To understand how your organisation can embrace social media and use it to the best of your advantage, we'll first look at some of the main advantages of this new form of media.
Advantages of social media as a form of communication
- social media means you now have a cost-effective way of communicating and promoting your message to your group and the community. It's cheaper and more efficient than posting out printed materials, for example. Even if you don't wish to replace communications in this way - as of course not everyone is online - it's a good way to compliment the other messages you're sending out.
- community members now have a easy way to provide valuable feedback to you. And you have an easy and fast way to respond.
- community members now have an easy way of finding eachother and engaging in dialogue with eachother.
How to use social media
To look at how to use social media, let's explore three leading social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
- Create a Facebook Page for your group. Encourage people to 'like' your page. From here you can post messages to the page; you can post links back to your organisation's website; and you can encourage people to engage via your Facebook Page's wall.
- Add applications like Polls to your Facebook Page, giving people a more defined opportunity to express an opinion and have some feeling of ownership over decision making within the group.
- If people leave feedback on your Facebook Page, respond quickly and thoughtfully. This is important as it shows you're dedicated to listening to the community and encouraging a two-way dialogue.
- Don't overload your Facebook Page with content - be selective so that people know that when you post something it's always going to be important and valuable.
- Cross-promote with partners and likeminded groups. If someone else is doing something valuable that you think the community should know about, post about it on your Facebook Page. It's also more likely that group will then cross-promote your activities to their audience.
YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/) is a highly popular online source for sharing videos. Anyone can create a YouTube account and upload videos to it. These days you don't need fancy equipment to produce a watchable video: a small camera or even a phone will do. Some ideas of what you can use YouTube for include:
- Posting informative or instructional videos that support your community or group and help them carry out tasks. You can then direct people to these videos. If the content is useful and valuable, it's likely that people will spread this content across the community, thus also promoting you as the organisation behind the useful content.
- Posting videos which promote your activities and the goals you are working towards.
- Allowing the community to produce and submit their own content which you can then distribute via your YouTube Channel.
It may be hard to imagine that you could say anything truly useful in 140 characters. But Twitter allows you to do just that. You can use Twitter to:
- See what topics are trending. This is a great way to see what the community is currently concerned with, and how you can engage with those topics.
- Easily and quickly receive and respond to feedback via your own Twitter profile.
- Drive traffic back to your website by posting links to your Twitter feed. Ensure you post items that are engaging and relevant, and use the 140 characters to make the headline as catchy and clickable as possible.
- Follow other groups and like-minded individuals who will be interested in your activities. Engage with them to start discussion and make them aware of your group or organisation.