticker in Stories. So these are inbuilt tools in the platform that you can use to really encourage engagement, because people actually need to take an action to answer that question or that poll.

Nonprofits And Twitter

Ephraim: Fantastic answer. So now that you mentioned Twitter and Instagram, out of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, Twitter seems to me at least to be the toughest platform for nonprofits to crack. What advice would you give nonprofits regarding tweeting and engaging being social on Twitter?

Kirsty: It’s interesting because I think Twitter should really be the easiest platform to crack. The reason why is because Twitter is what I call an open platform and what I mean by that is, Facebook if you think about it, people are on Facebook to connect with their friends and their family. They do like pages and they do want to hear from brands and nonprofits but even Facebook’s algorithm always faves those posts from friends and family over any post from pages. You can’t go to someone’s supporters page for example and comment on their post. So it’s very closed in that sense. When you post on Facebook, you’re hoping that your audience is going to see it and engage with it, whereas Twitter is completely open. As long as someone has a public account which most people do, you can very easily tweet to your supporters.

So if you’re a small charity or nonprofit in particular and maybe you don’t have a massive following on Twitter, it’s very easy to talk to your supporters in a very personal way. Also if you’re trying to influence policy for example. In the U.K., I think pretty much all of our MPs and politicians and counselors are all on Twitter and you can tweet them directly. The same with journalists. Journalists are all on Twitter as well. So if you have a story that you want to share with them or you know maybe you’re replying to a story that they have posted that is relevant to your sector and your cause, it’s very easy to reach out and engage with them. 

So I think once you know the power  of Twitter and the fact that it is so open and what you can actually do with it, I think it’s much easier than to kind of really use it as a powerful tool to get out more brand awareness and really just engage with people on the more personal level.

What Goes Into A Social Media Strategy

Ephraim: Excellent. So among your many talents, you craft social media strategies for nonprofits. What are the “musts” that a strategy has to contain?

Kirsty: Sure. So I think I first want to say, social media is often thought of as an afterthought. I think a lot of organizations see it as something that they need to have but they don’t really use it very strategically and actually it’s a really powerful tool for brand awareness, comms and marketing and even fundraising.

Now what’s really important is that the social media strategy really needs to align with the organizational strategy. So it’s about how can social media help us achieve our organizational goals. The first thing I always do when I’m working with a nonprofit is to read their organizational strategy, because it’s really important for me to know what it is as an organization that they’re trying to achieve, because then I need to know how social media can help them achieve that.

Once I’ve read the organizational strategy and I have an idea of what it is that the organization is trying to achieve in the next three years or five years, I then do an audit of all of the social media channels that they have. And that’s really important because I need to know what sort of engagement they’re getting on the channels, how often do they post, what sort of content is working, what isn’t working, who are their audience demographics etc.

Once I know all of that information, I then give some recommendations straight away. I give them some tangible things that they can action straight away. Sometimes it’s something as simple as, say for example I’m working with a nonprofit at the moment that for some reason doesn’t even have a Twitter bio. So that’s the first action. Don’t you think you should explain who you are and what you do in your Twitter bio? Something very simple that can be actioned straight away.

Then I move on to the strategy and essentially the strategy needs to contain the elements of what are your goals, then the tactics. So what tactics do we need to implement to reach those goals? Who is the target audience and then how are we going to measure success? How will we know if all of these things that we’ve implemented are working or not? And that’s really the essentials of a social media strategy.

Let’s Learn More About Kirsty

Ephraim: Fantastic. Let’s move to the lightning round and learn more about you. What got you started on your nonprofit career path?

Kirsty: I’m South African originally.  I moved to the U.K. back in 2004. I happened to just land a job in the finance sector through a friend and you know, once you’re in a certain sector, you tend to stay there because that’s what you know. But I realized after about two years it really wasn’t the sector for me and I had to think about what sector I really wanted to work in. Back in South Africa I did a lot of volunteer work and I thought, you know what? I think the nonprofit sector is for me. So I tried for quite a long time to get a job in the sector and after about probably a year and a half of lots of applications, lots of interviews, I was lucky that Barbara Stevens, who was a CEO of Dementia U.K. at the time, took a chance on me and I’m so grateful she did because I’ve been in the sector ever since which has been 13 years now.

Ephraim: Wow. So given 13 years of  experience in the sector, if you could shake up one thing in  the nonprofit world, what would it be?

Kirsty: I think it needs to be diversity and inclusion. So in the U.K. the sector is not that diverse and not that inclusive for a number of reasons. I think though we’re really starting to wake up to that and a lot of work is being done at the moment to try to change that. So I know for example at CharityComms, the charity I’m the trustee of, we need to recruit some new trustees next year and we’re really looking at how we can make that as inclusive as possible and how we can increase the diversity on our board because at the moment, we’re not a very diverse board and we’ve also got a an organization called Charity So White which is really pushing hard and so they should be to help the sector become more inclusive and more diverse. I think that’s what I would take up at the moment, because we’re not really representing the people that we serve at the moment. We’re all the same really and we do really need to attract a more diverse and inclusive sort of sector really.

Ephraim: Very on target answer. You love to travel and write about it on Where’s one place you haven’t been to but are dying to visit and tour?

Kirsty: I am desperate to go to Machu Picchu. I think when I was a child I watched a cartoon show and I can’t remember what it was called now but it sort of centered around Machu Picchu and I’ve just  always been like the Incas and I’ve just always been fascinated with it. And of course I mean if you look at the pictures, it’s just breathtaking. So yeah, that’s somewhere very  high on my travel list to go and see.

Ephraim: Fantastic. I’ll be waiting to see the pictures on Instagram.

Kirsty: It might be awhile.

Ephraim: Okay but I can wait. Twitter, love it or hate it?

Kirsty: I love it I think I love it because it’s been very good to me. I have essentially grown my career through Twitter really because it is a really powerful tool to connect with people and to build a profile if that’s what you want to do. I mean we met through Twitter so many years ago. We would never have known each other if Twitter didn’t exist. I think at the moment Twitter unfortunately is a place where a lot of bad things happen and there’s you know… but if you can look past that, I think it really is a fantastic tool to connect and engage with people and you don’t get that with other social media channels. I mean you do with Instagram to an extent but you don’t with Facebook, so I think for me, Twitter is definitely my favorite social media platform.

Ephraim: I will co-sign that answer. On Instagram you post some ridiculously awesome food and meal pictures. What’s your preference: eat out at a nice restaurant and have a fancy meal or stay home and cook a great meal on your own?  

Kirsty: I like to do both. To be honest I only eat out once a week, so it’s not like I’m always out wining and dining. I think I’m gonna go with eat out at a restaurant, just because it feels special and I have to cook every night at home. I think it’s nice when someone else cooks for you and of course, most of the times the chefs are much better cooks than I am. So it’s quite nice to have food that you would not necessarily cook for yourself at home.

Ephraim: Excellent. Let’s turn the tables. You get to ask me a surprise question. I have no idea what’s coming. Go ahead.  

Kirsty: Now I hope someone hasn’t already asked you this but I’d love to know what is the story behind 1832 Communications?

Ephraim: I don’t think anybody’s asked me yet.

Kirsty: Excellent.

Ephraim: It comes from my motto that fundraising, communications and marketing is based on storytelling. So to give you the quick history: My earliest childhood memories are from when I was three years old and I was living in Jacksonville, Florida, which is in northern Florida. Those memories include going to Disneyland but they also include almost burning down my parents house. I got hold of matches at age four. Not the smartest move. But those are my earliest memories of childhood. 1832 is the year Jacksonville became officially a city in the United States.

So for me when I work with a nonprofit- when you were talking strategy and you were talking about seeing what they do and what their current organizational strategy is- I 100% agree with that and I look also at the storytelling. I want to know who you are from the day you became a nonprofit until today and then we’ll continue. So what’s your earliest memories and going forward, as far you know another couple years into the future with that strategy. So that’s the reason for it. It’s kind of  a reminder for me of the importance of storytelling and always know where you were and know where you’re going.   

Kirsty: That’s brilliant.

Ephraim: Thank you. Thank you very much for appearing on the podcast. I urge you to connect with Kirsty on Twitter at @LondonKirsty. She’s always happy to engage with nonprofit people at any time. Thanks very much for being here. Have a wonderful day.

Kirsty: Pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been really great. Thanks so much.