Using social media to promote your organisation or project

10 July 2015

Sheena Fletcher looks at helpful things to think about when promoting information online, focusing on some basic questions and things to think about before you get started.

Welcome to the first in a series of blogs looking at some of the communications and engagement work we undertake here at the GCPH and providing some advice and guidance on different topics, based on the knowledge and experience of some of our team members. Kicking off the series, I’m focusing on helpful things to think about when using social media to promote your organisation or project. 

The ways in which organisations use social media vary greatly depending on for what purpose they are using it. In this blog I’ll outline some basic questions and things to think about before you get started – and feel free to ask questions, or share any useful hints and tips, in the comments section below. 

First of all, work out what you are trying to achieve 

Remember that using social media tools is only useful when they help to meet business objectives – don’t just do it for the sake of it. Social media should be part of your organisation’s wider communications strategy. 

Whether you want to draw an audience’s attention to research publications, promote events or simply engage with your service users to provide useful information and assistance, you’ll need to identify what it is you want to achieve with social media. For example: are you using social media to allow people to access information and give feedback on physical services that you offer (for example health services, community facilities)? Or is your overall objective to build up a topic-based network and get more people reading your reports and publications? 

Working out what you want to achieve is the first step to a good social media communications strategy. 

Look for examples of good practice 

Be proactive in looking for other organisations in your field or topic area who are examples of good practice; follow them and learn from their activity.  What kind of tone do they use? How often do they update? What kind of content do they post? 

Similarly, look for relevant organisations in your geographical and topic area – these may be ties which are already in place; just ensure as well as being connected in terms of working together, you are also connected online. For example, you should follow any partner organisations, related services, umbrella organisations that you have contact with offline. 

Simple tips for posting on social media 

  • Don’t be afraid to tweet/post the same thing more than once as people may have missed it the first time. However, do not do this in quick succession as this may be seen as ‘spam’ and could irritate your followers and perhaps lead to them unfollowing you. 
  • Don’t feel you have to wait until you have something new to post about – simply raising awareness of your organisation’s website and online resources, such as publications, and information about ongoing work is good to generate a constant flow of activity. 
  • Once you’ve identified relevant organisations or people to follow, have a wider look on Twitter to identify any relevant hashtags you can use. You can then incorporate any useful hashtags into your tweets to ensure your posts reach a wider audience.
  • Using hashtags ties your posts to wider topics – for example if there is an awareness day or a conference relating to a topic you have information about, find out if there’s a hashtag for the event and use it to link your content to the wider theme. For example, I recently used the #breastfeedingawareness week hashtag to promote our research into breastfeeding rates – this resulted in 11 retweets.
  • If you use HootSuite or another social media dashboard you can draft and schedule posts so you can organise the workload a bit more efficiently. 

Think in terms of dozens and hundreds, not necessarily thousands 

The number of followers you aim for should be realistic, based on your organisation’s size and the size of your target group. In general, national and international organisations tend to have more followers than smaller local organisations simply because their potential audience is wider.

Getting hung up on follower numbers can be a bit unhelpful – it’s much better to have meaningful online engagement with a few hundred people than have a following in the thousands who don’t interact at all. 

How will you handle complaints or specific service enquiries from the public through social media channels? 

Your organisation will already have processes in place to channel enquiries and complaints to the relevant teams or people, and complaints in particular are often handled through a corporate feedback process which may require a lot of personal details. 

It is important to establish early on how social media will be aligned with existing feedback processes. If you have a procedure in place, you will be able to respond in a calm and appropriate manner, without panic or the feeling that a reply must be sent quickly – which can sometimes result in undesirable consequences. 

It could be as simple as redirecting people making complaints or asking specific questions on social media platforms to a web feedback form to give more details. This takes the feedback off a public forum and into the proper channel where appropriate.  

Handling complaints and enquiries is a good example of why social media should be a part of your organisation’s wider communications process and not stand alone – it is one of many tools you can use to communicate with your audience. 

Coming up next… 

In the next blog, I’ll be looking at the basics of how to measure progress and use analytics to improve and report on your use of social media.


About the author

Sheena Fletcher Digital Communications Officer


Sheena was the Centre's Digital Comms Officer from 2012-22 and was responsible for management and development of the Centre's websites and social media. 

Sheena also designed infographics and animations to help promote key findings and increase the accessibility of the Centre's research.

Read all articles by Sheena Fletcher