Viral videos, memes and more: How to engage in the internet as a charity

One of the best ways for charities to increase their engagement (and therefore increase people visiting their site) is to engage with what’s popular online. That could be a viral challenge, a meme or just a topic everyone is talking about. During these moments online, some of the best responses come from charities and it often raises their profile in the process. 

If you’re not sure how your charity can be part of these online crazes and trends, I’ve put together some advice below to help you be prepared for the next internet sensation as well as some real life examples. 

Keep it Relevant
How does the current popular viral challenge/meme affect your charity personally? Do you actually have something to say about it? For example, I was working for the Church of England when Pokemon Go started to become popular, I saw that many Pokéstops or Gyms were located at churches (which meant players of the game might be visiting the churches) and wrote a blog to advise churches on how they could engage with the game. The blog was picked up by various media outlets including the BBC. It showed the church engaging with popular culture and in a positive light.

Remember: The best charity responses work when there is a clear connection between the charity and the topic. Tenuous links are obvious and often ineffective.

Keep an eye on the TV
A 2017 survey found that three-quarters of British people use a second screen while watching TV (that number could be much higher now) and so it’s a good idea to try and engage with the people who are online whilst watching TV. Keep an eye on the TV and radio schedule and look out for particular topics being covered which relate to your charity’s work. You could just put out a couple of posts making other people aware of the show and let them know when it’ll be on, alternatively, you could live tweet during the show. Comment on accuracy, stories of people in similar situations or other interesting statistics. During a 2018 episode of Casualty where they were due an inspection, the Care Quality Commission live tweeted throughout.

Put a spin on things
What’s great about a charities’ involvement in a viral meme is the way they can put a spin on things to send a more serious message. For example, During the height of the ‘bottle cap challenge’ Parkinson’s UK posted a video, showing how hard it can be for people with Parkinson’s to unscrew a bottle cap.

Also, during the recent FaceApp craze, GreenPeace in Russia ‘aged’ landscape photos to show how climate change will badly affect the country in the future.

Both these examples make people think differently about the viral content in a clever and unique way, challenging and changing perceptions. Sometimes giving an alternative point of view will gain more attention than just going along with what everyone else is doing. Putting your own twist on the challenge or meme may be the best way to get your point across.  

Provide information in an engaging way. 
One of the most simple ways to engage with the biggest news online is to check the trending topics. I’ve gone into more detail about joining conversations online in a previous blog, but it’s worth mentioning it again. Look for the news making the biggest impact online and find ways to provide helpful information and advice. For example, during the recent heatwave, animal, geriatric and health charities all shared videos and graphics with advice on how to look after people and animals in the heat. 

Don’t forget to use the most popular hashtag or two when posting your content so that more people see it!

Don’t be late
There’s nothing more awkward than a charity trying to get in on the act of a viral video challenge two weeks after everyone else. I also understand it can be hard for a charity to move quickly if there is a lot of governance and higher ups needing to approve things (especially if the higher ups have less of an understanding about all things internet). Try and create content as quickly as you can (some of the best charity responses I’ve seen were quick, cheap and easy to make) and get approval as soon as possible. The success of the content can help to build trust in your work and could give you the leeway you need to work quickly. It also might be worth organising some training for the higher ups on social media and the internet, show them some examples of charities doing it well, like the ones mentioned in this post, and this could also build a better understanding of your work and what you need to do it well. 


Got any other examples that you’ve seen or have any questions? Let me know in the comments below.

Looking for more digital marketing advice for your business or charity? Check out my marketing advice tag to view all blogs on the subject.

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