Spread the word: Using social media to promote community programmes and events

Audience at Mark Sommerset reading at Central Library
Take photos of your events and share them around. Mark Sommerset drew a happy crowd at Central Library Tuam.

Christchurch City Libraries has been using social media since 2007 when we started our blog. Since then, we have added Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter. These tools help us share our stuff, inform people about events and resources, and allow us to have conversations with our customers.

Here are some things to consider about launching your community group on social media:

Practice and play

Play in the tools as yourself before you launch your organisation’s online presence. This gives you time to see how it works, to practice using it, and to become more familiar with getting the best out of the medium. Once you have launched on a social network, spend some time posting and browsing.

Plan and prepare

Think sustainability.

  • What tools best suit your organisation?
  • Who will be doing the writing and posting?
  • How much time do they have?
  • Can the tasks be shared?

Favourite tweets and like Facebook posts that you think work well. You can learn a lot from good examples:

  • What wording works?
  • Is there a call to action?
  • What makes you want to read more?

Be there

Kids' artwork
Keep your eyes peeled for interesting things. It is easy to take and share photos in the age of digital cameras and smartphones.

The most effectively communicated message is tailored to the medium – in Twitter you need to be pithy and punchy, in Facebook you have a bit more room to explain things. There are tools that allow you to share posts between platforms, but it is best to do a Facebook post in Facebook etc.

Being present also allows you to gauge what’s happening in the community, to answer queries, and to take part in discussions. You should be a listener as well as a broadcaster.

Timeliness

Be alert. If something is in the news, share what you have that is useful and relevant. Timeliness is one of the most powerful advantages of social media – it is no coincidence that Twitter is quoted often by the media.

If you are promoting an event, give people plenty of prior warning and follow up with more messages closer to the time. It is not a simple matter of mentioning the event once.

Photos and pictures are powerhouses

What’s the stuff that gets people revved up in social media? We’ve found that images have great traction. Whether they are heritage images, photos of events, or shots from around town – these are often the things that get retweeted, reposted, liked, and shared. If you are on Facebook, have a go at making an album of images. They make the most of your pictures, and are easily shareable.

We use Flickr to manage our images, and this works well in a social media context. You can plop images into blog posts. It also interacts well with Twitter and Tumblr.

If you have graphics, images, or posters you want people to share or print out, consider having a downloads section on your blog or website.

Example: New Zealand Post Book Awards

Participate as well as promote

St Asaph Street sign
What’s happening in your neck of the woods? Show you have an eye on local stuff.

Start conversations with your followers. If you have questions, ask them. Answer their questions. Comment on their posts.

Follow other local groups and organisations, and you will be setting up a useful network for your group. If you want an idea on which organisations to follow, see who your favourite groups are following – and then follow them too. Build up your network and you will start seeing interconnections, crossovers, and ways in which you could work together.

The reciprocal sharing of information and ideas is one of social media’s great strengths. It is a place to broadcast your message, but also to listen to what other have to say, and talk about it. Sharing is a two-way street and offers lots of opportunities. Promoting both your own activities, and those of other groups, is a way to maximise engagement with the community.

If you worry that social media is catering only to the online community, remember that people online talk to people offline too – so your message can be spread through word of mouth.

Tools

Facebook has a large audience, and allows you to connect with relevant groups and local organisations, Creating a page gives you a space to share events and other information:

Here are some local Facebook pages that illustrate how an active presence and community can work well. They take a different approach and yet are all effective:

Other tools:

  • Twitter is a microblogging platform with a fast sharing, active community.
  • Tumblr lets you create attractive, highly visual blog posts. It is popular with teens.
  • WordPress and Blogger are blogging platforms, and many groups use their blog as a website.
  • Flickr is a photo-based blogging platform.

Resources

Web and social media Sports New Zealand
Effective use of online channels is increasingly critical for sports organisations. Many in New Zealand have risen to the opportunity with great creativity and understanding.
Includes a nine-step guide to using social media for New Zealand sports organisations starting off in social media.

How-to Guides – Social Networking CommunityNet Aotearoa
Resources for setting up and running community organisations and projects.

Christchurch City Council courses for event organisers Learn how to plan, organise and promote your own community recreation programme or event. CCC regularly run two workshops throughout the year: Get Set Go! and Spread the Word! These workshops and guides have been designed in collaboration with Wellington City Council.

One thought on “Spread the word: Using social media to promote community programmes and events

  1. Moata Tamaira August 13, 2013 / 4:05 pm

    I agree that Facebook particularly works well with photos and images. Beyond that, making them look good in a someone’s feed is important too.
    This is a really good tool for remembering what sizes of images look best http://ijustdid.org/2012/06/social-media-size-cheat-sheet/
    Landscape images will usually render better than portrait ones. I’ve seen a lot of “notices” for events pop up on FB that are obviously digital copies of something that was meant to be printed out in A4. What looks okay pinned to a noticeboard won’t necessarily work well on FB.
    I’d recommend when using images that incorporate text to keep it to a few lines only and include a link for more information in the image description.

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