Making your research accessible

Running R2A’s social media: What I’ve learned

By 20/09/2018

Over the last two years I have had the privilege of being the custodian of Research to Action’s lively social media accounts. Last month’s blog by Mallika Chaulagain sharing her experiences running TPO Nepal’s social media accounts and Sudeep Upretty’s top ten tips for live tweeting at conferences got me thinking, what have I learned from the experience of running Research to Action’s social media presence?  

Where to start… In an effort not to reinvent the wheel, I endorse all of Mallika’s suggestions! To spark a wider debate and try to foster peer learning I asked the Twitterati what lessons they wanted to share about running their organisation’s accounts. 

Before sharing the Twitter discussion, here are the four lessons that I have learned over the course of the last two years:  

1) Define what success looks like.

Social media isn’t all about attracting the most followers, it is about fostering a two-way dialogue with your audience. Every year I set targets for each platform in a social media strategy, which tended to revolve around how many followers a certain account gained. However, it is important to think about why you are setting up the platforms in the first place. Is it to drive traffic to resources on a website? Is it to foster discussion with the users of those resources? Is it to reach wider audiences, such as the public or policy actors?

2) Create a content calendar.

Social media scheduling sites like Hootsuite, Sprout Social and even Wikipedia are awash with a vast array of international days that garner lots of social media attention, particularly on Twitter. The UN list of internationally recognised days is a good place to start for global development events. A content calendar is a great place to keep track of relevant events for your channels and should cover how many times a day, or a week, you aim to post on your social media platforms. It can also include hashtags that will increase the visibility of your messages to wider audiences. The traditional #mondaymotivation, #charitytuesday, #wednesdaywisdom, #throwbackthursday and #followfriday are always a safe bet to pop on the end of a post on the appropriate day.  

3) Use M&E to inform agile adaptations to your approach.

Conducting M&E is pointless if it doesn’t inform improvements to your approach and it should enable you to learn as you go. I sit down at the end of each month to reflect on what worked and what didn’t before I embark on the next round of content scheduling. I keep both a stats log for R2A’s social media platforms but also track where the traffic is coming from and going to on the website, enabling me to try to unpick which resources attract the most attention on different platforms. There are plenty of great tools to help you automate your social media M&E like IFTTT, but simple things such as liking, or bookmarking content when someone says something nice about your organisation on social media is a great way to gather an electronic ‘scrapbook’.

4) Learn from the best!   

I constantly draw inspiration both from global development peers’ accounts and from other successful social media accounts. You can keep Twitter lists to follow what your friends are up to in dedicated streams using content management systems like Hootsuite. Take a look at our Twitter lists for R2A Contributors and wider Research Communicators for some inspiration.  

I also asked some of my favourite accounts working around global development research communications and impact for their top tips about using social media via Twitter:  

  • FastTrackImpact said “Know what your audience’s interests are and seek to exceed their expectations. Quality over quantity – don’t tweet if you haven’t got something valuable to say.” 
  • ODI RAPID said “Our lessons for managing social media link very much to our comms MEL work in general. Here are 4 tips/reminders from our comms MEL toolkit: …”  The four tips are 1) keep it simple 2) Don’t just focus on website statistics 3) Always link back to your objectives 4) Feed into wider efforts to measure outcomes and impact.”
  • INASP said “All great points! One more to add from us – try not to just broadcast – aim for engagement and conversation too!” 

If you don’t already you can follow R2A across many social media platforms, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram or even on the more traditional email alerts or an RSS feed. You can also find more advice about using social media platforms more strategically in the Social Media Reading List, or by browsing the social media archive 

If you want to share your reflections and the lessons you have learned from running a global development organisation’s social media channels, you can find out more about contributing an ‘Uptake Anecdote’ to R2A by reading our editorial guidelines. Or say hi on social media!

Could you take over from Laura and run
R2A’s social media accounts?

Read the TORs for this consultancy

Apply by 28 September, 2018, midnight UK time.



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