Thursday, April 26, 2012

Connecting and engaging with research audiences: Oxfam social media mix and strategy

Earlier in April 2012 the third and last R4D peer exchange meeting took place in DFID. After having discussed issues related to measuring the success in research uptake and understanding audiences behaviours in accessing digital content, this third session looked into how to connect and engage with research audiences. Joel Bassouk, Digital Communications Manager at Oxfam International, presented the great work that his organisation is doing, how they are using social media and the results they are achieving.

Oxfam social media mix and strategy may be fairly similar to what others are doing but clearly the scale of the results achieved by the organisation is impressive. Some key points and practises are definitely worth mentioning and highlighting.

According to Joel, connecting and engaging with users online means first and foremost to know the audiences you are targeting your communication to. Google Analytics, user surveys and regular content audits are key elements of this process.

Once you have clear who you want to reach, the next step is to create good and engaging content: research reports, articles, policy papers, blogs, press releases, photos, videos, infographics, presentations, case studies, op-eds, interviews - these are all content items that need to be taken in consideration. But equally important, it's to define clear guidelines, workflows and sign-off process that each staff member can easily access through the corporate intranet.

However, it is not enough to have great content if this just sits on a website. Therefore, Joel reminded us how important it is for this content to be findable, searchable and shareable. In Oxfam's experience, as for may other organisation, visits from search engines represent the first source of inbound traffic. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and writing for the web need to be taken seriously if you want make sure Google search works in your favour and not against you. 

Additionally, one key element that emerged from Oxfam experience is the need to repackage and cross post content on the different social media channels in use. Oxfam produces a lot of research reports and the digital communication team accompanies these with additional outputs such as infographics and images but also sound bites and 'three things about the report'. These additional outputs are tweeted and posted on the appropriate channels.

But with all the social and digital media available, how do you choose the right mix? According to Joel, there's a clear A-list that forms Oxfam social media portfolio: Facebook, Twitter YouTube and Flickr are clearly the must-have channels. Additionally, Oxfam makes also use of Google+, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Scribd.

Last but not least, RSS feed should not be forgotten - and I cannot agree more with this: as an old colleague of ours used to say, "RSS are really the blood of the social web."