How to run an online campaign

Five hands joined together in a fist over laptops and power cablesAs an organisation working to benefit people and communities or to tackle particular social issues, you may be interested in running online campaigns to raise awareness of what you do or to solve a specific problem.

To help with this, we’ve put together a few tips for planning and delivering an online campaign, based on our own experiences over the past several years.

1. Set out objectives

Before you do anything, you should be clear about what you want to achieve with your campaign – the rest of your planning will revolve around delivering these objectives.

So whether that’s raising awareness of your work, getting more people to call your new helpline, or recruiting a bunch of new volunteers, make sure to write down two to four campaign aims. It can be helpful to tie these into your organisation’s strategic objectives.

Note – this is also a good time to figure out how you’re going to measure if you’ve met your objectives and what targets you’ll have. For instance, your targets could include total social media reach, the amount of calls your helpline receives, or the number of volunteers you recruit.

2. Identify your audience(s)

Based on your objectives, are there any particular groups of people you need to reach for your campaign to be a success? Examples include:

  • MPs, MSPs and councillors
  • People in a particular location, community, age group, or profession, etc
  • The general public
  • Local media

3. Choose key messages

As part of your campaign you’ll want to communicate information to your audiences. However, it’s worth drafting two or three key messages, and refining and agreeing these with your colleagues.

This is because your key messages will become your ‘go to’ language for any content you create and will thread through many of the materials you produce in your campaign (press releases, social media posts, graphics, blogs, email newsletters, etc.), making your messaging consistent throughout.

4. Create a hashtag

If you’re using social media channels during your campaign, having a hashtag for your campaign allows you to monitor conversations taking place using that hashtag (through a Hootsuite search), measure the social reach of the hashtag (using tools such as Keyhole Analytics) and engage with people who get involved in the campaign.

When creating a hashtag, remember to:

  • make it unique (and check no one else is already using it)
  • keep it short
  • check that combining words together hasn’t resulted in any odd looking or offensive words (this can and has happened to some organisations)
  • tie the hashtag into your key messages, if possible

5. Make a campaign plan

At this point you can create a campaign plan (we tend to be boring and use a colour co-ordinated spreadsheet).

It could include:

  • The content you’ll share
  • What format the content will be in (video, picture, graphic, blog post, press release)
  • When you’ll share the content (down to the specific day and time)
  • Which channels you’ll share it on (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, blog, website) to reach your target audiences, e.g. using your email list if it’s made up of people that you’re trying to reach, or tagging relevant MPs and MSPs on Twitter
  • Who’s in charge of sharing what content
  • Your key messages, as a reminder to everyone involved in the campaign

6. Evaluate

Once your campaign is over, the last step is to evaluate how successful it was by seeing if you met or exceeded the objectives you set out at the beginning, then sharing your findings with the people at your organisation who’d like to know about them.

This is also a good time to draw any learning from the campaign that can be used to inform the next one.

So, those are the main steps we consider when planning and delivering a campaign. Hopefully it’s useful for anyone in the voluntary and community sector (and beyond!) looking to run their own campaigns.

Got some tips of your own? Leave them in the comments below!

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