Why I Love Social Media – Brita Schmidt – Women For Women

I love social media. It has given me many connections, both personally and professionally. I have used Facebook for a long time to stay in touch with friends and family, but I only started using Instagram and Twitter 3 years ago.

My team at Women for Women International showed me research (including one of the Social CEOs reports!) proving that people are more likely to trust an organisation if they follow its CEO. To begin with, this was my incentive. I looked at how other CEOs used Twitter and Instagram to understand what I wanted my presence to be.

From the beginning, I decided that I was going to show all sides of myself. I wanted my social media to be as real as possible because, after all, I am looking for the same in the accounts I follow. When someone talks about their daily routine or shares a video of their family, I feel a deeper understanding of them, as well as a closer connection. That is why my focus for social media became to provide day-to-day, real-life inspiration. This also made sense for me, because the work I do with women in countries affected by conflict is deeply inspiring, and I see it as my role to share this inspiration – and to share the incredible stories of the women who I meet.

I make a conscious effort to share my feelings, open myself as much as I can, and make myself vulnerable on what can feel like a very removed social platform. It is my purpose to do what I can to inspire others to overcome fear, so that they can fulfill their potential. Social media is an amazing tool for achieving this. I know that by sharing inspiration, we are led to be bold and to create change in our lives. I have seen how posts have inspired people to start caring for more than their own lives. Social media makes our world bigger and more connected.

The power of connection with people across the world through social media continues to surprise me. I have received such wonderful, motivating feedback and comments from strangers, often on the other side of the world. Even just a little heart on my Instagram story spurs me on. It has made me realise that if your purpose is clear, the right people will find you. I have several strong Women for Women International supporters, project collaborators and close friends who all got to know me via social media.

Every so often, I get sidetracked and start to worry about my number of followers, because that is how the world is rolling, isn’t it? Your worth is determined by how many followers you have. It is hard not to buy into this. I am currently writing a book, and a few of the top publishers I have approached liked the content of the book but mentioned that I don’t have enough followers. Wow.

That was hard to swallow. It took me a few months to sort this out in my head and remind myself of my purpose. I don’t want to be defined by the number of followers I have. That is easier said than done, though. Like many, I regularly get messages from people saying that they can help me grow my following, but I am not interested. I love the fact that my followers have grown organically. They found me, and follow me because they are really interested in what I share. I am more interested in the quality, rather than the quantity, of my followers.

I love social media and sharing experiences on it, but for me, social media is a means, not an end, and in my value system, I don’t measure people’s worth by the number of followers they have.

5 Key Ways Social Media Can Help You Lead Better – Sophie Livingstone – Trustees Unlimited

Social media is a way of sharing and telling stories. As the leader of a charity, I believe that it’s one of the most powerful tools you have to connect with a range of people, and to give yourself the energy you need to be and do your best. Here are five key ways I think social media can help you lead better:

Showcasing what you do

Part of your job as a not for profit leader is visibility – people want to understand what you’re up to, what you care about and your approach.  

This can range from sharing pictures of a Ministerial visit to posting about your agenda for the day, what you’re looking forward to most, or even frustrations about train travel.

The audience is both internal and external – funders, prospective funders, policy makers, sector colleagues, trustees – virtually the whole community of stakeholders you aim to reach in real life can be found and connected with online.

As well as the day to day of your role, social media can help with showing leadership in other ways.  For example, my husband, who just happens to be the deputy CEO of Plan International UK, blogged and tweeted about taking Shared Parental Leave. There was a positive response (not just from me!)  from people internally and externally to a senior sector leader taking Parental Leave.

Staying connected within your own organisation

As City Year UK grew from London to the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, I found it invaluable to connect with staff and volunteers via social media.  

We encouraged our volunteers to use social media to help raise the profile of their work, and I found it really useful to know what they were up to, so that I could share it online and in conversation, and to congratulate and encourage them.

As a trustee, when you’re sometimes even more removed, it’s even more useful to read about the latest events and successes, such as Little Village highlighting coverage on Channel 4 News.

Connecting with other leaders

Being a charity CEO can be pretty lonely. It can be hard to find time to get together with other leaders regularly, so I really like tracking my peers on social media.

I can see how they’re going about tackling issues, debate things, and champion their successes, such as Tessy Ojo, CEO of the Diana Awards (and fellow Generation Change trustee) on television during the recent Royal Wedding with two young Diana Award winners.

Quick, up-to-date access to policy news, research and intel

From congratulating Danny Kruger on his appointment as new DCMS special adviser on civil society, to finding out what NCVO thinks should be in the Government’s civil society strategy, Twitteris an easy way of connecting sector leaders with developments.   

At City Year, we also encouraged our volunteers to share their stories about the benefits of full time social action for them, and the impact that they were having on children’s progress in school, which was useful to raise awareness with decision makers.

I get most of my policy news and information from Twitter these days, and it has made me more informed in half the time.

Personal news and connections with staff, volunteers and beneficiaries

The most powerful for me is the personal., such as two alumna from City Year in the West Midlands, Amna Akhtar and Kiran Kaur, who have created their own programme, Girl Dreamer. Seeing that they were presenting at the Women for Women She Inspires Me event made me incredibly proud.  

I recently reconnected on LinkedIn with a young man I’d worked with on an advocacy campaign about benefits at the Foyer Federation about ten years ago. He’s made such a success of his life, and it was wonderful to hear how well he’s doing – I’m not sure I’d have found out any other way.

Social media might be newfangled technology, but at its best we use it to do what we humans are wired for – making personal connections and telling stories. We should be claiming that space for the good our organisations do, and by shining a light on that work, helping to build back public trust in our collective impact.   

Sophie Livingstone was CEO of City Year UK from November 2009 – December 2017 and featured on the Social CEOs list in 2016 and 2017.   She is the Chair of trustees at Little Village, is a trustee and co-founder of Generation Change and a trustee of the Royal Voluntary Service. Sophie Livingstone is Managing Director of Trustees Unlimited.

Twitter has given us a voice in the cancer community – Frank Fletcher Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust

Being part of the extremely active teenage and young adult cancer (#TYAC #teenagecancer #TYACancer) Twitter community has helped us to reach people we never could have otherwise.

We’re a small national charity that works with young people aged 8-24 to rebuild confidence after cancer through sailing.

When we launched in 2003, Twitter wasn’t a thing. That year we worked with 10 young people in recovery, this year we will work with over 660. Being part of the online #TYAC community has absolutely played a part in our growth, both in terms of the numbers we now take sailing, but also the funding partners we work with and the voice we have in much wider post-cancer care conversations.

We can engage with partners much larger than us

The big organisations in our sphere, such as the Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent, do what they do really well. We do something different yet complementary.

The services they deliver, the issues they campaign for and the research they undertake make a life-changing difference to young people with cancer. We are there to help support those young people after treatment.

Nurturing Twitter relationships with key people within these organisations – both decision makers and frontline service providers – enables more young people to hear about what we do through their networks but also helps us stay abreast of the major issues in young people’s cancer care so we can shape our approach accordingly.

The heightened profile being part of this network provides has also put the Trust on the radar of funding bodies we might otherwise have struggled to access.

Greater care for our young people

Young people that sail with us face a multitude of challenges to re-engage with education, employment, relationships and society after cancer.

Our trips are proven in helping young people rediscover the confidence to face these challenges, but there are certain practicalities we can’t provide. Being able to Tweet something like “We’ve got a young person who needs support with X, they live in Y, can any of our #TYAC friends help?”, knowing that they will, is of huge benefit.

Power of peer support

Feeling isolated is a massive issue for young people with cancer.

For so many Trust trips are the first time they get to talk, and I mean really share their most personal feelings, experience, fears and hopes, with other young people who have been through similar experiences to them. This is a key part of the recovery process and why making new friends is such a valued part of our trips.

But our trips last four or five days. How do they sustain these friendships when they leave? Where can they continue to explore the cathartic benefits of talking about their experiences? How do they help other young people realise they aren’t alone?

Through social media. This is why Twitter is so valuable to them as well as us.

A human face

Being human and credible is essential for charities especially smaller ones like ours, so it’s really important people can see who we are and what we stand for. I enjoy Twitter and being part of the genuine social collaboration and kindness of the #TYAC community. Even if the occasional football tweet does sneak through 😉

Today is the last day you can nominate someone for a Social CEO award. You have until midnight on the 28th September to nominate. Nominate here

Honorary #SocialCEOs

There’s no better way to explain what makes a good social CEO than by real-life demonstration. But of course we wouldn’t want to sway your nominations. So we took a look outside of the sector to see who is out there behaving like dream #SocialCEOs.

David Lammy MP

The Labour MP for Tottenham is, as backbench MPs go, a prominent voice on Twitter. He’s passionate, and he’s not afraid to say what he really thinks – even if that means being critical of his own party. His personal commitment to his role and the people he serves shines through. He speaks from his heart, about issues that matter to him and his constituents, and doesn’t hide behind rehearsed, press-friendly soundbites.  

Jameela Jamil

Jameela is now a successful American TV star but she hasn’t lost the groundedness that she exuded as a fledgling star on T4 back in the day. She’s been open about her struggles with anxiety as a younger woman, and has this year launched a campaign (and Instagram channel) called “I Weigh”, calling out the press for fixating on women’s weights and encouraging women to value themselves as a whole person.

Sathnam Sanghera

Sathnam brings his whole self to Twitter. An author and journalist, he discovered while writing a memoir that his father had been living with schizophrenia. He has since used his platform to talk about this often misunderstood illness, along with other mental health conditions. His Twitter feed is a wonderful mixture of politics, current affairs, football chat and RTd nonsense. Definitely worth a follow.

Kris Hallenga

Ok, this one’s not outside the sector at all – but as Kris has stepped away from her CEO role at Coppafeel, she’s technically not eligible for selection this year. Kris founded Coppafeel after her own diagnosis of incurable, stage 4, breast cancer at 23. In the 9 years since then she has continued to defy the odds, and use her platform to promote the early detection message and encourage young people to be proactive about their health. While her official role with the charity has drawn to a close she remains close to them, and a fierce advocate for their work. Her positivity and determination to live well are inspirational. Tweets may also contain cats, because, Twitter.

James Timpson

Not just a great social CEO but an all round excellent leader of Timpsons. James shows through his tweets his dedication to and passion for being the very best leader he can. He regularly uses his account to celebrate and thank his colleagues, and shares the extra lengths his company goes to for them (this year all parents with a child going in to reception year got an extra day off to help the settling in process). He also has a fantastic social responsibility ethos. You can tell that he’s an extremely present CEO – visiting stores around the country all the time, and sharing pictures and stories from them. A shining star in corporate world.

All of these Twitter folk bring a sense of openness to their feeds. They talk about challenging topics, using their platform to raise awareness of important issues and connect with people. We think they are all worthy of honorary #SocialCEOs awards – but we need you to nominate for this year’s awards! Tell us which charity CEOs, leaders, trustees and rising stars are doing great things with social media. And while you’re at it, check out the digital categories too! Nominate by midnight on 28th September 2018.

Using social media for social good

I first got involved in HIV charity work in 1999 because I wanted to dispel the ignorance that had resulted in the deaths of so many that I loved. I wanted to give people the knowledge and the skills to empower them in their sexual choices.

I wanted to challenge the stigmatisation of a virus, that chiefly affected those who were already marginalised by society, including gay and bisexual men, migrants, drug-users and trans women. I wanted to challenge those who told me that I was diseased, unclean and a threat to others because I was living with HIV.

Considering my goal was to share knowledge it made sense that I would attempt to harness the power of social media. Social media provides me with a popular platform to reach beyond any core audience and deliver these messages.

Here’s how I use social media to inform and educate about HIV:

Be topical

If there’s a news story that’s connected to something that concerns you, it’s a great opportunity to get your message out, to signpost your resources, promote your organisation or support your fundraising efforts.

Even if you’ve just responded off the bat to a news story, you can provide links to your own content in follow-up tweets. If you can’t say what you need to say in a single tweet, it’s ok to say it in a few.


Add something to the story

If you add something to the story, whether that’s an image, a personal perspective or a feeble attempt at humour, you’ll get a lot more engagement. Twitter will respond better to something that has personality. Think about what makes your standpoint distinctive. You don’t have to go deep into personal revelation to express something in a way that’s distinctive to you.

Stand up for what you believe in

An authentic voice is going to be more interesting than one that is always bland but on message. Be bold. And have fun with it.

Every opportunity

If you do find yourself in the heart of a twitter storm, see if you can turn that into an opportunity to educate.

Be passionate

A lesson I’ve learned working for charities is not to tell people what it is that you do but tell them why it is that you do it. Twitter is ideal for this. They used to say that you should be able to pitch your charity in the time it took to ride an elevator. Now you should be able to explain what it is that you do in a tweet.

Raise the tone, not the volume

Twitter can be hostile and it can be angry. Being a naturally feisty person, I struggle not to fight back if I’m attacked. As a gay man who is open about living with HIV, I’ve enjoyed my share of online abuse, although any hostility I’ve encountered is nothing compared to the misogyny, racism and transphobia that others face.

If we are to make Twitter a better platform, I would urge colleagues to try not to rise to the bait of a deliberately provocative tweet with an equally charged response. Be reasonable, provide information and links to trusted information resources. Back up what you say. Don’t be afraid to debate or defend. Attack an argument but try not to attack an individual.

Make it personal – if you want to

I was diagnosed with HIV in 1998. I reckoned then that I would live until I was about 50. When I approached this age, I wanted to celebrate my survival. I had been living with the virus for almost 20 years and I was still healthy. This was a golden opportunity to counter the images of early death that are still so associated with HIV.

I sent a tweet, thanking people who had wished me a happy birthday via Twitter. And I made reference to the fact that I had reached my goal of 50 and felt good about it.

I wanted people to know the good news about the effectiveness of HIV treatment.

Hundreds of thousands of people saw this tweet, thousands engaged with it. One gay website wrote a story about it, and that news report itself got shared over 1,700 times on social media. It was a lot of impact for something that cost nothing and took hardly any time to do.

Social media is a powerful weapon

The more involved I’ve got into using social media as a platform for my work, the more conscious I am of its harms. Not just potentially to society or to democracy, but also its impact on the mental and emotional health of some of its users.

Twitter appeals to the narcissist. Am I popular? Am I smart, am I funny, am I good-looking enough? If you find yourself judging your worth on the number of retweets you get, you’re in trouble. Twitter is something I use to support and enhance my work. It isn’t my work.

Twitter and other social media platforms don’t always create an environment for better understanding between people. Media can be manipulated, platforms can be used to promulgate hatred or distort the truth. Its power to abuse, and the abuse of its power, should give us all pause.

But Pandora’s box is open. Social media, like the printing press or the internet have changed the way we communicate. If we are interested in communication we cannot afford to turn our backs on it.

Twitter has allowed me to signpost some of the biggest developments in our understanding and treatment of HIV. It has given me a platform to share accurate information, such as NAM’s resources. It enables me to explain why I am so passionate about this work and to raise awareness of issues that I’m passionate about, or information that deserves to be widely known, such as #UequalsU. I use Twitter to call out homophobia when I see it (knowing that racism, homophobia and transphobia all facilitate the spread of HIV) or to give my vocal support to trans people and to migrants.

It was combination treatment that managed to disable the virus enough so that HIV became a liveable condition. It was a combination approach to prevention that finally delivered a decline in HIV diagnoses.

Similarly, I believe that charities, and those of us who are passionate about the causes that we work on, need a combination approach to our communications that takes full advantage of the accessibility, shareability and engagement opportunities of social media. This is an approach that amplifies our voice, our impact and our ability to deliver social good.

We can make social media a force for good by using it as a force for good. Use the power of social media responsibly.

Matthew Hodson is Executive Director of NAM aidsmap and the recent winner of Social CEO of the year. Follow him on Twitter at @Matthew_Hodson. NAM provides HIV news and treatment information to support people living with HIV, throughout the UK and internationally, to live longer and healthier lives.

A mobile phone screen with social media apps in focus

4 rules for #SocialCEOs from last year’s nominators

We love reading the nominations for #SocialCEOs every year. Zoe recently wrote a great article with tips from past winners – but in this post we’d like to share some quotes from last year’s nominations, to show you what past nominators had to say about their chosen social superstars.

Authenticity is crucial

So many of the nominations highlighted the blending of personal and professional as a big positive, and we completely agree that to have a really successful presence on social media, it’s important to show a bit of yourself. Here are some examples:

“He mixes his personal views with his professional life in a way that strikes a great balance.”

“Because he’s tweeting from the heart he has far more impact on the issues that are close to the charity. His tweets can be both amusing and deeply sad.”

“She is also smart and funny and blends personal tweets – about running, for example, in with the rest. She’s not afraid to use her own voice.”

“She helps present a very human face of the charity.”

“When you look at her profile, you know there’s been zero input from a social media strategist.”

Demystify your role

Twitter, used well, can be a great way to demonstrate more about what a CEO actually does all day. We all know they are busy and important people, but if asked to describe what they do, how many of us could do a reasonable job? Thanks to Twitter, we can see this much more clearly, and our nominators think this is a real benefit.

“Brings to life her day-to-day role.”

“Following her on social media gives a real insight into the varied role of a CEO.”

“She shows her human side, displays leadership, and provides a fascinating insight into the life of a charity Chief Exec.”

Be brave

Social media can be a minefield; many people are lurking just waiting to take offence or twist what someone says. So even having a presence and putting themselves on the map can be a brave decision. We saw bravery highlighted in quite a few of last year’s nominations:

“(He) uses social media to ask difficult questions.”

“(She) is not afraid to be brave and bold. She will share her opinion, challenge others and put herself out there.”

“He displays leadership in our field by not being shy of issues which can be tough to deal with.”

Let digital shape your work and culture

5 hands fist bumping above a desk covered with laptopsOur nominees were praised for how their overall approach to social and digital represent the broader ways they work, and how they bring digital into the day-to-day.

“(She) is a champion for empowering colleagues, other CEOs and leaders in the public and third sector to embrace social media to become closer to the people they serve.”

“(She) has worked hard to build genuine, long-term relationships with a broad range of people through daily interactions. She uses these conversations to inform the work of the charity.”

“(She) is a staunch champion of social media as an effective dissemination tool for our work.”

“Her enthusiasm, passion and commitment to (the organisation’s) mission is infectious.”

“Since (she) started, the culture has changed. Everything we planned or wanted to do has now been sped up.”

“She sees social not as an add on to work but an important space to engage and exist as a leader in the third sector.”

“(He) is incredibly enthusiastic about the power of social media and digital, at both an organisational level and more broadly in terms of the influence it’s having on society.”

And finally…

Here are a few of the random bits that made us smile:

“I’m not quite sure how (he) has the time to juggle a demanding job, a young family, an unruly dog, a football habit as well as his constant Twitter feed but he does it. We can only imagine that he tweets in his sleep.”

“All in all she’s a wonderful person that embodies what it means to be a social leader inside and outside the limit of 140* characters. *She’ll be pimp at 280 as well” (This was just ahead of this crucial change to Twitter character limits!)

“He really should change his Twitter handle. It’s weird.”

“(His) tweets may also contain dogs”

And very lastly – in the “anything else you’d like to tell us” box, we had this lovely polite closing remark: “Thank you.”

Nominations are open until 28th September for this year’s #SocialCEOs – so tell us today who you think deserves recognition!

Sculpture representing computer networks with a backdrop of Canary Wharf

Social media: the power of networks

vicky-browningVicky Browning, CEO of CharityComms


I’m a big fan of the power of networks.

I don’t mean the cliché of the predatory businessman working the room, glad-handing and making small-talk, always with one eye over your shoulder to see if someone more important’s come on the scene. I mean the power of people connecting with people.

Our network is our organisation

I head up CharityComms, the membership organisation for communications professionals working in charities. What lies at the heart of our operation – and is our biggest strength – is our network, the interlocking web of people who share, support, ask, offer, inform, empower and inspire each other to be the best they can.

For me, social media is a key component of making our network possible. It not only enables me to connect with people I know, but also people they know that I couldn’t possibly reach otherwise. In turn, it allows me to make connections for others – to point them to helpful people or useful information or resources.

Social media connects our members

And the combination of online and offline networks is especially powerful. I was MC at CharityComms’ recent pub quiz, where 20 crack charity teams battle it out for possibly the smallest trophy lack of money can buy.

One of my highlights of the evening was seeing a couple of people who’d previously interacted via Twitter come face to face and realise that they’d already connected.  They were both part of the CharityComms network – through membership, through social media and now through sharing a pint.

It was a satisfying example of one of the key roles I believe I have as a chief executive – making connections: facilitating conversations and forging relationships.

Engaging with a wider audience

Through social media I can introduce colleagues, share information and flag up issues. Social media helps me be an ambassador for my charity, for my cause and for the sector as a whole.

It lets me engage with a wide audience, gain insight and find content. It helps me listen, ask questions and share. And above all it helps me keep connected to my network. Do join me there at @browning_vicky or on LinkedIn (or just buy me a pint of course).

Black and white shot of someone covering their face with their hand

Twitter helps me learn from survivors of domestic abuse

polly-neatePolly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid


When I started tweeting I couldn’t imagine how my deep and profound thoughts could possibly be conveyed in just 140 characters (arrogance is hardly unknown among charity CEOs is it?).

Seriously, it shows how far I’ve come that a few months ago, when Twitter mooted the idea of unlimited characters, I felt this would mean Twitter no longer had any place in my life.

Less is more. A good tweet is a “thing” in itself, not a cut down version of something you’d prefer to say at great length. If you must have complexity, loads of detail, or cover off every side to an argument, do it somewhere else.


We need leaders who convey their values

We are living in uncertain times: it’s the cliché of the year because it’s true. That means charity beneficiaries, staff and stakeholders need leaders who convey their values in all they do, and who communicate authentically and clearly.

Public trust in charities – and in charity CEOs specifically – is suffering. Frankly, I’m not surprised. We should be out there in public, accountable, showing what we do, giving an approachable face to our organisations.


Dealing with criticism

This doesn’t mean put your whole life on Twitter. I don’t. It doesn’t mean you always have to engage with those who disagree.

But if you can’t deal with the inevitable level of inappropriately worded criticism (as opposed to abuse, which you can report) then you probably aren’t ready for Twitter. And are you ready to run a charity?


Connecting with our audience

I knew my organisation needed me to tweet when I started this job. But the benefits are far greater than I expected. I’ve engaged with, and even met in real life in some cases, a supportive, funny, clever group of feminists without whom I would undoubtedly be worse at what I do.

Twitter has given me a platform to learn from and share ideas with survivors of domestic abuse – and if they are brave enough for Twitter after what they’ve been through, there’s little excuse for anyone else. I’ve “met”, and then actually met, many people who have helped Women’s Aid in ways from funding to policy to campaigning to advice on everything under the sun.


Social media takes time

It does take time, which is something I know worries a lot of CEOs. I guess my view is that this job is bonkers anyway. And this is important, so you have to fit it in.

Twitter has taken over from the Today Programme as my main morning companion (you can get the running order on Twitter just in case), and I tweet away while drinking my tea, between waking and the onset of parental duties.


A popularity contest?

The other objection I’ve heard from fellow CEOs is that Twitter is a shallow popularity contest. If you’re advertising yourself as a feminist, a cyclist and a charity CEO (see @pollyn1), popularity can’t worry you that much. We’re not paid to be popular, are we?

But we are paid to be the approachable, honest face of our organisation, driven by its values. In 2016, I’d say one inescapable channel for that is Twitter.


A group of people holding up coloured speech bubbles

Social media is central to enabling debate

julie-bentleyJulie Bentley, CEO of Girlguiding

Amongst all the debate on Brexit, one overly simple take-away is that everyone wants to have their say. We’ve seen clear affirmation that making our voices heard is important to us Brits.

As CEO of Girlguiding, I’ve heard repeatedly that girls and young women don’t feel their voices are heard enough on the decisions that affect their lives. We know young people as a group voted differently to older in the referendum  and the whys and whereforalls merit more debate – Brexit after all affects their futures more than anyone’s. But what I want to say isn’t about the politics of Brexit but the message it sends about voice.


Twitter-phobe to fanatic

I’ve blogged here before about how I started my Twitter journey – I’ve gone from Twitter phobe to Twitter with breakfast, lunch and dinner!

I continue to use it so I’m accessible and transparent as a leader and to share important messages with our young members, volunteers, partners and sector colleagues (and sometimes sharing totally random and meaningless musings).


Social media is still used to silence people

As empowering as it can be, social media is also used as powerful way to attempt to silence certain people and groups often in the most unacceptable of ways – women, whilst not exclusively, are often targeted explicitly.  

It’s not good enough. Everyone should feel able to engage and contribute their views, as long as it’s within a context of respectful challenge and constructive debate.

Social media enables debate

 We are living in uncertain and changing times, and social media is a space that allows us all to hear the range of different perspective on key issues that are affecting our lives.

Being part of discussion through social media allows us to focus on the things that really matter to us.

For me, high up on my list of interests are young people, social justice issues and the charity sector.  I am especially interested in how the voluntary sector gets the voices of their beneficiaries heard in discussion. Social media is a simple and cost effective means to doing that.


Inspiring moments

It is also a great way to share special and inspiring moments. The moving speech from @alex_brooker  in his Paralympics coverage certainly brought a lump to my throat.

Social media can be such a powerful way to bring people together around shared interests and goals.

As a charity CEOs, let’s harness that potential to further awareness of and support for  the causes we feel so passionate about.

If you aren’t on twitter yet, come join us and say hi – I’m @juliebentley.


Someone holding up a tin can to talk into

How social media lets me be a personal advocate for our cause

mark-flannaganMark Flannagan, CEO of Beating Bowel Cancer


Within my staff team and the wider supporter base I think that being an active and available Chief Executive brings a deal of credit.  Supporters particularly appreciate you always being “on” and available.  They want you to be a visible advocate for the cause and to show your passion and personal motivation.

This, for me, has never been a problem, or an intrusion.  Being directly connected through social media brings insight and immediacy.  It allows me to see sides of people and their stories that I might not otherwise get in the office, or mediated through other forms of communications.

In their turn, supporters appreciate seeing the ‘real me’ behind the CEO – whether that’s my cycling or baking.


Social media is part of our service

As a charity Chief Executive I see every day that social media is a central and vital medium to connect people with our services. Our unique bowel cancer helpline is signposted through Twitter and Facebook.

Our information and support booklets are routinely advertised and links to download are highlighted as well. We promote and sign up individuals to our successful Patient and Carer Days through social media.

All of this is now business as usual.  In many ways Twitter has replaced the mass mailing, as the means of reaching people and, crucially, we can now receive an almost instantaneous response and direct feedback.


My Twitter feed connects me to patients, their family and friends

Beyond this, in my role I am conscious that what I say, when I say it and how I say it via Twitter or Facebook is also a symbol of the charity’s ability to be there when people need it most.

My Twitter feed (@MarkFlannCEO) is a direct link to patients, their family and friends.  Through Twitter I can be there for them and let them know that the whole charity is there to help them.  I can thank people for their fundraising and celebrate when people connect with others going through the same experiences.



Unusually, I think, I am also available on Facebook.  I don’t see Facebook as my closed personal space, but think that it is not unreasonable that supporters can see and engage with me on a personal basis, albeit in much smaller numbers.

My Facebook connections are usually those with who I have had prior personal contact and who I know are individuals who want to have a closer relationship.  Real friendships are also formed, as well as Facebook Friends!  Instant messages are exchanged when people want an answer and I don’t see this as a problem or an inconvenience.


Always connected

Being a charity Chief Executive is never a nine-to-five job and in my view it is necessary to be aware and connected outside of these hours.  Social media is the best way to do this.

Of course, there is a risk that you can be swamped and work-life balance tilts the wrong way.  That said, in the times when I have needed motivation, being connected with individuals who are what we are all about has been a source of inspiration.