I often get asked by friends, colleagues and acquaintances about why x, y, or z social networking tool is useful. (The question is alternatively phrased to ask me to justify why social networking is not just a waste of time.)
I think many people of a certain age (even Generation X) find it very difficult to get their heads around the concepts of Facebook or Twitter. They can get frustrated that there doesn’t seem to be an immediate payback. This is particularly the case for union campaigns where it is difficult to link blog posts, tweets or comments on a Facebook page to new members, bodies on picket lines or similar. Whereas businesses selling a product or service can see a return on investment, political parties and unions have a harder time of it. Furthermore, the union communications officer or organiser may not have admin rights to the union website, access to Google Analytics or similar services to test the effectiveness of integration between the website and social networks.
To assist decision makers at unions (and elsewhere) on how to effectively use social networks, I have gathered four pillars for social networking. These concepts should give a good foundation for using tools like Facebook or Twitter. They should of course be read with my other articles about social networking.
1.There is no instant fix
While a major feature of social networking is that it is “instant” and “live”, using social networking tools effectively is a slow process. New media is not an instant fix. While it is easy to create a Facebook page or Twitter account, just setting them up is simply the first step in a long march. Like other endeavours, social networking takes time to do right.
2.Keep at it, be consistent
It is easy to let things like websites, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages slide when things get busy. I know that when my work heats up, I will neglect this blog, as well as updates on Creative Unions. This is understandable, and most organisations (especially unions) won’t have the resources for a full-time person to handle their online activities. However, you should be consistent in your online activities. If you haven’t updated your Facebook page for a long time, don’t despair. Get back on the horse. Make time when things are quiet. Some social networking apps (or software like WordPress) allow you to schedule updates, so that you can pace yourself. (This post for example was written on the weekend, and scheduled for a weekday.) Consistency strengthens the relationship you are building with your readership, fans or followers.
3. Don’t be selfish
Social networks are about communities. Communities of unionists or union supporters. Communities of progressive political activists. Communities of bloggers or tweeters. These communities value good content and are willing to promote that content. However, you must be willing to do likewise. If another union, or a member, posts or tweets something interesting or insightful, share it. Re-tweet it. Link to their blog. Respond to comments and emails. Engage in the conversation. Give back rather than simply take.
4. Trust is essential
Trust is essential for social networks. In these days of phishing and spam, smart Internet surfers only visit sites or follow links from people they trust. When websites are increasingly filled with marketers trying to sell something, people are relying more and more on what their friends tell them. This is why social networks are so valuable for unions and political organisations. They allow unions to build personal relationships with scores of people simultaneously.