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Tips & guides 4,720 views Oct 15, 2015
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Characters

Lessons on social media engagement for charities from the feline rulers of the internet

Jeanne-Claire Morley is the Digital Marketing Executive at the Royal Horticultural Society, and previously at Doctors of the World UK. This is her favourite cat video.

Cats run the web. We all know that. Chances are that everyone reading this has accessed at least one cat video in their internet lifetimes or been sent some version of a cat-based meme disguised as a meeting review.

Cats have reached a level of online omnipresence usually only reserved for the Kardashians and they’ve done so without millions of pounds worth of PR. So what are the hard and fast rules about online content that we can learn from our four-legged friends?

Lesson One: Who cares?

Cats in the real world may be adorable, but they do not care about you. The internet has provided a place for all those affection-starved cat lovers to obtain the content they want without risking emotional rejection. Ridiculous as that might sound, cat videos provide the exact content that users who search for them are after. Can you say the same thing about your charity’s online presence?

Your social media should always appeal directly to users who are emotionally involved in your mission. For example: if you’re a health charity then it may be people who have had loved ones affected by the illness your organisation is working against, or if you’re an advocacy charity then you may inflame the conscience of users with whom you’re politically aligned. Whatever it is, make sure that your content not only appeals to that passion trigger, but also constantly provides them with new and relevant information. If you’re serving your audience content that doesn’t consider their needs, your engagement will suffer.

Lesson Two: Know your (visual) worth

Cats are cute. They have tiny paws and noses and are fluffy. They’re also ridiculous creatures who often behave like they’ve been programmed by aliens. As a combination this makes for obviously persuasive viewing, whether that’s image or video-based, and also perfectly demonstrates what it is about cats that people want to engage with.

Whatever your charity, there will be an aspect of it that will be visually compelling. At the Royal Horticultural Society we have the distinct advantage of representing flowers and plants, and as such our media tends to be lush and gorgeous to look at. In general if you think about what it is that makes the work your organisation does important you will get some good inspiration points to start building your social media content strategy. For example, Charity:Water use photos of kids and adults interacting with the water their organisation brings to remote areas of the globe to demonstrate the worth of their work. These types of images give a positive impression of the impact of your charity, and in turn drive good engagement with your charity online.

 Lesson Three: Don’t panic about quality

The best and most engaging cat content online generally doesn’t look like it’s been shot by Martin Scorsese. More often than not it’s the result of one smartphone pointed at the right cat at the right time. The content works because of the cat itself rather than the style of the photo or video.

There’s a propensity when developing content for brand social media to get stuck on overthinking its development, but realistically your subject will do most of the talking for you. Remember lesson one and lesson two: keep in mind the people who care about what you do, and what it is about the work of your charity that matters. Take photos and videos of anything you encounter that fits either of these criteria (or, even better, both) and you will steadily build a library of content for social media without spending a penny.


Image "Turkish Van Cat"




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