Using Social Media

How can you use social media to help your voice reach people around the world?

A Beginners Guide to Social Media

Social Media moves so fast it is hard to know where to begin. By the time you read this much of this advice may be out of date. But social media is very influential. For example, 400 million tweets get sent every day. These tips will help you plug into this gigantic global network.

This Beginner’s Guide to Social Media is written for businesses. However, it provides a useful overview.

There are many social media sites you may wish to explore and new ones are being set up all the time. However, this guide concentrates on six main social media - Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Popular Social Media Channels

Blog A blog is a personal online magazine or newspaper.
Build your blog on sites like Tumblr or Wordpress.
A blog permits you to talk about your issues in depth. You may post photos and link videos and sound files.
For more information see A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging.
Twitter Twitter is an online social network and micro-blogging site. Users post short 140 character messages, or tweets.
Users connect by ‘following’ other users or by being ‘followed’.
Tweeting @ a user sends a tweet to that account. Using # permits unconnected users to view tweets about the same topic.
For more information see Twitter’s guide to getting started.
Facebook Facebook is an online social network.
Users are individuals, organisations and businesses. Your profile may be public or private, so check your settings!
Users add ‘friends’ and ‘like’ other users’ posts. Users post ‘what’s on your mind’. Posts may vary in length and include links, photos, video and sound.
For more information see the Beginners Guide to Facebook.
Instagram Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service. The filters and editing features on Instagram enable users to create striking visual content.
Users take pictures and videos, and share them either publicly or privately on the app, as well as through other social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. Instagram permits users to create and share a strong visual identity for their campaign.
For more information see the How To Use Instagram guide.
WhatsApp WhatsApp is an instant messaging service for smartphones.
It uses the Internet to send text messages, documents, images, video, user location and audio messages to a user’s network. Because it uses the internet, there are no SMS charges for WhatsApp users.
Snapchat Snapchat is a multimedia messaging service.
Users create ‘snaps’. Snaps may consist of photos, short videos, text captions, drawings and effects. Snaps may be sent privately to selected contacts or be added to a semi-public ‘story’.
A key feature of Snapchat is that snaps and stories are automatically deleted shortly after viewing. There is a limited opportunity to save or take screenshots of snaps.
In 2016 Snapchat had 100m daily users. Its potential for campaigners is the ability to quickly communicate with large numbers of users.
For more information see the How to use Snapchat guide.

Tips for Success from an Oxfam Digital Campaigner

Many organisations now employ social media experts to communicate with supporters and customers. An Oxfam digital campaigner shares her tips for success.

1 Think carefully about which social media sites are best for what you’re doing. For example, tweeting is live, fast moving and spontaneous, but you can’t fit many words into 140 characters.
2 Whichever site you’re using, try to always post a photo. People have short attention spans and a photo grabs their attention.
3 Always remember that social media are ‘social’. It is not just about you talking to the world. It is a conversation. So respond to people’s comments, retweet and post on other people’s pages. Keep the conversations going.
4 Try to post every day. A page which isn’t regularly updated and kept lively soon looks very tired.
5 Keep your posts brief.
  • Blogs: Aim for around 500 words.
  • Facebook hides long posts, so try to keep it to 2-3 sentences.
  • Twitter only permits 140 characters, although you can shorten links with
6 ‘Follow’ and ‘like’ users and organisations that share your aims and values. They will follow you back, retweet your posts and join in your conversation.
7 Make sure you allow time to check for replies and comments, and respond to them.
8 Use the free engagement tools (called ‘insights’ on Facebook) to find out when your supporters are most often online and schedule content to go out at that time.
9 Hootsuite is a free program that schedules tweets, replies to supporters and lets you see what other users are talking about.
10 (see point 5) creates custom links and you can track how many people click on the links. You can use this information to identify which of your posts get the most clicks.
11 Use #hashtags, like country names, on Twitter to get more people interested in your tweets.
12 Keep up to date.
Social media sites come in and out of fashion very quickly. For example, some people say Twitter is on the way out and being replaced by Reddit. Keep up to date and try out new sites.

Internet Safety

There are risks if you do not follow some basic rules for internet safety, and everybody knows someone who’s been cyber-bullied or whose computer has got a virus.

Here are some tips to help keep you safe online:

  • Set up new anonymous accounts for your campaigning. Keep your personal and your campaigning identities separate.
  • Does the information you are putting online permit a stranger to identify and locate where you are? A stranger should never be able to find from your posts who you are, what you look like and where you live or where you go to school.
  • Do not ever share your contact details with people you do not know and trust.
  • Do not open emails or click on links you don’t trust. Ignore spam email and pop-up messages.
  • Check and apply the latest privacy settings on the social media sites you use. These change from time to time.

There is more detailed information about staying safe online here:

Activity – Which Social Media and Why?

Look at the following scenarios.

Decide which social media you think is the best to use in each scenario by matching the best social media with the scenarios. Aim for one social media for each scenario, although in real life you will most probably use more than one

Explain why you made your choices.

Blogging Twitter WhatsApp
Facebook Instagram Snapchat
Scenario Which Social Media and Why
You are attending an event where different speakers are making presentations.
You wish to keep your supporters up to date with the conference by sharing the speakers’ most important comments.
Your group has just held a successful Fairtrade stall in the town centre.
You wish to share photographs celebrating the event with your group and your supporters.
You have read an article in the newspaper about the Sustainable Development Goals.
You have done some research and disagree with what the newspaper says. You want to share your opinions with your supporters.
You are planning an activity and wish to set up a group where the organisers can communicate with one another and share messages and documents.  
You are planning an exciting activity and wish to get the news out to your network of young supporters.  
You are planning a campaign and have created a visual identity that you want to make the recognisable brand of your campaign. You want your messages to be creative, easily recognisable and visually consistent.  

There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers to this activity. However, these choices show one possible answer for each scenario.

Possible Solutions