« March 2014 Issue

Let’s Get Digital: Tips and Strategies for Connecting Online

Over the past several years we’ve seen social media become pervasive in day-to-day life. From celebrities communicating with their fans, to politicians hearing directly from their constituents, to the Red Cross raising millions of dollars for disaster relief through its mobile donation campaigns, we’ve seen touching, impactful and fun connections form online. However, with so many channels and so many people using them, it can be hard to prioritize how to make the most out of limited time or resources for building a following on social media. While it’s helpful to make a plan before diving in, there are plenty of ways to get started. Below are some steps we’ve taken to maximize the time we at Community Catalyst invest in building our presence on social media.

Set goals and measure against them. It’s important to think about what your organization wants to get out of using social media. It’s not always possible to do (and measure results for) everything, so having a conversation about what you hope to achieve upfront is helpful. When you decide what you want to achieve, you can then figure out the right channel(s) to use. Generally, Facebook is the best channel to make an emotional connection between your work and your followers. Twitter is seen as the best channel for spreading news and engaging members of the media. A presenter at a conference I recently attended summed it up perfectly: Facebook is for the heart and Twitter is for the mind.

Depending on your goals, you may need to be active on multiple channels and you may need to tailor your content to fit a particular channel. It’s also important to keep investing time in your existing channels, like your blog and email lists, as they can provide content for new channels and give your followers another way to connect with your organization. Once you’ve picked your channels, it’s important to set realistic goals. Social media, while a great tool, is not a silver bullet for your communications or grassroots advocacy needs. When you define the metrics you want to measure at the outset, it’s easier to determine success. There are many tools and tips for measuring successfully, and even entire books on the topic that you can explore if you are interested in starting or improving your organization’s social media measurement practice.

Listen first. Take time  to listen to what your followers are talking about and use that information to better target your posts to their interests. If you’re new to Twitter, listening is particularly important and can help you find potential followers. Is there a hashtag that keeps popping up in conversation? Is there a Twitter chat that your stakeholders are participating in? Use what you learn from listening to help you find relevant conversations that are already happening and to help identify influential people to follow and reach out to. There are communities and groups that exist within the larger landscape on social media channels.

Connect your online and offline efforts. Make it easy for your existing supporters to connect with you online. Include links to your social media channels and website in email blasts or newsletters and encourage your constituents to connect with you in multiple ways. Using a hashtag as part of meetings or a community event can help you find your supporters online and promote your work on the ground to a larger network of people. Additionally, encourage the people you only know online to come to in-person events. Integrating your social media channels with other communications channels can create better results.

Quality over quantity. Unfortunately, most worthy causes (and even the Dalai Lama) don’t have as many followers as Katy Perry or President Obama, but your number of followers isn’t the truest or best determination of your success. Find the influential community members, thinkers, policymakers or other “influencers” who are important to your organization and make it your goal to gain those people as loyal followers. While it can also be important to get more exposure at certain times, having quality followers who support you will help you even more when you are trying to get the word out about a big event or draw supporters’ attention to an issue. A step as simple as thanking the people who tweet about your work or come to your defense when someone writes an inflammatory comment on a Facebook post (also known as “trolling”) can help deepen a stakeholder’s investment in your work.

Create engaging content. Visuals are vital in getting your followers to engage with your content and share your message. We distill complex information down by pairing highlights from a report or survey with a visual or using color and text size to make pieces of information pop for the reader. Visuals can also quickly create an emotional connection with a viewer and connect data and facts to tell your followers a story.

Social media channels are still relatively new communications channels, but they’ve shifted how we consume news, communicate and stay connected. The field is still changing and no one has all the answers about how organizations will (and should) be using social media five years down the line. But digital communication channels are here to stay and it’s an important time to engage in the conversations happening online.

Christine Lindberg, Digital Communications Specialist

O N   T H E   W I R E

Community Catalyst and 300 state and local groups sent a letter urging Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to ensure all consumers who have made a good faith effort to get covered can enroll in coverage. Last week HHS announced anyone who is “in line” for coverage on March 31 will be able to enroll.

Community Catalyst welcomed Dan McGrath, Executive Director of TakeAction Minnesota, as the newest member of our board of directors.

Community Catalyst Board member Karen Hicks, project manager for Covering New Hampshire, was quoted in an NPR story on ACA enrollment in New Hampshire.

Edna and Sally’s story, a video created by Voices for Better Health, was featured on The Huffington Post during Black History Month.

The Association of Health Care Journalists took note of Dental Access Project Director David Jordan and other oral health advocates’ efforts to expand access to care.

Join us in welcoming new staff members: Alberto Gonzalez, Carol Regan, Candice Singer and Natasha Tyagi.

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