Social media. We are all using it daily. There is nothing like the rush of increasing likes and follows. But what if you are global? How do you bring your in-country work to social media in real-time and weave it effectively into your global brand story?

I was asked to introduce a first-time social media strategy to highlight the work of a humanitarian organization’s projects and stakeholders in Asia and Africa. The desire – and the ultimate challenge – was to bring country projects and stories to the forefront of all online communications.

Any visitor to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube sites should know within seconds where they work and the nature of their work. Normally? Not a problem. However, the eight countries we were targeting were the poorest and least secure of any in the world. Getting information out quickly and developing a means to do so was made that much harder by daily technology and communication challenges that you and I take for granted. So what did we do?

Improve staffing. We moved from using an external agency to bringing in a social media coordinator on staff to improve the communication flow between the communications team and country offices. We also bridged the time zone gap by placing an intern in Europe – on the same time zone as Africa and just a few hours difference with Asia.

Open channels of communication between country officers/representatives. The onus lies with communications staff to do this. Once a week contact is preferable either via Skype or email. Your social media staff and country offices should always be connected via Skype for ease of access.

Train one or two members in each country office on taking video clips and photos. Encourage them to take videos when in the field and at meetings. At this stage, quality will come by encouraging quantity. The training can be added on to a larger meeting at headquarters to save on travel and budget expenditures.

Create a dedicated country YouTube (or Vimeo), Flickr and Instagram account for uploading to avoid file transfers to headquarters.

Encourage your country staff to engage with your social media channels by sharing content, liking, commenting and re-tweeting where appropriate and interacting with each other on lessons learned in the field. Your staff will become more comfortable using social media while expanding awareness in-country.

Over a six-month period, we were able to weave in stories of our work in Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia and South Africa by actively engaging country staff. Through continual communication between the social media team and the country teams, a seamless communication channel began to open enabling us to promote our work in real time and to create story themes between countries.

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