Helping Small Communities for more than 30 years
Has your organization started using social media yet? If so, are you an avid user? Or are you still feeling your way around? If not, have you thought about why?
Here at the National Environmental Services Center, we recently dove into using social media for the first time—employing Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging. Prior to actually creating a presence, we took some time to decide whether we really wanted to do it. After all, it would take manpower to keep it going. But then we realized that we’d reached a day and age where not having a social media presence wasn’t an option. If you want to stay relevant, you have jump onboard.
What we’ve learned is that social media allows you join with like-minded people and create a dialogue. But it isn’t easy. It takes a while to build an audience—or “followers” as they are better known. And once you’ve gained a few followers, you have to keep them engaged—and maybe even entertained—to keep them around.
Because of that, commercial and social marketers are finding ways to use the power of social media to reach desired demographics. Woo. Wait. What does that mean? It means that if you use the right methods, you’ll reach the right people. And getting the hang of it takes some experience and practice. In other words, you won’t learn if you don’t do it. But you can reach the audience you want.
Facebook and Twitter offer you options to ”follow” or “like” others who have profiles similar to yours. Conversations can start between you and your followers when you agree or disagree with something that has been said. You also have the option to share or retweet information, videos, pictures, and other items that you believe will be of interest to your followers.
Keeping conversations going can be tricky, but it can be done. Social media sparks shared ideas and information that is debated, agreed to, and sometimes trashed. And like any conversation, social media is a living, evolving communications tool that requires attention, response, new inputs, and tweaking.
In addition, social media messaging can be an efficient way to build an online community for your cause. This community, in turn, shares message points—not as static slogans, but as part of discussions about how to incorporate your message into daily living.
Successfully using social media means that messages have to be almost subliminal. While some of the campaign’s messages may be direct (for example, “here’s how your toilet can save you $200 a year”), most are indirect (for example, “when remodeling my bathroom I found beautiful fixtures that matched the look I want and turns out they are designed to save water”).
But, because indirect messages can be endorsed by a third party, who also expresses additional benefits, they can be more powerful than direct messaging. Unlike traditional outreach efforts, messaging is not directly controlled with social media. But the social media effort will encourage the behaviors you want to promote. Results build over time with the hope that broad communities are reached and rethink their approach to water use.
Look for more about social media and messaging in future posts.