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Tips for using social media

As we continue to move into the digital age, many municipalities are being called upon to expand their outreach to social media channels like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. This can be a daunting task considering some of these tools have only been around for a couple of years and are still evolving.

Here are some simple tips that can make your first foray into social media a lot less scary!

Also, here is a sample Facebook Access Policy   and "ask" letter  from the City of Roswell, GA. Tailor these samples to meet your community's social media needs.

GENERAL TIPS (These are provided by the folks at RE3.org)

  • Create a general e-mail address to use as your login for all social media accounts. Keeps everything consistent. We use Re3.org@gacampaigncentral.org.
  • Use Google Analytics to track your recycling program’s Web site usage. It monitors site traffic, page views and tons of other useful info. Plus it’s FREE. To access, visit www.google.com/analytics
  • Set up Google Alerts to track who and where your program is being discussed online. Alerts monitor media organizations, Web sites and blogs.

TIPS FOR USING TWITTER

  • When using Twitter, retweet (shown as RT) other interesting posts. This adds up-to-date content to your account for your followers. Make sure to post relevant information so that it will be retweeted by others.
  • To follow a topic on Twitter, you can use the Twitter search function and/or precede your post with a hashtag (shown as #). An example would be “#followfriday” Or “#recycling.”
  • URL shortners, such as http://bit.ly, shorten long links to save valuable character space. When you only have 140 characters to work with for a tweet, every one counts!

TIPS FOR USING FACEBOOK

  • When creating a Facebook “page” for your organization, it must be linked to a personal Facebook profile. Facebook will eventually kick you off if you create a fake or generic profile.
  • Your personal profile becomes an administrator of the Facebook page. Others in your organization with a personal profile can also be administrators. People that come to your organizational page will not see your personal profile unless your personal settings allow that.
  • Use Facebook Insights to learn how many people visit your page, where they come from, how long they stay, etc. If you create a “fan” page, you will have access to these insights; a “Cause” page has less functionality.
  • Facebook allows you to create a URL for your page to share with others. However, you must have a minimum of 100 fans. (RE3.org’s link is www.Facebook.com/re3.org and the state of Georgia Facebook page is www.Causes.com/GARecycling.)
  • RE3.org often holds outreach events throughout North Carolina. Through an “events” feature on Facebook, we can let our fans know where we will be by inviting them to join.
  • If you’re blogging, you can import your blogs using the “notes” tab on the Facebook page. The notes show up on your Facebook feed.
  • Add photos and videos of your organization on your page! RE3.org regularly adds photos of events we attend to our Facebook page.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Tips for using social media in your education strategy

Have a strategy. Who are you trying to reach? All residents in your community? Non-recyclers? Kids? The audience will dictate what social media tools will be a fit, if any. A Facebook page makes sense if you are trying to reach the general population, but may not make sense for reaching elementary school students.

Make sure your strategy is up to date. The BIGGEST mistake you can make is sticking to the status quo when it comes to education. What worked even five years ago may not work anymore. Social media cannot be ignored.

Know before you go. Create a personal Twitter account or Facebook page before you create one for your recycling program. Get to know the “netiquette” before you dive too deeply. (Plus, the friends you develop on your own will help you build a network faster once you create a community page.) We recommend starting with Facebook and YouTube (if you have video to share) first. Sites like Twitter can take more time to master and maintain.

Allocate resources in advance. Updating a Facebook or MySpace page and keeping your “fans” engaged can take one to two hours per week, minimum. Don’t create a page if you can’t spend the time to support it.

Promote social media using traditional media. If you go to the trouble to create a YouTube or Facebook page but no one knows about it, you have wasted your time. Promote it as much as you can on your Web site, in press releases, etc

Use social media to spread the word. A Facebook presence should not be ALL that you do to communicate. But, Use your Facebook cause to promote, not replace, an upcoming event, or engage attendees after the fact.

Understand that social media is about engaging users. YOU must have a conversation with them, which means knowing what they are talking about (do this by “following” them on Twitter) and also thinking of ways (such as polls, comments boards, etc.) to actively solicit feedback.

Don’t go at it alone. Resources like CVP can help you! For more tips, visit www.RecycleCurbside.org