UNDP Eurasia – social media strategies

An interview with Mehmet Erdogan, Digital Communication Specialist at UNDP Instanbul Regional Hub, about UNDP Eurasia and their use of social media.

1. What kind of people following UNDP Eurasia on social media?

We have quite a varied audience. We have a lot of development professionals and UNDP colleagues, but we also have activists and people who are generally passionate about human rights issues and want to make a difference. We have students who are interested from a research standpoint or those about to graduate and hoping to find a job.

Demographics change from platform to platform – on Twitter a lot of our audiences are Western (Europeans and North Americans) but on Facebook we have a lot more people from the region. That makes sense – Twitter is less popular in the region than Facebook is. Across all platforms distribution between men and woman is almost 50-50% and most common age group is 25-34. On Facebook we have many English speakers but also a large number of Russian, Turkish, Albanian, Azerbaijani, Georgian and Arabic speakers.

2. How many different social media accounts are there in the UNDP Eurasia network?

Because we have such a varied audience, we’re trying to keep our social media presence diversified (without spreading ourselves too thin.) Of course we start with the basics – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – but we’re also posting longer pieces on Medium and photo essays on Exposure. Finally, we have a blog platform on our website, where we share reflections of our UNDP colleagues on their work.

But it’s not just about having different social media accounts – creating accounts is easy. What’s more difficult is honouring what each platform is about and producing content that is right for that platform. If you’re simply copy and pasting from one platform to another, you’re not going to get a response back.

3. Social media is already quite saturated with content, both from other development agencies and also many news organizations with high digital budgets. How is UNDP Eurasia trying to stay on top?

This is the question that keeps us occupied most. It’s not enough anymore to be simply caught up with social media trends – you have to be ahead of them. We’re a small team with very limited financial resources, so we’re trying to make up for it with creativity or else freshness in content. Do we have access to a region that others don’t? Are we working on a story that other organisations aren’t? It’s about identifying those opportunities and building our communications around them. We’re living and working in a world that is now primarily communicating in visuals so we have to push the envelope by going beyond reports and blog posts.

We’ve also done major work in the last couple of years to switch from communications to simple storytelling. We know it’s personal stories that move crowds and motivate them towards action. We know if we tell a good story, it helps large amounts of information to become digestible for everyday audiences. That’s why we told the story of a Roma woman in comic form, or created a short video on an intersex activist. For March 8 this year, we told 8 short stories of 8 women in 8 different locations. We produced a TV spot with Turkish celebrities saying no to domestic violence. We want to go beyond simple numbers – we want to tell stories of people on the ground who are affected by or motivate the work we do.  Now we’re exploring how we can use VR or 360 storytelling – we want to see if it can bring an additional freshness to the work that we do.

4. How many people are involved managing these accounts?

We’re a small team of 4 people, including our team leader Nicolas Douillet. It’s primarily me in charge of our social media channels, but everyone contributes with content.

5. Please tell us about your new blogging platform and why it is important.

Blogging has been a major part of UNDP Eurasia’s outreach for at least 5 years now, before I started working here. We call this part of our strategy to Work Out Loud – don’t share only your success, but your failures as well. There’s as much for people to learn from your failures as from your successes – and they’re almost always more interesting. Blogging allows us to share results from the field without having to go through the formalities of finishing a project and producing an 80-page report. Blogging also allows us to reach younger crowds or those coming across our content on-the-go because of its more conversational tone. Finally, blogging helps put a human face on the work that we do. If we’re doing our job right, then it’s personal and fresh and interesting and brings in audiences who wouldn’t normally tune in

6. How does UNDP Eurasia use social media for accountability and transparency?

You may have heard that UNDP has been named #1 for transparency on international aid two consecutive years in a row. So transparency is very important to us here at UNDP Eurasia as well. We use especially Twitter to share latest developments – when we sign a new project or receive aid from a country, we will publicly share the amount. We want to show that we take any grant and aid we receive very seriously. We also share donor information – social media makes it easy both to acknowledge the role of our donors in front of our audiences, but also to keep us accountable to our audiences in front of our donors.

7. How do you monitor feedback on all the various social media channels and how does this feedback influence your strategy?

We’re trying to get better at listening to our audience. We are doing bi-monthly analytics round-ups to see what kind of content is getting bigger engagement. We’re monitoring comments and messages. But at the end of the day, we are a development organisation, not a corporation. We’re not selling a product. So we can’t completely let engagement define the kind of content we’re putting out there. We have an agenda that’s centered around promoting inclusion, human rights, climate action – we have the 17 goals part of Agenda 2030. So engagement can help us see if a particular type of content is or isn’t working well – could we have illustrated this issue with a photo essay instead of a blog post? What’s the length of video that works best on Facebook? Those are the kinds of decisions analytics helps us to make, but our core messages will always remain centered around the values of the United Nations.

You can follow Mehmet on Twitter.


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