We asked the wonderful sponsors of the 2019 Social CEOs awards to share their wisdom on digital leadership. In our first post, David Spector, Head of Strategy at Trillium, answers our three burning questions.

What one thing do you think every charity leader should know about social media?

Charity leaders need to know that on its own, social media is not a silver bullet for increased engagement, new supporter acquisition and existing supporter retention. As with any other channel, it relies on quality content that is appropriate to the use of the channels being exploited. It also depends on a good understanding of the audiences that use these channels and what their motivations are.

In many respects, social media is simply another channel of engagement. However, it is already the dominant channel for many charities and will only continue to grow in this vein for future generations.

Social media provides many opportunities for engaging storytelling, especially in visual form. However, these stories need to be curated and presented in the relevant formats that are optimised for whichever channel they are distributed. 

For example, what works well on Facebook will not necessarily work well on Instagram. Therefore, posting the same content on multiple channels is not an effective approach to success.

Charity leaders must be prepared to accept that effective use of social media has a cost and requires significant resource and a well-defined, insights-based strategy, including content, to get the best results. Long gone are the days where it was enough to simply have a presence on social media. 

Aika presenting Kristiana Wrixon with her award
Trillium’s Head of Marketing Aika Peto presenting Kristiana Wrixon with her award for Best Leader on Social Media

Social media users have become accustomed to well produced content by frequent publishers, which has become a baseline for continual engagement. Frequency and consistency are therefore of paramount importance.

Content requirements don’t just stop at social platforms. Where social media is used as a traffic driver to other channels, such as a charity’s website for example, the landing destination needs to continue the story, and not just be a generic landing page with little context to the content that encouraged the clickthrough. 

Meaningful and clear calls to action at the end of the user journey are also critical components, and this all needs to be measured to provide the necessary insights for ongoing refinement and continual improvement.

It is also worth considering engaging with influencers who have a connection to the cause of a charity. Their followers will have an affinity to such causes, especially if they were something that helped the influencer deal with a life-changing/saving situation, either related to themselves or their family or close friends. Support from such influencers in the world of social engagement is worth its weight in gold.

Please give us one insight, observation or thought you have about digital leadership

Digital leadership is about people, not products. Transformation is cultural. It hinges on the ability to embrace, enthuse and manage change. Great digital leaders are great leaders. They demonstrate the qualities associated with any successful leadership, regardless of sector.

Attributes of great leadership include:

  • Vision
  • Direction
  • Focus
  • Communication
  • Integrity
  • Courage 
  • Passion
  • Compassion

Great leaders take people on a journey with them. They recognise that each person is an individual with their own desires and motivations. They understand humans and the power of relationships. They listen and challenge, where appropriate, but not for the sake of their own ego.

Whilst subject matter expertise is indeed important, it should be in context of objectives and desires. It shouldn’t be specific to one product or approach, but instead the tasks that are trying to be accomplished and the people whose desire it is to accomplish them.

Consider any great leader in history, whether in politics, times of conflict, technology, sport or anything else. They all shared these attributes. Digital leaders should be no different.

What one prediction would you make about future of the sector?

Understanding what matters to people and the ability to target audiences appropriately, based on such knowledge, will differentiate the charities that are successful from those that continue to struggle in the future. Personalised content and campaigning will therefore be the main contributor to success in the future. 

The charity sector is in constant competition with other channels of disposable income spend. These appear in a variety of guises, be they holidays, subscription services e.g. for entertainment, gym, etc., to name but a few. In all cases, when there is money left to spend beyond the essentials of living, people tend to spend it on things that matter to them. 

Using data to provide such insight and focussing on contextually relevant user experiences, regardless of technology platforms or channels, will ensure that charities not only gain new supporters, but retain and encourage greater engagement from existing ones.