How to get members to talk about your union on social media

May 11, 2014

One of the regular questions I receive from unions is “how can I get members (or activists) to share our message on Facebook?” or “what will get members talking about the union on Facebook?”

Sound familiar?

Union organisers instinctively know that a positive “union experience” can be a powerful trigger to encourage word of mouth recommendations from members. Activists who participate in successful collective action, members who receive support and encouragement above and beyond from an organiser, supporters who see the impact of their actions at a mass rally.

Members, supporters and activists who have an amazing union experience will feel emboldened to recommend that others join and participate with the union.

It is a maxim of organising that members are the best recruiters of members. Personal recommendations from friends are more trusted than other kinds of promotions (such as advertising or news stories).

It is essential for unions to use those personal experiences from members, supporters and activists.

But how?

Create experiences where members can share a story

Union events, honestly, can be pretty boring sometimes. In fact, truthfully, they’re often boring. The result is that often members don’t want to talk about unions.

What they will talk about is where the union has positively impacted their lives.

Thinking hard about how members can have a union experience that impacts their lives is not easy.

For delegates, there’s a few things you can do. By making delegates feel special, and giving them something exclusive, you’re giving them something to talk about. Free is also good, so avoid asking delegates to pay for union activities like participation in conferences or for union merchandise. The benefits of the word-of-mouth from your delegates should be worth far more.

For members or supporters, a way to make them feel exclusive and special is by providing access to “insider” information. For example, giving members a sneak-peak behind the scenes of a campaign, or giving supporters access to union briefings about important issues.  While this isn’t as powerful as an experience, it can still help tap into positive feelings.

Look at other areas of your union activity. How can you emphasise these feelings in your interactions with members. Many unions do this through highlighting that the industrial advice members receive is an exclusive benefit of membership, not available to non-members.

Make your requests to your members clear (and up front)

Don’t presume that your members and supporters know that you want them to share or talk about your union. Not asking, or asking in a round-about way can simply cause confusion. If you want your members to do something, make it simple, doable and easy to achieve — and make it a single ask. Multiple requests can also cause confusion.

Unions often want members to share graphics or links on Facebook. However, your members will probably not want to share all your messages, graphics or links with their friends. This is why it’s incredibly important to make your messages and asks relevant — which means segmenting your requests.

It’s also important to make your message interesting enough that your members and supporters will want to talk about it with their friends.

Provide a strong call-to-action

Your ultimate goal is to get your supporters and members to share your content; your members’ goals on social media is much more complex: connecting with friends, being entertaining, sharing interesting links or photos, getting kudos or any number of other things.

What your members are unlikely to do is share something if your content is boring and if you don’t ask them.

Remember, you’re asking your member or supporter to advocate for your union or campaign. Make them feel like a star for doing so.

There are also ways to encourage your supporters to share with incentives. Lots of unions have merchandise and other goodies from campaigns, such as t-shirts, stickers and caps. Running competitions or using the campaign “chum” to encourage members to share, comment or like your updates is a simple but often effective way to get that engagement and sharing.

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