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, particularly if your community group is using social media.
Think, practice, and play
Why does your group want to use social media? The best reason is to be where people are, and to be able to communicate with them. Once you’ve decided that, there are many social media tools you can use.
Play with them as yourself before you launch your organisation’s online presence. This gives you time to see how the platform 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.
Orange Chair @ Parklands. Bike Maintenance Evening with The Bike Shop’s Graeme Taylor at Parklands Library, 18 June 2015. Flickr: Orange-Chair-Bike-Maintenance-1060721.jpg
Plan and prepare
Once you’ve become more familiar with how social media and various platforms work, consider how you will use it. 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?
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.
David Walliams. WORD Christchurch Autumn Season. Charles Luney Auditorium, St Margarets College, Christchurch. Flickr 2015-05-14-IMG_7286
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, pictures, and video are powerhouses
What’s the stuff that gets people revved up in social media? Images and videos – historical and contemporary – have great traction. Whether they are heritage images, photos of events, or shots from around town – these are often things that get retweeted, reposted, liked, and shared.
We use Flickr to manage our images, and this works well in a social media context. You can plop images easily into blog posts. It also interacts well with Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Build up your collection of images by keeping your eyes peeled for interesting things. It is easy to take and share photos in the age of digital cameras and smartphones.
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. Think about the size of the image you are using – a PDF A4 portrait poster might look good pinned up on a noticeboard, but on Facebook it’s not ideal.
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.
Taking photos during your event is not only a record of what happened, it is a great tool for you to use when promoting your next one.
Participate as well as promote
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. Hashtags – which work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr – are a way of hooking into a wider 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.
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.
As at April 2015, over 2.5 million Kiwis active on Facebook every month. Find out more Key trends about Kiwis on Facebook.
Facebook automatically resize and format your photos when you add them to Facebook. To help make sure your photos appear in the highest possible quality, try these tips from Facebook:
Resize your photo to one of the following supported sizes: Regular photos (width in pixels): 720px, 960px, 2048px. Cover photos should be 851px by 315px
Facebook Insights allows you to find out more about your users. What demographic are they in? When are they online? What posts do they find most engaging? Use the data to help you. For example, we found our users were mostly online between 6pm and 9pm. We can schedule posts for this time for maximum reach.
Facebook events are a great way of building a community. If you make an event page, you can invite people to the event, and you can also share information on it. See our Matariki event on Facebook.
If you have some money in your budget for advertising, consider using some of it on Facebook ads or boosted posts. You can target your information using demographics, and ensure your information gets a wider reach out into the community.
Useful Facebook resources
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 social media platforms and tools
- Twitter is a microblogging platform with a fast sharing, active community.
- Instagram is increasingly popular, and allows you to add filters to your images and pin them to a location.
- Tumblr lets you create attractive, highly visual blog posts.
- WordPress and Blogger are blogging platforms, and many groups use their blog as a website.
- Flickr is a photo-based blogging platform.
- Social media management tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck allow you to monitor interactions and to schedule posts.
There are of course many more …
Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and JESS3 (http://www.theconversationprism.com/) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Ultimate Cheat Sheet of Photo & Image Sizes on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Other Social Networks [Infographic] Hubspot
Social Media Gameplan
A nine-step guide by Sport New Zealand for sports organisations starting off in social media.
Honoa te hapori me te hapu – ki te ipurangi – Getting your community and hapu online
A Department of Internal Affairs resource to help communities, hapū and iwi develop digital initiatives.
Useful information on social media in the New Zealand Government Web Toolkit.
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.
Information updated 20 October 2016.
This post is an updated version of a 2013 post.