February 8, 2012

What’s your union’s social media strategy?

No doubt you, like me, read lots of blogs that have lists of “10 best ways to use social media” or “top Twitter tips” and so on. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

And you’d think with the enormous number of blogs, resources and top-ten articles out there, no union in Australia would not have at least one social-media maven or guru.

Obviously, and unfortunately, lots of unions are still just getting started with social media or have jumped in and are now not sure what they’ve gotten themselves into.

The problem I see with the scores of unions I come across each week and month is that their online and social media campaigning is in a silo, unconnected to the rest of the union’s activities. In short, most (but not all) unions’ social media and online campaigning is done without a strategy or plan. Without a plan, your Facebook or Twitter page isn’t going to do much for you — and will probably do more harm than good.

Like house-visits, phone calls and site-visits, social media is just one tool in your campaign arsenal. No union would just “do” house visits or large numbers of phone-calls without a plan, targets, goals and measures.

Yet lots of unions just create a Facebook page or Twitter account because a top-ten list told them to, or because they read about some amazingly successful social-media driven campaign that got 14,000 people to engage. It can easily appear that social media is an amazing silver bullet that will help unions connect with their members, recruit new members and put pressure on bad employers through Twitter campaigns.

The truth unfortunately is that this is rarely the case. Online campaigning and social media should be a part of any comprehensive union campaign, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. The real challenge is integrating your online campaign elements with the real-world campaign — how does your website and Facebook page link to your print materials, your campaign events and member meetings? Where does your online and social media presence fit with your union’s communications plan?

While it takes just a few minutes to set up a Facebook page, no amount of top ten lists will help you achieve anything with it unless it is tied to and integrated with your campaigns.

Here’s some questions to ask about your social media (and it’s worth asking these whether you’ve set up your Facebook/Twitter pages already, or are just in the planning stages):

Your online and social media plan needs to work out how social media will do what it does best — engage and interact with your key audiences: members, potential members, activists and so on. Creating a plan can take time, and may be a bit challenging for unions that are still struggling with online campaigning, but it is worth it.

So, before you invest more time and effort into social media take a look at your overall communications strategy. Look at the big picture before jumping in.

While I’ve written my fair share of “top 10” lists, I’ve also been a consistent advocate of aligning your online/social media activities with the real-world activities of your union.


  1. Danielle Hatchett - February 10, 2012 at 2:44 AM -

    What’s your #unions #socmedia strategy? Hint: It doesn't stop at setting up a FB page. http://t.co/LxbgXRNV #1u via @alexanderwhite

  2. Kirstin Alvanitakis - February 10, 2012 at 11:38 AM -

    RT @dyhatchett: What’s your #unions #sm strategy? Hint: It doesn't stop at setting up a FB page http://t.co/Vp7QCRuw #1u via @alexanderwhite

  3. Rob Koster - February 22, 2012 at 6:27 PM -

    What’s your union’s social media strategy? http://t.co/UHOA9TR2 via @alexanderwhite

  4. Peter Scott - June 20, 2012 at 8:24 PM -

    Hi Alex

    Very timely article re communications strategies, we have a reasonably good website and have just started a Facebook page. I have resisted Facebook for several years … Not because I didn’t see the value but because of two reasons duplication of web site material and time… I am stretched as a volunteer. I would love to see a sample communications strategy , know anyone who has one they would share… Who communicates, who authorizes, what goes in Facebook what goes on the website etc. thanks for your great materials Peter Scott

  5. Vin Wynne - October 24, 2012 at 8:30 AM -

    What’s your union’s social media strategy? http://t.co/qe7A7AoN via @sharethis Alex White hits nail on the head re. ned for strategy #TUCOA

  6. Vin Wynne - October 24, 2012 at 8:51 AM -

    What’s your union’s social media strategy? http://t.co/qe7A7AoN via @sharethis<Alex White hits nail on the head re.need for strategy #TUCOA

  7. peter sweeney - October 25, 2012 at 9:07 PM -

    RT @alexanderwhite: What's your union's social media strategy? http://t.co/wU6ZMCQI

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