How to use Social Media 4 Community Development

by TheoThompson on June 30, 2015 No comments

How to use Social Media 4 Community development is one of the most frequent questions i am asked. Community development by definition “A process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.” The question is how do you use Social Media in a socially acceptable way to help your community?

Starting Community Development in any area can be an intimidating task. There are so many variables to consider. Do you have an infrastructure to support and sustain the local community? Do you have passionate local people on board? Does the community really need any support? These are just a few points to be considered. 

A vital and often overlooked question is how can you use social media to compliment and maximise your community development efforts. So let’s look at some of the ways social media can add value to community development work.


Most people use social media to distribute information on what they are doing and how great their event or project is. The truth is in today’s culture is that people see this as spam, just like newsletters and leaflets that are posted through your letter box. This is just creating noise and nobody has got time for that. If you want to get people’s attention you need to ask yourself what is already holding their attention by asking key questions. See my previous blog

What you may want to focus on is how to personalise content that resonates with a certain niche audience in the community. Think depth not reach. It isn’t about how many people know about you it is about how many people care about why you do what you do. The level of depth of your relationships in the community is what matters. Create content that is valuable to a specific group of people in your community. To understand what this is and why it works see

By doing this you will attract more members of the community to your cause while spreading the awareness of your brand in the local community. 



More and more people are attracted to news they can use. Useful information is some of the most liked, shared, and commented on content on the web. If there is information that is useful to a certain demographic in your community people will engage with you because you are providing them with value. As my saying goes, add so much value they could never ignore you. A simple example is if you are looking to target moms of children aged between 4-12 you could create a visual way of telling them the dates the children break up and go back to local schools. Even though it may have nothing to do with your project it is useful information mothers will be thankful for. You may think well don’t schools do this? Some do with letters but you just ask moms how many times they throw letters away because they don’t have time to read them all the way through. But if you package this information in a way they like to digest it (visually) on the platforms their eyes are already engaged with, they will take it in.

If you are a local authority housing provider and you want to get information out to tenants to let them know that the routine for refuse collection has changed, you can package this in an informative visual way. This is a lot more engaging than a letter that comes in the post to get thrown away or an email that goes straight to junk mail. Establish yourself as a useful resource in the community.

Brand Advocacy/Volunteers

The key to attracting people that believe what you believe, is about clearly and effectively communicating your WHY! Your why is the deep, emotional reason why you are doing what you do. Not what you do or even how you do it, it is why you do it. (To expand on this topic recommended reading is Simon Sinek Start With The Why.) This makes a deep impact with the people who believe what you believe and will spark heart felt emotions, and, as most people know it usually goes Heart-Brain-Action. This is when people feel emotionally moved to share your brand with others and to volunteer and offer their free time to support your cause. This is where the power of word of mouth really kicks in. You will also find that people will volunteer to help you manage your online community.

Isolated Members of the Community

There are isolated members in every community. These are the people that do not engage with many people at all. Isolated people may not know what is going on in or around their community but they would love to get more involved. Often there are underlying issues as to why they are isolated, this could be age, anxiety, lack of confidence, fear and much more. If you understand people’s pain points and demonstrate that you sympathise and understand through creating content that addresses these issues you will break barriers and build relationships. People will consume this content from their home at their own pace and gradually build up the courage they need to get involved in what you do. This will have a positive impact on the health and well-being of people within a community by helping to promote a more cohesive community. 

A great way to help promote this could be to run a social media cafe where people learn basic social media skills while also building relationships with other people. You could even have the younger generation teaching the older generation how to use Social Media. Intergenerational projects are a great way to get people of different ages talking to each other. Nourish Social have run multiple Social Media Cafes with great results exceeding expectations. We have even helped people to start social enterprises around their passion while at the same time learning how to market themselves. The social impact and new skills gained by community members has a massive impact in the whole community.

Social Enterprises and Groups

By understanding the issues in your community and creating content that proves you do, you will start to attract people who are passionate about a particular cause or issue that is close to them. Once they see you can offer them support in tackling these issues they will be interested in setting up groups which could turn into social enterprises. You can help them to find funding, sign post to other support services and teach them how to market themselves to attract more people for that particular cause or new service users. This will share the workload between you and them and if done the right way it will become self-sustainable. 

It is important to capture people’s stories before they started a movement or group, during the process of setting up a group and after a group has officially started. The main reason is because it inspires others to take action. People watch and observe others (especially on social media). If Joe Bloggs from down the road that I speak to when I go to the shops (who is just like me) has set up a group or business in the area that they are passionate about then I can set up a group or business about what I am passionate about. This breads a culture of “yes I can” in the community which changes behaviours, attitudes and ultimately outcomes. 



Monetize is simply when you receive an income as a result of having a certain target market on your page. Let’s say people on your page are from a certain area and the majority are boys between the ages of 12-18. This may be the target demographic for a local business that sells sports gear. If you can prove the attention your page and posts get, it would make sense in advertising, to pay you the owner of the page a one off fee or a reoccurring fee to have their logo, products or content exclusively posted by you on your page. This saves the company having to engage their target market because you have already done this.

Another method is using email subscriptions and offering to recommend a trusted business to your audience.

Also if a business or public organisation recognise that you may effectively help to fight an issue that they are also trying to fight they may financially support you to do it for them. This is often a win win for the community and for the local authority or business.

A word of warning, make sure the business you make a deal with are trusted and offer good value. Never just pick who pays most you wouldn’t want to break trust you have built in your community and recommend a bad business. 



In communities one of the barriers people have to overcome is getting to know a group or agency. The best way to overcome this is to be 100% transparent in person and on Social Media. If you have an agenda or motive let it be known. If you have started a project which isn’t taking of let people know. More often than not people will offer to help as a result and it will make a difference. If someone has complained or had a negative rant on your page do not delete it, instead try to address it as openly and honestly as possible in a tactful way. By being 100% transparent you will gain the communities trust while gaining support.  

This is not an extensive list of the benefits of using Social Media but it highlights key factors some people are not aware of. No matter your personal opinion of Social Media it is here to stay and in my opinion is only just getting started. Examine what are people focusing on within your community and adopt it to complement what you are already doing. Platforms are constantly changing so don’t fear to be an early adopter because if your hunch is right you will have a deep impact in your community. 


TheoThompsonHow to use Social Media 4 Community Development

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