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Social Media Overload: The Art of Connecting With Your Audience in the Age of Distraction

6 March 2018 at 7:33 am
As audiences are changing and becoming more demanding, it is time for a reminder on the formula for good content production, writes Sally Cunningham, communications manager at FrontStream.

Contributor | 6 March 2018 at 7:33 am


Social Media Overload: The Art of Connecting With Your Audience in the Age of Distraction
6 March 2018 at 7:33 am

As audiences are changing and becoming more demanding, it is time for a reminder on the formula for good content production, writes Sally Cunningham, communications manager at FrontStream.

It’s part of my job to be on social media everyday but would I spend this much time online if that wasn’t the case? It’s a love hate rollercoaster and occasionally a shameful secret compulsion. Let’s talk about the bad, the good and the future of social and how not for profits can adapt to this evolution of behaviour online.

Everything in moderation

Users can still feel connected and informed by spending a little less time online. The “paradox of plenty” has taken on a new meaning in the online community as feeds are bombarded with so much content it can be blinding. Even Facebook has recently changed its algorithm to show their audience more content from friends in their news feeds and less from business and private enterprise.

I’m not an advocate for switching off completely of course. Social channels can be a great source of connection and information as so many not for profits and their devotees appreciate. However, the need for better content and measurable engagement is what you should aim for when it comes to posting. An audience lead shift in online behaviour reinforces the rule of quality over quantity.

Quality over quantity

There are two schools of thought here; one suggests loads of keyword laden posts as frequently as possible and the other is top quality articles. An SEO manager may suggest that a good article, two or three times a week, is essential for Google ranking and general visibility, but depending on your organisational resources, this can be un-achievable. The other camp (mine) leans on the side of quality first. Whatever you post, and whatever platform you post on, original high quality content is more important than the frequency of posts.

I question how engagement can be achieved if content is padded with baseless language and argument. Readers can see through this type of content as they have seen it so often. The search for new ideas, real information, storytelling is harder and requires more effort but if the aim is genuine measureable engagement then this should be the most effective method. We have all fallen for the “clickbait” headline, soon followed by comments of “this is not news” which devalues trust of an organisation, and in many ways, the social channel itself.

I dream of an online environment where good opinion pieces are read and discussed akin to the good old days when people sat down to read the Saturday paper and sip a latte or two at their local café – what a pleasure.

That’s not relevant

If a tree falls in the forest will anyone record it and upload it to YouTube? No, because it’s not a quality topic to donate their limited time too. Any point in an article or call to action needs to be relevant to be engaging, and compassion fatigue is alive and well online so messages need to be factual and only mildly shocking, impact must be outlined and where possible a genuine connection to audience needs to be attempted through tone and length. Fundraisers need to be storytellers, outlining the problems their mission works to solve. Their online content needs to offer hope and solutions through a call to action supported by evidence of proven impact.

This formula of content production is well known, but it is time for a reminder because the audience is changing and becoming more demanding. There are questions about the health impact of social media on people, both physical and mental. According to the Royal Society of Public Health UK, Instagram is the most detrimental social media impacting the mental health of young people, followed by the other very visual app Snapchat. Both are accused of inducing anxiety and depression amongst its audience who feel pressure to live up to the “published perfection” they see online. According to, social media can be more addictive than cigarettes, leaving many feeling anxious. A confronting thought in the context of how our community is constantly connected to their devices. Some users have reassessed their usage and are fasting from social media, taking time out from time online. Self-inflicted social media detoxes are expected to rise as users become frustrated with average content and the time-sucking nature of scrolling their free time away.

It’s not completely hopeless, if you can’t reach more people online then at least improve your chances of connecting with the right people. Good quality original articles targeted to your audience are the best method for measureable engagement. Just treat social media as part of the campaign, email is experiencing a renewed resurgence as well as blogs, podcasts and other online outlets. Audiences are receiving news in different ways as less autonomy is seen by traditional news outlets and independent sources reach new engaged audiences. The digital revolution is constantly evolving and will continue to do so, but for many not for profit organisations the core message remains the same, it’s just a new and varied delivery. Be prepared for more change.

About the author: Sally Cunningham is the communications manager at FrontStream, a digital fundraising platform and has worked in communications positions in commercial and not for profit organisations for more than ten years. With a fascination for the constantly changing digital environment Sally is always looking at what people are doing next to predict how digital will evolve.

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