Publicising ESF – using social media
Social media can be used to support your existing publicity and communication strategy.
- Why use social media?
- What are the main social media in use?
- How can I get involved?
- Measuring benefit and added value
- ESF Case study – Convergence Partnership in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
- Where to go for more information
Why use social media?
Reasons for using social media to publicise your ESF project include:
- Many people are already using the internet – social media are logical extensions of what you, your colleagues and ESF partners are likely to already be doing.
- Social media allow you to make your communication and particularly your website more of a two way tool. Rather than simply relying on people visiting your website via direct traffic and the use of search engines such as Google.
- It increases the chance of your activities and successes being discovered and shared. And it gives you the opportunity to listen to what is being said online – complaints and compliments alike. And not just your activities but others within the wider landscape in which you are operating.
- It is a channel to reach a new younger, more IT literate demographic, projecting ESF into other people’s more personal digital environments.
Use of social media can increase:
- customer and partner communication
- brand exposure
- driving traffic to your website
- search engine optimisation.
Things to bear in mind when using social media:
- Individual team members can include social media as part of their personal online profile, for example the ESF or project website, RSS feed or Twitter account.
- People may not have access to all the new social media – some organisations may have security restrictions which limit the social media they can access.
- You can include the ESF logo on any social media you choose to use.
What are the main social media in use?
Examples of social media in use:
Twitter allows users to write a 140 character message or 'tweet' (equivalent to a standard text message) that sits between an email and a text in terms of function – with only 140 characters less is truly more. There are applications that enable you to add pictures (twitpic) and shorten hyperlinks (tinyURL and bit.ly).
Use Twitter to:
- nudge people about events, point people to media releases, media coverage, and new website content
- point to wider events, beyond your area that have or are likely to have an effect on delivery in your locality or beyond
- monitor your profile in the "twittersphere" using tools such as “twilert” which email you regularly about tweets containing your brand name or keyword.
Flickr is a photo management and sharing site. Use it to share photos of case studies, events and award winners and link new photo postings to your Twitter feed.
Facebook is the leading social networking site, largely personal in nature, although some providers use it as a means of advertising.
Sites with their own characteristics enable you to share, store, rank and discover web pages and news items. For example:
Short well put together videos are a very powerful way of telling a story. They can be hosted on a video server such as:
Linkedin is a business orientated social networking site.
How can I get involved?
For social media to be effective it needs to fit with the overall aims and existing communication activities and channels for your project.
Whether you are using social media as an experiment within a specific timeframe or part of your mainstream activity, you need a plan to test the experiment or simply evaluate and adjust as you would do with more typical channels of communication.
Think also about the resources involved – as maintaining and moderating your own social media (such as a Facebook page) can be resource intensive. An alternative may be to join existing social media where your audience is already active.
With your existing communication strategy you will know what you are trying to do and why. Knowing this will help you define why social media may help in your approach. Social media are usually a sub-section of your wider brand management and communication strategy.
The key question then becomes how will the use of social media boost your core communication strategy? And vice versa – perhaps there are some core strategy goals that you can assign to social media?
Above all you need to be clear how social media add value.
Communication approach – branding and content
The language of social media is conversational, friendly, serious and motivational all at the same time. Not quite the same as the language of a media release or the website but not that far away either so you will need to be clear about:
- Your own brand values and what the on-brand messages are that you want to deliver:
- Will they need adapting for social media?
- Are there activities that relate to what your project or organisation does? For example, part of a broader conversation in which your core activity might sit? If so, feel free to contribute, but always ensure that your comments have a clear fit with brand image and partners.
- The scope of your conversation – this is not totally dissimilar to how you would approach readers’ letters in a newspaper except that social media is social. Part of its value is that it is two way and that needs thinking through:
- How will you handle hecklers?
- Do you want to be proactive as well as reactive?
Resources and timing
It can take time to get up and running, but if you have an existing brand and communication strategy the use of social media is really an extension of this.
Ensure you have sufficient resources. Social media require regular participation – it is much more conversational than some traditional channels of communication and to be useful to your audience it needs to be up to date and interesting.
- A social media landing page – this page on your website highlights all of the social media you are engaged with and encourages your users to join the conversation.
- Designing or customising existing logos to create a background for your online profiles so they complement your overall brand, for example:
- A regular review of the use of social media sites and of your on-brand and off-brand content – it all needs to be consistent.
- Your own in-house communication, ICT and security policies and how you can work with them whilst encouraging innovation and spontaneity.
Measuring benefit and added value
What were your objectives, for example:
- brand mentions?
- website traffic?
- newsletter subscriptions?
- spread of your messages?
Has social media helped?
- Analyse your data – what does it mean and why? For example on Twitter it’s not just the number of followers that you have but also how and when they re-tweet (copy your tweet) and resonate your message amongst their followers.
- Review what you are doing – do you want to continue with what you are doing or using data and feedback do you change things so you try to change the results?
- Keep your evaluation as simple as you can – look at qualitative information as well as quantitative.
Remember to share the various insights within the team and give them the opportunity to get involved
- Social media are a new set of channels with their own advantages and disadvantages. The audience is different and increasingly it is being used as a platform that feeds and is fed by news. It is informal, it does take getting used to but it does give a suite of new opportunities.
- For many a social media presence will have benefits, some of which will be unexpected. But the benefits do need to be actively maximised. You will need to be flexible, opportunistic and adaptive - or else the conversation may lose focus or cease.
- One thing is for sure, the more you work at it the easier the next step will be.
Case study – Convergence Partnership in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
The Convergence Partnership Office for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly use social media as a mechanism for more outward looking electronic communication and as a channel to reach a new younger, more IT literate demographic.