Social Media and Recruitment

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Social Media is often seen these days as a "must do" in volunteer recruitment and volunteer management. However, it is less easy to understand what particular social media is best to use and when?

Why using digital communication

Social Media has the advantage of course of being relatively inexpensive. That doesn't mean that it is totally free, you need to take account of the time you take to do it. Some forms of social media do cost, such as paid for Facebook advertising. We have certainly found this method effective in the past, certainly when compared to paid-for print media or the traditions poster on a wall. Paid for advertising this way also allows you to tailor who you are targeting. This can be very useful if you need or want to adapt your message to attract a particular "type" or demographic of volunteers.

"Social Media" is an increasingly broad church so some consideration needs to be given to which particular social media channel is going to work best for you. According to a recent study by Community Brands, Millenials, Gen Xers and Boomers all agree that email updates are their preferred method of communication. For Millennials and Gen Xers social media is the second most preferred method of communication according to the study. Add to that the clear preference by Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2009) for all things digital and it's simply necessary that volunteer recruitment be digitally facing. The BBC Ipsos study of social media platforms utilized by U.K internet users according to age in 2017 indicated that the top social media platforms were: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and growing in use was Snapchat. Among Gen Xers and Boomers that trend in usage was the same. However for Millenials, Facebook and YouTube were still the first and second choices, but the third was Instagram, Twitter was in 4th place and Snapchat was in last place. The Generation Z users also continued to have Facebook and YouTube in the first and second place, but Instagram was the third choice, the same as the Millenials, with Snapchat a close fourth place and Twitter at fifth place.

Effectiveness of internet recruitment

So is it actually effective? Well the Nonprofit Tech for Good released a study in 2018 in which they surveyed over 5,000 NGO's worldwide. Of those surveyed, 95% agree that social media is effective for online brand awareness and 80% agree that social media is effective for recruiting volunteers. The top 3 forms of digital communication deemed most effective were:

  • Email updates
  • Social Media
  • Website

Top Social Media Used by NGO's Worldwide

  1. Facebook Page 93%
  2. Twitter Profile 77%
  3. YouTube Channel 57%
  4. LinkedIn Page 56%
  5. Instagram Profile 50%

Best Practices

As with any type of marketing random posting on what ever social media channel you can lay your hands on is unlikely to work. It's important to do so thinking and be strategic about it. If you are investing valuable time then do it well!

  1. Tie into existing marketing. Social media should be clearly visible on the volunteer pages of your website, your email updates and bulletins and other communication either printed or digital.
  2. Social media is the perfect place to promote your stories, events and opportunities. Sharing information about your volunteers is a great way to show appreciation and provide another opportunity to thank your volunteers. Its a wonderful media to tell the story of the work that your NGO and your volunteers do. Transformation stories are some of the most powerful. Here's an example from the Front Street Animal Shelter in Sacramento, California which was created using a smartphone. In simple terms the story of the very damaged animal named Sugar was saved and rehabilitated by the work of volunteers who fostered the dog in their home so it could heal and develop. Later the dog was adopted and now lives a new and very happy life. It is a good practice to capitalise on current circumstances. For example, this is a short video from the same organisation, where volunteers are baking cookies on the dashboard of a car during a heatwave to show how hot it gets inside with the windows up as a reminder to pet owners not to leave their pets inside the car. All of this was made possible by the work of these dedicated volunteers.
  3. Be visually engaging. Photos capture the eye as do graphics. Infographics can share your information and story effectively in a visual format that quickly communicates information you need to share. Tools for free illustrations include Freepik. A free photo editing software is Photo Filtre Studio X and free photos are available through Pixabay, Negative Space, ISO Republic.
  4. Define your voice. A children's museum can be whimsical and simple in the use of color and design. A classical ballet company may want to use more sophisticated graphics, color and fonts. Language used can vary as well. A good tool for use in creating eye-catching graphics is
  5. Create a posting schedule. Examples might be Motivational Monday, Wednesday Weekly Why, Thankful Thursday and Feature Friday to suggest just a few. Link to holidays such as the New Year and tie into New Year's resolutions or if you are seeking tutors try posting your need around the beginning of the school year.
  6. Recycle posts. Cross post an event or opportunity over multiple platforms. One of the tools that can help an NGO post across several social media platforms and schedule posts is Hootsuite and another is Buffer.
  7. Provide a mixture of content: appreciation, advocacy and appeals. Appreciation would include thanking your volunteers and sharing their stories. Advocacy involves sharing content about your field and work. This can come from outside NGO's that you re-post or it can be your own. Appeals can include your "asks" for people to volunteer, donate, or in other ways support your NGO.
  8. Amplify your social media. State on your posts what you want your audience to do. For instance, if you want a request or other information shared widely, ask your audience to share or re-tweet. Don't be shy. Tell your audience what you need them to do. Direct your audience to tag themselves in your posts if you like. Allow others to post on your behalf. Many businesses do this where they will offer someone they consider to have influence with their market to "take over" their social media feed for a set period of time - often 24 hours. This draws that individual or agency's audience to your pages as well as offers a new voice. This can add diversity to your postings.
  9. Video is trending. In the past social media was mostly text. Then it went through a phase where it was photos, and now it's moved to video. With the advent of Facebook Live anyone has a TV camera in their pocket and can broadcast to the world. Free video editing tool: Flyr Creative Studio. Here's a short video from the Front Street Animal Shelter in Sacramento, California sharing information about free animal adoptions. It was made on a smartphone with simple editing tools. It went viral with over 366,000 views and emptied the shelter.
    1. Optimum Video Length (HubSpot recommendations.)
      1. YouTube - 2 minutes
      2. Facebook - 1 minute
      3. Twitter - 45 seconds
      4. Instagram - 30 seconds
  10. What's next? Mobile accessibility is key. The world's top mobile applications are social media and messaging applications: WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Growing in popularity in the U.K. and the U.S. is Snapchat - especially among Generation Z. Currently 18% of NGO's use messaging applications to communicate with donors and supporters, but that is likely to grow according to Nonprofit Tech for Good.


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