The report discussed social media marketing in the context of a charity organization working with vulnerable groups, regionally or globally. The focus was on the different media platforms such as Twitter Facebook, RSS Feeds, and YouTube integrated in an organization’s homepage.
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The purpose was to explore ways in which a charity organization can develop and be engaged in social media marketing to raise awareness and communicate with clients. The theoretical research largely informed the recommendations suggested for the social media marketing. It identified cross-media cooperation as essential in online marketing for a charity organization.
Social networking, otherwise referred to as social media, is a new trend. It involves engaging customers by using web-based tools. Nora Ganim and Mattson (2008, p. 56) define social media as the Internet-based applications that facilitate the sharing of information among people in diverse locations.
Thus, social media primarily entails networking; networking in a way that establishes trust among parties resulting to evolution of online communities. The common websites that allow users to interact online and share views, information, and opinions include sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace among others.
Social media employ crowds to disseminate information in a collaborative way. It can take various forms of web-based applications such as weblogs, pictorial, Internet forums, and wikis, each centred on a specified aspect including online networking. It uses highly accessible techniques to facilitate interactive communication among users.
Social media marketing encompasses the use of social networks, online communities, blogs, wikis, and others to disseminate information and enhance social interaction. Currently, social media, previously used for social cause, come in handy for organizational cause, where corporations seek to interact with their customers through the online platforms.
However, the explosion of the social networking phenomenon and the high pace at which it is expanding presents a challenge to corporations seeking to integrate social media into their advertising strategies. Trust is fundamental to social networking and by extension, social media marketing.
Social media can enhance free communication, accountability, and transparency among consumers and the organization. In this regard, corporations, realizing the potential of social media marketing, have developed innovations and technological solutions to power their social media advertising.
For charity organizations, social media present two benefits; increased fund generation from well-wishers and reduction of costs through the identification of the needy and deserving cases (Cross, Parker, & Borgatti 2002, p. 48).
It can enable an organization to respond effectively to emergencies, engage donor agencies and individuals through evangelism, and allow stakeholders share knowledge and expertise. Thus, the benefits of social media range from creation of awareness, mobilization of people for a common cause and aid management.
The aim of this report is to develop online marketing tools for a charity organization that integrates social media applications. Further, the report will highlight the potential online opportunities associated with a move into the social media environment (Cross, Parker, & Borgatti 2002, p. 49).
Additionally, it will give a detailed evaluation of the current online advertising tools for the charity corporation before its development with new ideas informed by studies from different sources of information.
Social Media Applications for a Charity Organization
Social media presents an opportunity for charity organizations to enhance collaboration and engage people towards a common cause. The assembly of applications, that is characteristic of social media, transforms websites (web 1.0) from a non-interactive communication with limited interconnectedness to platforms that enhance social interaction with the end-users as the content producers (web 2.0).
Thus, web 2.0 comprises of web-based technologies and applications that facilitate access to the right information at a convenient time to the end-users. This feature is critical in marketing as it satisfies that 10Cs of internet marketing mix.
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They include cost, customer value, convenience, computing, communication, community, content, customer franchise, and customization; which meet the customer needs. Thus, a charity organization with a mission to increase its reach to its clients, must adopt these technologies in order to tap into the intelligence of many.
Social media represents a coalescing of enterprise 2.0 technologies for the Internet marketing including blogs, RSS feeds, social networks, wikis, aggregators, mashups, Ajax, media sharing, tagging, and folksonomies.
The adoption of these technologies for internet marketing primarily aims to create customer relations, brand awareness and reputation and attract new customers. For a charity organization, the purpose is to enhance usability and collaborative work among donors to fight poverty or social injustices regionally or globally.
The traditional web 1.0 application, organizational website, serves to provide information on the operations of the charity organization. According to Gordon (2010, p. 49), the business function of enterprise 2.0 has two aspects viz. leading and lagging.
Leading entails creating public relations and marketing/advertising while lagging involves collaboration and sales. For a charity organization, enterprise 2.0 is critical in public relations, collaboration, and marketing of a given cause.
Often, websites have features that redirect users to social media applications. Blogs are common enterprise 2.0 features on websites, which allow users visiting the website to provide commentary or news on a specified subject.
Thus, blogs are a critical feature of a charity organization’s website; it allows people to create a personal blog and comment/report on diverse topics including humanitarian crises (Mangold, & Faulds 2009, p. 157). Blogs integrated with search engines, such as Technorati, can allow bloggers to search for given information posted by other bloggers.
The importance of enterprise 2.0 applications in marketing can be explained in two ways: social networks and crowd sourcing. The relationships that underlie social networks can be explained by a network theory: relations between individuals in terms of interconnectivity by social media.
The nodes would represent the stakeholders interlinked by enterprise 2.0 technologies forming a charity network. In other words, the network theory can be viewed as communication exchange among donors, the organization, and with the people in need of assistance.
This results to networks at different levels facilitated by a two-way communication, which plays a critical role in mobilizing stakeholders towards a common cause.
Crowd sourcing is another notable web 2.0 technologies; it delegates roles to a large group of people (crowd) by use of online resources. For a non-profit/charity organization, crowd sourcing can facilitate collaboration for a specified cause.
Online Marketing and Advertising Campaigns
In order to build the basis for the need to develop and improve the advertising and marketing in social networks for a charity organization, it is essential to provide an evaluation of social networking in the context of online marketing environment.
The goal of expanding to other social media, besides the traditional online media, is to create a positive image of the charity organization online marketing environment and address the seven P’s of the marketing mix.
It comprises of people, process, promotion, place, price, product, and physical evidence, which are essential to a strong marketing campaign.
In any organization, marketing is integral to its success plans. Marketing or advertising entails the creation and management of effective customer relationships (Stelzner 2010, p.122). This implies that, clients or stakeholders’ satisfaction and collaboration are the core purpose of marketing for charity organizations.
In a charity organization, stakeholders, (donor agencies and victims), play a bigger role; for instance, they are part of an incorporated society comprising of multiple organizations.
Secondly, orientation towards the victims helps create a communication channel that links the activities of the organization with people interested in joining the various welfare causes. Furthermore, according to Stelzner (2010, p. 121), “the purpose of marketing is to accessibility to as many people as possible”.
Thus, for a charity organization, expanding its online marketing to include the social media will help the organization to reach many people on the various social networking platforms. At this stage, the idea is not to access selected target population; instead, the aim is to reach as many people as possible, using the social networks as per the 3R framework (Wells, & Gobelli 2003, p. 67).
Unlike in the past, current technical advancements have changed the processes of online marketing. Online marketing tools enhance the visibility of the web presence; a phenomenon that has opened up borders of nations to reach more target groups especially by charity organizations.
In the wake of financial crises, a charity organization oriented towards advertising is bound to become more successful. Wells and Gobeli (2003, p. 98) argue that marketing/advertising is an essential tool for facilitating a company’s success.
Thus, focus on the essential features of modern marketing is vital in today’s business environment. It allows the clients/donors to identify the location of the humanitarian crisis and respond appropriately. In particular, in the charity sector, marketing and or advertising enhances authenticity of the cause and helps identify the affected people.
Marketing on the social media capitalizes on the social behaviour of the consumers. In this regard, the charity organization can use the same approach to raise awareness and attract possible clients.
As social networks have resulted into the evolution of online communities such as Facebook, Twitter and other social media, charity organizations can utilize online communities to access more clients. The online communities influence clients / users as they share the same values and norms (Good 2008).
Other characteristics such as age or race do not apply when it comes to identifying the users of the different social media channels. Thus, the Facebook page and Twitter webpage of the charity organization should comprise of people who share common interests with regard to fighting hunger and poverty globally.
Different social media channels contain different features that confer them distinct advantages or disadvantages.
The charity organization can adopt an intra-media selection, where a user can disseminate information to online communities through Facebook, Twitter, and RSS Feed to update content or upload images through YouTube. In particular, the RSS Feed feature can be integrated into the website of the charity organization.
The feature contains aggregators that check feeds entered by different users on behalf of the organization and only displays updated articles on the website.
The intra-media feature would allow the organization to reach a wider audience as some channels have many users than others. Of all the media marketing channels, Facebook gets the highest attention.
The major advantage of the intra-media selection feature in a charity organization’s webpage is essential as it allows sharing of content across multiple media platforms.
For online social environment, this feature is beneficial as it facilitates the transfer of content in a fast and cost effective manner. According to Kaplan and Haenlein, “sharing of information is integral to marketing/advertising as it largely influences the opinions and behaviours of users” (2010, p. 59).
In this regard, the organization can use online media to access wider audiences during critical humanitarian causes.
Age distribution of the users of Social media; Facebook (Pingdom 2010, Para. 3)
The Social Media Platforms
The charity organization can engage in various social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Facebook is arguably the largest social networking platform globally.
According to Charlton (2011), the founders of Facebook intended to promote online marketing and develop features that minimize visits to websites. An example of such a feature is the community pages that contain content from other sources that have relevance to a specified topic, which increases user visits.
According to Li (2010), Facebook ranks number two in terms of traffic behind Google. The users re-direct themselves to Facebook on searching for given information.
The other platform for the charity organization could be YouTube, which is useful in sharing of video content. YouTube ranks number three after Facebook in terms of traffic with over 25% internet users visiting the site daily (Alexa.com 2010, Para.3).
For instance, charity organization dealing involved in hunger and poverty prevention can use YouTube, in the sense that it allows people to upload videos and highlight needy cases globally. Facebook users also re-direct themselves to YouTube to follow up certain events.
The organization can also join Twitter, which allow users to exchange ‘tweets’ and form online communities with regard to a particular humanitarian cause.
Communication on Social Media
For any charity organization, knowing the characteristics of the target audience/clientele is necessary. With regard to social media, it is vital that the charity organization knows the users of its different social media channels, why they use them, and interests the audience shares.
This would help in designing content that meets the needs of users and appropriate for the target audience (Wells, & Gobeli 2003, p.101). Additionally, cooperative marketing is another strategy of ensuring a larger influence by involving many organizations in addressing an emergency.
Response to humanitarian crises requires joint efforts from multiple partners. Thus, through the social media channels, the organization, through the Internet forums or moodles, can call on other charity agencies to unite with it towards a common cause.
Communication strategies used in social media marketing are of three levels (Patrick 2008, p. 12). The first level involves informing the target client. At this level, there is no intention to influence the opinions of the clients. The second level involves content that address the emotional concerns of the target population.
The third level entails combining the effects of both emotional level and the informative level to elicit a response to message.
Consequently, online communication informs and influences the audience; allows a company to present itself to the public. Additionally, social media give the clients an opportunity to respond to public concerns and allow deliberations amongst the clients.
Thus, the social media channels would allow the organization to establish a direct contact with its customers in different countries. However, direct communication in this case does not mean that charity organization would directly contact its clients, but rather it responds to communicate and articulates the opinions of the organization.
For any organization, especially charity organization, it is critical to give a response to client questions. In this regard, the organization would provide multiple opportunities for employees to communicate with the target audience. This can be through the official website page, in-built social blogs or use of social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter) that the organization would join.
However, the organization has to consider four pivotal issues to ensure a successful online marketing: direct marketing, find-ability, web-design & usability, and popularity. Regarding, find-ability, the organization should ensure that keywords associated with the company image are tagged with videos, textual messages or pictures posted by the organization to its social media communities.
The organization can also improve the visibility of its website on search engines through search engine optimization that promotes its ranking un-paid or “natural” search results and thus, attract more visitors to visit the homepage. Alternatively, the organization can subscribe to paid inclusion to encourage users not searching for the company profile to visit its website.
According to Hinchcliffe (2007), the internet accords a company the opportunity to source relevant clientele for which to target their content and messages (Para. 1). By contrast, social media results to online communities who seek for content of their interest from the internet.
For instance, when a charity organization creates a webpage or a topic in its Facebook account, users interested in the topic will search more information individually but share within the community. The organization’s Facebook page should facilitate flexibility and accessibility of content at any time.
The capacity to promote interactivity is another significant advantage of social media over traditional online media. In the organization’s website, a user should be able to contact the website administrator over the content of contained in the web page through the Ajax application.
Important Business Features of Social Media
Various fundamental principles underlie communication in the social media, and online communities. Transparency is of essential in social networking as it promotes trust and a sense of equality. This means that disclosure is necessary for an organization active in social media.
Thus, the social media provide the means through which an organization can disclose its operations (company description). Besides the company description, hyperlinks on the social media, which lead to the company’s official website, would allow users to learn the details of the company.
It also creates a positive image and allows users to understand the rationale for its presence on a particular social media channel. Another way the organization can establish a connection with social media users is by visual elements and logos that represent its activities (Lazer, & Kelley 2003, p. 89).
By creating an honest presentation in the social media, the company would build trust relationships where the users understand the charity activities of the charity organization. In effect, the organization would gain more acceptances in the social networking environment.
It would also minimize the risk of encountering accusations associated with advertising on public web pages (Gay 2006, p. 159). In social media environment, users connect with hundreds of friends and others within online communities. Thus, one user’s post distributes itself within the community, which means that it is visible to users who again share with more others.
This means that the message spreads on a larger scale in social media than when using other online media. This shows the significance of multipliers in the social media environment especially for charity organizations. Furthermore, users are active in more than one social media channel to which they can spread the message.
Thus, the charity organizations should extend their representation into several media platforms and interlink them. In this way, one can display a post from one user in another social media channel with the similar content and the process increase value of the user’s content (Gay 2006, p. 157).
Online communities are an integral part of the social media communication. They are active in social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. The charity organization can benefit from online communities, as they comprise the main audience for the organization’s messages.
In the social media, users search for relevant information on specified topics, which they share with other users with common interests. Thus, creating an online community for the organization should provide relevant and informative content that captures the user’s interest.
The charity organization can create an online community by starting discussions on topics relevant to its mission and to the users, as well (Dotsika 2011, p. 177).
Charlton (2011, p. 80) observes that users often avoid irrelevant information distributed via the social media. Thus, irrelevant messages to users or communities can adversely affect the image of the organization and result to loss of its online community members.
Waters, Burnett, Lamm and Lucas describe four levels make an online community appealing to users (2009, p. 102). The first level is locality; locals often identify themselves with organizations that operate within their locality. The second level is identity, which an organization creates to define its image and that of the community.
The third level regards the provision of content that is largely appealing to attract more users. Lastly, the nature of the online environment and the community influence the level of attractiveness of an online community.
Thus, an investment of time and resources is essential in creating an attractive picture of the company to attract users (Olsen, &Livingstone 2009, p. 6). On the other hand, lack of resource commitment results to reduced use of the social media and the disintegration of the online community.
Additionally, most organizations that enter the social media environment do not utilize the available resources sufficiently. For example, Facebook allows community members to post videos, pictures, texts, and audio messages; however, most organizations use text and picture to pass their messages (Blackshaw, & Nazzaro 1999, Para. 5).
A major challenge that faces organizations involved in social media marketing is that fewer users post or generate content online. For example, Wikipedia with over 7 million registered users, only 1% of these users contribute content to Wikipedia (Gordon 2010, p. 45).
In addition, only 1-4% of the total social media users contribute content to their respective communities. Thus, for an organization to encourage active participation of users in its communities, rewarding the users who contribute content is essential in developing value of its community (Dotsika 2011, p. 172).
The charity organization should endeavor to establish close relationships with the present and potential clients. Repetitive communication, through the different social media platforms, would serve to remind the community members of a given cause and allow them to explore more about the offerings of the organization.
For an organization operating in the social media environment, posting regular messages or news updates on the various channels is vital. However, one needs to consider several factors in order to communicate effectively.
The personnel responsible for writing the messages should be knowledgeable of the organization’s current services and be able to respond to client questions. The regular posts should be of the same style and fashion to avoid causing confusion to community users (Charlton 2011, p. 79). Posting a message should involve a short topic with external links that provide more information about the message.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The theoretical research indicated that online social marketing is constantly evolving. Nevertheless, there are different factors that determine the success of social media marketing. For a charity organization such as charity organization, inter-media selection in the online media is a necessity.
Additionally, one can establish public trust and transparency through enhanced communication among the users, online communities, and regular feedback from the organization. Therefore, charity organization should implement new features in its social media to enhance communication, reach out to needy cases, and attract more clients/donors.
The ideas developed from the theoretical research in the above sections have a strong influence on further adoption of social media by the charity organization. In the social media environment, the enhanced communication is an indispensable tool for marketing/advertising the organization.
The organization can utilize this strategy to raise awareness of its operations. The purpose of this strategy is to allow exchange of opinions and information among social media users and with the organization. However, the message content should remain the same across all the media platforms.
The recommendation is to create a communication plan for marketing across the different platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and its own webpage. This should involve the use of news or social networks aggregator to integrate data or information from different users.
The communication for the organization on the different media platforms should be repetitive in order to create a reminder and awareness among the clients who receive the messages. Additionally, given that social media have an emotional aspect, linking the content with uploaded pictures would encourage users to respond to the particular humanitarian crisis.
For Facebook and Twitter, textual information can be combined with videos and pictures to elicit an emotional response from the users. YouTube can also convey videos on selected topics. The concerned parties should develop videos into a playlist to allow users to follow a given topic.
To develop a better image of the organization, communication on the social media is essential. The recommendation is that, in YouTube and Twitter, the organization should use its logo to increase trust and authenticity of the message communicated to users.
The organization should increase its branding efforts with the involvement of a company logo on uploaded pictures. Additionally, watermarks in user uploaded pictures or videos on its website can be useful in branding efforts. It allows users trace the origin of content and enhances disclosure: an essential aspect in social media environment.
An important feature for successful marketing communication for charity is that the messages sent out should be suitable for the given purpose. Aggressive advertising on social media can result to a negative impression among users. In this regard, to achieve a higher multiplier effect in social networks, the messages should be subtle rather than excessive.
Additionally, weekly quizzes on the different social media pages such as Facebook page could encourage users to read the profile of the organization. There is the need to recognize winners of the quizzes alongside the donors. This will generate more traffic to the Facebook page and in the process attract more donors.
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