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A New Platform for Engaging the Community in Dialogue

Tucson VISTA Hannah Johnson, serving with The Center for Community Dialogue, explains the ins and outs of designing and implementing an engaging social media presence as part of her service.

The simple definition of a platform is “a raised level surface on which people or things on stand.” 

Social media brings platforms into the digital realm--where messages can spread, people can connect and ideas go viral. As Facebook, twitter and Instagram accounts become standard expressions of individuals’ needs to be heard, businesses and non-profits are not far behind. It’s become somewhat unusual if an agency hasn’t tapped into one or more channels. And it is how an agency uses social media that makes it different from personal use. For organizations, many strategies go into social media marketing that are not explicitly visible, but extremely important in this digital moment. 

At the Center for Community Dialogue, a program of Our Family Services, I spent my first few months as a VISTA researching social media best practices for non-profits and designing a comprehensive plan. I had a couple meetings with development directors from Tucson nonprofits with strong Facebook presences to discuss their strategies. I asked questions like: “What do you use for evaluative measures for the success of social media marketing?” or “Is there anything you wish you were doing on social media but aren’t currently implementing?” My knowledge culminated by attending a detailed webinar on launching an effective Facebook page. 

The key to any marketing plan is a statement of purpose. I happen to keep mine tapped to the wall, right above my computer at work. It reads a little something like this:

“The Center will use social media to develop and strengthen authentic connections to our community by sharing information that creates an online presence and moves to offline collaboration. Our goal is to find individuals and organizations that see the value in our services, resources and trainings, and may utilize or promote the Center. We will evaluate our success through quantitative and qualitative date, including Facebook Insights and measuring 3 key points: an increase of volunteers, an increase of people learning about us and an increase in attendance at events.”

Social media is successful when content is engaging and users have something to play with. Images and pictures trump posts with just words.  Daily updates are necessary. And getting current volunteers and supporters to click and “like” is vital. Based on the little information available about Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm, it’s even better for the organization if they comment on a post or share it. 

The digital scape holds a lot of potential for the sharing of information. For the promotion of events or trainings to incentives like contests and giveaways. The ultimate value being the prospect of one good idea reaching hundreds or thousands of people. 

With that said, I encourage all our readers to look up the Center, read about us and conflict resolution resources and “like” us at www.facebook.com/centerforcommunity dialogue. Or just click here.

Published on November 07, 2014 by Molly Sheehy.

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