So you saw “Macmillan Cancer Support” and thought “Nurses!” right? Welcome to the tip of the iceberg.
Last year we celebrated our centenary and for most of that century we’ve been not only funding nurses but providing emotional support, information and grants. We also campaign for better care and social support.
However in our centenary year we spent a lot more time looking forwards than backwards. We’ve calculated that in the next 20 years, the number of people living with cancer in the UK will double to over 4 million. And we realised that one way to deal with this increased demand for our services was to make best use of social media, not only to deliver our services but also to inspire others to get involved with Macmillan.
We see social media as being a central part of everyone’s communications on a par with email or answering the phone. For this reason we’re training all our staff how to use it intelligently and effectively. It figures in all of our work and is integrated with our other communication channels. Someone first contacting us on Twitter may be pointed towards an offline information centre or get a call from our support line. Or someone calling the support line might be encouraged to check out the peer-to-peer support we offer in our online community.
Macmillan’s communityis the cornerstone of much of our online work. While it functions largely as a peer-to-peer support group, we have a dedicated team to manage the service and monitor activity. We aim to make the community as accessible as possible for people in an emergency who desperately need support and advice. For this reason we encourage a culture of relative anonymity to allow people to speak freely without embarrassment. Obviously the odd spammer or snake oil salesman slips in but we’ve found that several members of our community are very good at spotting and reporting them, so they rarely last long. Our community members have a strong sense of ownership of “Macland” as they call it and we’re very grateful for their commitment and help.
Not all the support we offer in the community is peer-to-peer. Our community admins work closely with staff from our support line. Community members in crisis have always been handled by the support line but increasingly staff are getting more proactive on our online channels. Our financial guidance team spent two weeks over the summer getting involved with the community and offering information and support. Officially they were planning just the two week pilot but they’ve never left! We also have nurses who do live Q&A sessions in the community chat room and on Facebook. Transcripts of the live chats are also posted and these are often read by 10-20 times as many people as actually attended the session. When news stories are announced, the support line will allocate a team member to answer questions on social media and provide support. Followers can ask questions privately but about half are happy to post in public on our wall. We’ve calculated that a nurse engaging on our Facebook page can reach up to 24,000 people with each post.
We also rely heavily on social media for maintaining contact with our healthcare professionals and reaching new audiences. We encourage members of staff to build up their own networks as appropriate. For example our Head of Informationattends a lot of conferences and seminars where tweeting is encouraged. She live tweets these events and has built up a strong following among other information professionals as a result.
We don’t see these accounts as taking attention away from our main social media accounts but as a way of reaching new audiences. For example the creative teamin our marketing department are very active on Twitter. They don’t talk so much about cancer, they talk about the projects they’re working on and the inspirational ideas they find online. Obviously this attracts an audience of designers but these are people who might not otherwise think of approaching Macmillan when they are considering supporting a charity or are in need of information or support.
After a little experimentation we know which platforms work best for various audiences. For example we realised that LinkedInnot only worked well for Healthcare professionals but also as a good way of staying in touch with former employees – many of whom are still interested in our work and are active as fundraisers. Our fundraisers also congregate on Facebook. However we never compartmentalise any of our groups – many of our fundraisers and supporters are also people living with cancer.
Similarly although our online community is largely focussed on people living with cancer, our volunteering department also runs a group in there. It’s managed, naturally, by a volunteer. We’re moving towards a greater diversity of groups, including fundraisers and campaigners for example. We want to make our community more representative of Macmillan as a whole. Since many of them rarely venture beyond the community and into the web site, this approach also raises awareness of the range of ways community members can get involved in our work.
In addition to the team monitoring activity in the community, we also live monitor all our social media channels. We work with the PR department to make sure that big news stories get as much attention as possible and we need to make sure we’re on the right track throughout the day. We recently subscribed to Salesforce’s Radian 6 software which allows us to benchmark our work against previous similar projects. Unsurprisingly we’re also big fans of free tools such as Topsey and Hootsuite.
Last month we got to see how well our strategy was paying off. The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is our annual fundraising activity. Social media was used to underpin all of our activities around this event – answering questions, helping recruit event hosts, promoting ideas and recipes, showcasing amazing cake designs, thanking our celebrity supporters and highlighting some of the imaginative events being planned. On the day it was the perfect way to make people aware that they were part of national activity and – with over 100,000 coffee mornings taking place – a record breaking event. On Twitter our hashtag and account name trended repeatedly all morning. Even this helped raise awareness as we noticed a lot people looking for a local public event as they didn’t want to miss out!
For a day everyone was able to say – “We are Macmillan Cancer Support” – now we want to get them saying that every day!
Carol Naylor is the Social Media and Online Communities Manager for Macmillan Cancer Support. She and her team are responsible for maintaining Macmillan’s online communities including 65,000 members of Macmillan’s own online community and over 130,000 followers on Facebook. They also support the staff behind Macmillan’s 30 regional and fundraising Facebook pages as well as over 50 Twitter accounts. Carol has been involved medical communications and online communities for over 20 years.
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