miles sedgwick hangout

7 tips for nonprofits using social media and video

Last week’s hangout was a lot of fun, we hope you enjoyed listening in! If you missed it, don’t fret; it’s available in the YouTube video below.

We were honoured to have Miles Sedgwick, Co-Director of BurnessDigital with us, talking about his time working for USAID in the West Bank using social media for outreach campaigns, and his current work at Burness, running advertising campaigns on social media for nonprofits.

As a way to wrap up our discussion, and give you (my valued reader) some key take-aways from our discussion, I’ve synthesised our hangout with some dot points, quotes and links below. 7 tips for nonprofits when using social media and video. Make sure you share! There is some great stuff here that Miles shared with us, and will help with your own social media outreach.

  1. Video on social media is a cost effective way to get your message out to a large number of people
  2. Photos with text overlay work better on social media than videos
  3. Social media and video isn’t always the best way to reach your audience, you must focus on your target market and consider the channels that are going to work the best
  4. In Africa and Latin America, mobile is the number one way people connect online through social networks
  5. Videos that are 2-3 minutes long work the best, but ensure your key message is within the first minute
  6. Radio can play a big role connecting with those who aren’t using social media
  7. Be prepared with a plan for how you will handle a social media crisis situation


Quantify your video: 5 cents per view

‘I had a conversation with nonprofit a couple days ago who said to me, “we believe in social media, we know that it’s important for us to be involved in it, but we also have a hard time spending our limited resources on advertising“. [Social media] felt strange to them. What we tell them though; a way to quantify the dollars they’re spending; for the Facebook video example [below], we’re talking about 5 cents per view of that video.’

This was part of the Aeras Exposed Campaign.

‘You need to think about how valuable it is for you to get your message out to people; 5 cents for someone to watch your video or to be engaged on comments or shares, in countries that you can’t go to, or would be too expensive to go to; that’s really the only way to reach those people. It’s really the best, cheapest and most efficient way to reach those people. When the objective of the organisation is to inform and help people, and that’s a really low cost way to do it.’

Photos with text overlay work even better than videos, these images are easily shared and also really easy to understand and people gravitate to sharing those with their friends much more than video. We all know that peoples attention span on the internet is really short.’


Video and social media in the West Bank

Miles spent some time in the West Bank, in the Middle East, and was engage on social media and radio to improve the public’s perception of the Palestinian authorities  public services.

‘[They wanted to know], how can we make it easier and for people to get their drivers licenses, because [people] weren’t really understanding the process before they got there, so we created a cartoon series to educate and try and make that process a little bit smoother for people. In the cartoon, we had characters taking a number, sitting down, waiting for their turn, and getting their license. It was a simple, short cartoon with funny moments. We shared that on Facebook as videos and images, and people reacted really well to it.’

‘We produced a lot of video content on USAID projects in Africa and in Latin America [in the mid 2,000s], and we’d make dvd’s, and they’d sit on the shelf, or be used as coffee coasters, and  wouldn’t reach the people they needed to.’

‘But in 2009 in the West Bank, it started to make sense that we could use these tools, like YouTube and Facebook, for a message that was very important, and now all of a sudden, there was a way to do it that was more affordable than ever before.’

‘We have to really think about who our audiences are; [you] want everyone to know about your cause, and part of our role [at Burness] is to focus resources for the best possible results, based on what we know will work. Typically what ends up working the best is when you can isolate a few countries or interest topics that are really relevant to your work, and focus on those people first. You’re not pushing your video to the entire world.’

‘The desktop computer has been kicked to the curb, everybody is connecting through their mobile device in Africa and the Middle East; watching videos on their phone, connecting to Facebook on their phone.’


It’s just a matter of timing

‘You need something to grab people; sometimes video works the best, but for other campaigns photos work just as well. It’s nearly impossible to get people to watch a 30 minute video, you have to boil it down to a minute or two, maybe three.’

‘[We noticed that] viewing rates drop off around the minute mark, so you need to make sure your key message is upfront and boil it down, so people want to share [your video], but i wouldn’t let the time frame dictate your story and how long it takes to tell the story.’


Avoiding the echo chamber

A viewer from Perth, Shah Turner of 30 Foot Gorilla, sent us a question via YouTube: one of the issues with social media is the audience can be limited to people who are already interested, how can these campaigns gain awareness with links to everyday products?

Nonprofits worry about the echo chamber and talking to themselves, but social media campaigns really help to break that down. When we can target people on Facebook that are beyond our typical reach, then I think we’re really getting the message out to people that really benefit from it.’

What about the people that are not using social media? We will have that problem anywhere we go, especially in countries where internet access is difficult to obtain or expensive, and I think that there’s still a huge role for radio – radio played a huge role in the West Bank.’


Averting a social media crisis

‘In all of our work we’re worried about a crisis situation unfolding. On Facebook, you do run the risk of people overreacting to either a message that was hidden, or a message that wasn’t responded to, and that escalating to something that completely detracts the audiences attention from your overall mission or goal and twists it into a crisis situation that unfortunately takes up a lot of time and resources.’

‘You need to be prepared within your own group, hold a 20-30 minute meeting about how you would react in that situation.’


Examples Miles shared