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using Facebook for social good matters in Zimbabwe
January 21, 2013
Social media is the big
talk today but before you jump onto the bandwagon as a non profit
institution or manager in Zimbabwe you have to be aware of some
basic guidelines. Otherwise you'll find yourself sucked into a digital
vacuum with little to show for your efforts and time. As you develop
your Facebook strategy, you have to make sure that you are not wasting
time doing things that give you very little return.
Firstly, social media
usage is growing exponentially in Zimbabwe in tandem with growth
in mobile telephony and increased penetration of internet access.
Facebook is by far the largest internet-based social platform in
Zimbabwe with an estimated one million plus people connected onto
With the number of people
on Facebook growing on a daily basis, non profit institutions in
the country can only ignore it at their own peril. The benefits
of getting involved with social networking including gaining visibility,
mobilization and advocacy far outweigh non-involvement.
Some local corporate
institutions, for example Econet and Telecel, are already taking
the lead with their pages as big as 100 000 fans. That's quite a
significant reach. If they can convert 10 per cent of that fan base
for real business, that-s quite significant. Of course, they
are big brands but nowhere is it written that non profit institutions
cannot achieve the same.
Having said that, part
of the role of non-profit institutions is to spread messages: social
media provides a low cost and fast method to reach out to thousands
of people. Because non-profit messaging tends to be drab and boring,
there is a need to give content posted onto Facebook a human face.
Sharing humanised content makes your fan base feel connected to
your message. People respond to that.
It's important to state
that there is no one "right" way to do everything on
Facebook. Making mistakes is part of the deal. These guidelines
are aimed at providing you with a good place to start while you
watch out what works best for you and develop your own rhythm.
Of course, the first
step is to establish a Facebook page or community with signage that
promotes your institutions. A Facebook group is closed and can only
grow up to 5,000 people while a Facebook page is open and encourage
wider reach of your brand. Defining your goals and objectives at
the outset and having these as part of the communications mix is
One of the key things
to understand with Facebook is that you don't have to post all the
time otherwise you'll soon bore your fans with spam-like posts.
Most people in Zimbabwe engage with Facebook from approximately
eight in the morning to eight in the evening: try and spread your
posts within that period. Because most people access the Net at
workplaces, the amount of Zimbos on Facebook dramatically dips during
weekends. Suffice to state, an average of six to eight posts - properly
spaced out - is enough not to be regarded as being intrusive. The
key takeaway here is that do some research and learn when your audience
is online, both the hours of the day and days of the week.
You need to post new
and relevant content on Facebook to keep people interested. The
average half-life of a Facebook post is about three hours. Because
of this, it is a good practice to post more than once a day to get
the most engagement out of your posts.
The key to success with
social media is engagement but this does not mean spending copious
amounts of time on Facebook: time that could be devoted to other
jobs. Successful brands that use social media shy away from preaching
or selling to their fan base. Rather, they strive to develop a mutually-beneficial
conversation. They also make strategic posts that are not seen as
being invasive in the virtual space.
You have to develop a
strategy that you stick to; part of that strategy must involve posting
something onto your profile every day. If you don-t have a
strategy to post every day, your page can be easily lost as your
fans concentrate on more engaging content outlets. Ask questions,
post helpful tips, links to articles that your audience will Like
According to social media
gurus, Hubpost.com in a publication titled, "How to Engage
Fans on Facebook," "... when you make the posts about
your audience and what they need rather than preaching, you will
develop a richer and deeper relationship with your community."
Developing a richer and
deeper relationship with your community is also a function of not
only focusing on self in the social media strategy. A non-profit
institution-s core message must be placed within other content
that adds value to the target audience.
More nuggets from the
Hupspot.com publication which are relevant for the Zimbabwean audience
include setting aside time to follow up on posts and respond to
questions on your Wall because responding to your fans is an easy
way to increase engagement and create lasting relationships.
Another strategy that
non profit institutions need to employ is to encourage target audiences
to also share their own content, which can help to enhance the social
value of Facebook pages.
A picture speaks a thousand
words, states an old adage. And this still holds true in the virtual
space. Incorporating visual content to share on Facebook can also
enhance engagement. Pictures tend to produce a reaction. Non profit
institutions can post pictures or videos of the work they are doing.
They can also post pictures of beneficiaries.
According to Hubspot.com,
Facebook-s research shows that photo albums, pictures, and
videos increase engagement by 180 percent, 120 percent, and 100
percent, respectively, more than content without visuals.
Visual content can help
in getting your followers to expand the reach of your institution
especially if they like or share the content with their friends
and followers. Keeping content dignified and positive is essential
to enhance visual stimulation. Of importance though, it is important
to relate some images to your key messaging.
Whatever you do, don't
forget to make it fun. After all, Facebook is a social community.
People are there to have fun.
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