Getting Social: The Case for Engaging Your Audience Online

Leverage Your Audience

In 2015 alone, the Hampton Roads Community Foundation put more than $19 million in grants and scholarships into the community.  So, when The Spark Mill was tasked with increasing the Foundation’s reach on social media, we started with finding and engaging their grant recipients. 

Recently, when the Foundation’s board approved special-interest grants from funds like the E.K. Sloane Fund, which provides pianos to area organizations, several of their grantees shared this news for Hampton Roads Community Foundation, including Randolph College.

Most of the time the person responsible for an organization’s social media accounts has other responsibilities as well – so, why reinvent the wheel?  Just like pretty much everything else, social media is about relationships.  Listen to what others have to say and build that authentic relationship with your followers that in turn expands your organic reach and engagement.

Educate Your Audience

The Hampton Roads Community Foundation couldn’t have put over $230 million in grants and scholarships into the community over the past 65 years without the generosity of their donors.  These donors are another key audience for the Foundation and The Spark Mill has spent a lot of time working with HRCF to craft donor narratives – telling their personal stories, their history, highlighting their impact, and offering recognition.

Telling stories, highlighting impact, and donor recognition all go toward educating Hampton Roads Community Foundation’s audience on the important work the Foundation is doing, while inspiring others to join them in improving the community.

Know Your Audience

While broadcasting to your audience is important, it should never be your sole social media focus. We did dedicate a lot of posts to sharing foundation news (grant awards/deadlines, upcoming events, etc.) but we also sprinkled in timely, community-focused stories that may not have spoken directly to the work of the Foundation, but did share the values and interests of our audience.

One highly successful example was a kindness sighting when a Hampton Roads Community Foundation staff member snapped a couple pictures on her way into work of handmade scarves and hats hanging on trees that were hung for anyone in need.

Because The Spark Mill and Hampton Roads Community Foundation took time to work through who their audience is, and focus on being in relationship with them, HRCF has a good idea of their interests.  So, though this post has nothing to do with the Foundation’s direct work, it does speak to the underlying values of their audience as well as the Foundation’s mission to inspire philanthropy. 

Social media can seem overwhelming, especially if it’s not what you were hired to do – that makes it even more important to make your work is efficient and effective.  Make sure the time you are spending on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. is reaching the right people, and getting results. 

If you aren’t sure if you are educating or leveraging your audience – or maybe you aren’t even sure who your audience is or should be – give us a call, we’d be happy to chat!