15 Nov 2023
Social media lets you share information and interact with likeminded people. Setting up a social media profile for your group can help you:
- Reach people who might support or join your group.
- Spread awareness about your events, petitions and wins.
- Have a platform to lobby local decision makers.
- Connect with other groups and organisations in your community.
But before you dive in, it’s worth taking the time to plan how and when your group will use the wealth of social media platforms available to you. You don’t have to use them all and it's definitely worth deciding which ones to prioritise before you set anything up.
In this guide we’ll look at the most popular platforms used by local action groups. If you’d like advice on any others, please get in touch with us.
Share the load
Using social media effectively can take a lot of time, energy and effort. We suggest setting up a team of 2-3 people to look after your channel(s). Here’s how you could split it up:
- Research and planning – map out event and campaign moments and plan when and where to post about them.
- Writing and scheduling content – create your posts and use scheduling tools to save time getting the word out
- Responding to people – reply to comments and queries
- Promotion and analysis – boost your content to widen your reach and analyse what’s working well on your channels.
Watch our video on how best to share social media responsibilities.
Recruit a specialist
A common challenge for local action groups is not having the time or confidence to look after social media. If that’s the case for your group then why not recruit a volunteer to manage your channels?
There are plenty of people who want to find a way to use their skills for good but don’t know where to begin. You could be just what they’re looking for. Use your existing platforms – social media pages, email list and group contacts – to put the word out. You’re looking for people with:
- A background in running social media accounts
- Strong writing and communication skills
- An interest in the environmental movement.
Read this suggested advert to get you started.
Stay in control
Make sure at least 2 people have access to each of your social media channels at all times. You need to maintain admin access because getting back in can be tricky once you’re locked out. You should also update passwords when people step down or move on from your group.
It’s also worth looking at additional security measures – like 2-factor authentication. This can sometimes cause headaches where you have shared access but it will protect your accounts from unauthorized intruders.
Be mindful of attempts to hack into your social media accounts. A common scam on Facebook is a direct message telling you your page will be disabled. Here's an example:
If you think something doesn't look quite right, don't click on the link. Social media companies generally won't use direct messages to communicate with you if there's a problem.
Set up your profile
Your profile gives people an introduction to your group. Use the checklist below to make sure you’re ready to start posting content:
- Make sure your profile name is easy to understand.
- Use the same profile picture with the same image on each profile.
- Add key information – your location and a link to your website or events page.
- Make sure your "About Me" section on each social platform is clear, for example: "We're a local action group working to promote sustainability within <insert your area>. Open to all. Sign up to join us using the link below."
We have template profile pictures and banner images if you’re stuck for something to use.
Which channel is right for you?
Every social media platform is different. Here’s a guide for how some of them can support your group’s work.
Facebook supports a wider range of content formats and offers a choice between 2 different things – a Group and a Page.
A Page acts like a mini-website where others can find out about your group. You can post news and updates and people can get in touch using Messenger or by posting themselves. If you want to use Facebook to promote your events and recruit more people to your group or campaign, then opt for a Page.
A Group is more of a forum or online space for people to engage with each other eg, to discuss issues with your members. Over time you can build a real sense of community and make your group a resource that people really value. But Groups can also be a lot of effort to maintain. You’ll need to play a guiding role by creating, monitoring and enforcing rules. You may also need to spend time moderating content to avoid spam or abusive posts. See our moderation tips for advice on this.
You can have both Page and Group, but me mindful that you’ll have more to look after.
X (formerly known as Twitter) is a microblogging site which aims to connect its users and let them share their thoughts with their followers. It can be a source of news, entertainment and discussion too. Posts have a character limit but can contain photos, videos and links as well as text.
Because X is a public forum used by politicians, journalists, business leaders and celebrities, it can a useful campaigning tool for your group. The resources below aren’t designed specifically for Local Action Groups but contain useful advice and tips.
Threads is a similar platform created by Meta – the parent company of Facebook and Instagram.
Instagram is a somewhat simplified version of Facebook, with a focus on just photo and video content. It emphasises sharing visuals and mobile phone use. It can be a good platform for awareness raising but less successful if you’re trying to drive people to take action e.g. sign a petition.
If you’re new to Instagram you might find the resources below helpful.
Learn the lingo
Social media changes fast so we recommend taking the time to get up to speed with the platform(s) your group uses. Here are some common terms you might come across:
- Handle – your social media username, usually preceded by the @ symbol e.g. @birminghamfoe
- Post – content shared on social media. Posts can include text, images, videos and links. Other users can like, comment or share your posts. You can tag other users by including their handle in the post.
- Hashtag – used before a word or phrase to connect posts on the same subject or trending topic e.g. #climatechange
- Thread – a series of comments and replies related to an individual post on social media.
- Follower – someone who can see your social media content.
Head to this glossary to explore other common terms and phrases.
Social media platforms use a set of rules to dictate the content you see. These algorithms look at a range of factors to decide if something is relevant to show to people, who to show it to and how often. The algorithms get updated regularly but their basic premise is to learn from your behaviour.
If you regularly engage with certain users or types of content then you’ll be shown more of the same in the future. Each platform has its own algorithm.
Facebook prioritises content it thinks you’ll want to share with your friends. The most interesting conversation-starters get more reach; if a post has triggered a lot of conversation amongst your friends then you’ll see it more than once.
X is looking for the latest trends and news. Conversation is key, especially on trending topics. Posts with strong engagement with posts are given priority and higher visibility than posts which just broadcast information out into the ether.
Instagram rewards high-quality visuals. Like other platforms it shows you a mix of content you want to see and content it thinks you want to see. Consistency is key. Quantity of posts is less important.
Engagement metrics – such as likes, comments, and shares – greatly influence what appears in your feed. Newer content often gets priority to keep your feed fresh, but older content with consistent engagement can resurface.
Those same algorithms control how the content your group’ social media is shown to other users. The more you post and engage with your followers, the more they’ll be shown new content you put out.
The good news is if you’re following the steps in this guide, you’ll be well on the way to producing social media content that works for the algorithms.
Here are our tops tips for using Facebook, X, Threads and Instagram.
- Be patient. Starting a new social media profile can be a learning curve. Some things will work, some won’t. Over time it’ll become clear what your audience responds to.
- Be positive. The climate crisis can sometimes be overwhelming. Balance your posts with some feel-good stories to help your followers connect positively with you.
- Post regularly. Aim for 3-5 times a week for Facebook and Instagram and once a day for X/ Threads. Social media companies like their platforms to be used. If you’re not posting regularly then your content will be shown to fewer people.
- Always give value. Give your audience something new and worthwhile. Can you offer a unique local angle to an issue or a trending topic?
- Use clear language so your posts are easy for everyone to understand. Don’t forget to check your spelling and grammar.
- Make use of #hashtags. Hashtags are a good way to get your content in front of more people but stick to a maximum of 3 per post. And don't include more than 1 link per post.
- Use the pin feature. Pin your post to the top of your profile to draw attention to your most important message.
- Impartiality and sensitive information. Avoid sharing sensitive or revealing information. Social media is a very public space. You need to remain politically impartial on social media, particularly during elections.
- Make your content shareable. Don’t always ask for shares and don’t ask for likes. Give your audience new or useful information and make it shareable instead.
- Communicate with your audience. People feel valued when you take the time to reply to them. Reply to comments. Run polls, start conversations.
- Don’t make it all about yourself. Follow or like other users and share their news stories and updates. Look for local people, news outlets, businesses, organisations and decision-makers to get started.
How to structure a good post
Social media channels can be very fluid and conversational, so there isn’t a one-size fits all approach to structuring your posts. But here’s a useful framework to use if you’re just starting out writing content.
- Start with a question or bold statement – intrigue, encourage, question.
- Give more detail or insight – what expertise can you bring?
- Push to action - ie, a question, a link, a share. Make it clear.
- Be relevant and timely.
- Make sure your visual is necessary and adds something.
Plan your schedule
Plotting and scheduling your social media content in advance can help you:
- Save time. Automating your content creation can free you up to focus on other aspects e.g. reviewing performance
- Stay consistent and reduce the risk of mistakes
- Plan for key moments and keep your content timely and relevant
- Reach your audience at the best times.
A social media calendar – with an overview of upcoming posts organised by date and time – can be a great investment. Choose the format that works best you for. We've included some suggestions below if you're stuck.
Here are some tips to help you plan your social media content:
- Themed weeks or months. Use a theme to plan content over a period of time. Tie it to related external events wherever possible, so your posts feel relevant and timely.
- Repeat yourself. People generally need to see something more than once before acting. Don’t be afraid to say the same thing more than once. You can always different words or images to avoid it feeling too repetitious.
- Tell personal stories. Social media is all about the human connection. Try and sell your story with emotion, not just facts and statistics. Using the people and voices within your group to tell a tale will resonate more deeply with your audience.
Watch our video to find out more about creating and planning your content.
Audio visual content
Social media content with an image or video is much more likely to get attention. Our brains respond quickly to images and colour compared to other types of information – when people don’t have time to read a lot.
A photo, graphic or video can sometimes tell a better story than the written word. Here are our top tips to help you out:
- Use a variety of images to keep your audience’s attention.
- Use relevant and engaging images that add something to your content. Photos and videos of people in action work well.
- Find free stock images at Pixabay, Pexels and Unsplash.
- Stick to landscape format as much as possible.
- Take your own using our guide for good photos and videos.
- Check out Canva if you’re looking to design something. There are lots of guides to help you.
- Explore artificial image generation using platforms like Firefly and Canva. Be sure to say when you’re using AI generated images.
It's good practice to see what’s working for your channel and what can be changed. It’s really worth spending some time analysing how your content performs. You’ll identify which posts generate the most interactions and can be emulated in the future. And learn from the ones which don’t do as well. Can they be adjusted to improve results next time?
Social media platforms will generally show you the following metrics
- Impressions – the number of times your post has been seen
- Reach – the number of people your post has been seen by
- Engagements – the total number of Likes, Comments, Shares
Engagements like comments or "reactions" are more valuable than Likes, as they take more time and usually show an emotional response eg, laughter. Shares are valued across all platforms. "Saves" on Instagram are also rated highly because it indicates good quality content that someone wants to return to it in future.
Watch our short video to see how you can review and analyse your channels social media performance.
Boost your Facebook posts
Take the performance of your social media up a notch with advertising. Paid social helps you get your content in front of more people, so they can engage with it and take action. We suggest using Facebook over X or Instagram because it’s typically much cheaper and has more effective targeting options.
You can create paid ads, which use variations of text and images and more detailed targeting. But a time-saving and simple alternative for your group is to "boost" an existing post. You’ll need to go through a verification process before you can start but putting a little bit of money behind a post can make a big difference.
Find out more about boosting your posts.
This guide is designed to help you get started with social media. If you have any questions or want help with things not covered here please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.