Quick growth hacks for your union (Jan 2023 edition)

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Here are some quick growth hacks for your union’s communications, social media and digital organising & recruitment.

This article adds to my earlier article about how you can “growth hack” your union.

Growth hacking is a term used in the tech and start-up sector for techniques based on rapid, low-cost, experimental growth. The startups and tech companies that use are are typically “bootstrapped” (i.e. not venture-capital funded), with limited resources. Growth hacking allows them to grow rapidly without millions to spend on digital advertising.

But before you read on, let me be clear: growth hacking is not necessarily a silver bullet: it is a methodology that, while cheap, is difficult, because it requires you to adopt a scientific experimentation method.

From “Growth hacking your union

Growth hack one: Extreme simplicity

When it comes to communicating with your audience, a basic principle should always be kept in mind: less is more.

It is commonplace for union organisers, industrial and comms staff to think that members and workers want lots of detailed, complex information. However, this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. (See here for more on the neuroscientific basis of this.)

Though a few members may genuinely want technical or intricate details, the majority of people prefer concise messages that convey the main points of the information quickly and succinctly. This doesn’t mean dumbing down the message – rather being mindful to provide just enough information to get the main points across without overwhelming with too much detail.

(Simply put, more and more scientific evidence about effective communications demonstrates that the “information deficit” model of communication is not effective. More here.)

Keeping things simple can be difficult, but it is critical for successful communication. Don’t forget, simpler explanations of complex ideas can be just as effective as detailed ones.

When attempting to communicate with your audience, make sure to keep things as simple as possible. This will help you deliver your message more effectively, and you will be more likely to have success when it comes to conveying your ideas. Don’t let long-winded explanations distract from what you are trying to say – make sure your audience has all the facts they need in a clear and concise manner.

Simplify as much as possible and you’ll find you’re likely to have more success in conveying your message.

Growth hack 2: Invite, don’t tell

We all want to feel special, and when it comes to workers and union members, the same is true. Taking the time to make people feel included can be the difference between a successful organising effort or campaign and one that fades in the background.

For example, instead of just saying “check out union campaign”, invite people to participate in something important like “you are invited to participate in our important campaign to improve your workplace”. Or, instead of just saying “join your union today”, invite them to join with others who are taking action for their rights with something like “you are invited to join more than 30,000 union members who take action to protect workers’ rights”.

Being a good union communicator or organiser means making people feel special and included – this is a great way to demonstrate that your union cares about its members and potential members.

Don’t ignore this essential step to invite, don’t tell.

Growth hack 3: Always include images of members

It’s no secret that visuals are powerful when it comes to communication — including social media, posters, email and digital (e.g. Facebook) advertising.

Research from the corporate sector has shown that ads with images of faces in them generate significantly higher conversion rate than ads without them (see here). Even just a hand displaying the product versus a simple product picture has shown to increase conversion rates significantly.

That’s why union comms staff and organisers should always make sure to use visuals with members in them (where it makes sense of course).

If you’re looking to create content with visuals, avoid using stock photos whenever possible. Most of the “good”, popular stock photos are already widely used across the internet by other organisations, meaning they won’t be unique or eye-catching. Instead, use real photos of your union members. Not only will these be more genuine and relatable, but they will also help build trust with your audience.

(It’s also worth investing in some professionally shot photographs of members, union leadership and other important images you’re union is likely to use. Again, research shows that professionally shot photographs significantly outperform “amateur” photos across social media platforms.)

When you’re looking to create content with visuals, make sure to put your members front and centre!

Growth hack 4: Repost old content

If you’re like most union comms staff, you know just how difficult it can be to keep your social media presence alive. You’re tasked with creating enough content to make sure you don’t bore your members and potential members (on top of a million other things you need to do!).

Reposting content is a great way to get the attention of your followers without spending huge amounts of time creating fresh content. Any content that isn’t time-sensitive is fair game for reposting, so don’t be afraid to share the same post more than once, even from day to day.

As a matter of fact, it’s probably a good idea since only about 20% of your followers actually see each post you make on platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

Reposting can also help you test which times of day are most effective for your union — early morning, lunchtime or dinnertime — so you can experiment what will help maximise the reach of each post.

It’s okay to repost content on your social media channels, so that more people see them!

Growth hack 5: The vomit principle

We’re living in a world that’s saturated with advertising and content. According to research, it’s estimated that people see more than 5,000 ads each day, but forget the majority of this content within a period of 24-72 hours.

So how do you ensure that people remember your message and take action? It turns out that there’s a simple rule which can be applied in your union communications: the “rule of five”, also known as the “vomit principle”.

The rule suggests that members need to be exposed to your union’s campaigns and messages at least five times before they take action or even remember what was said. In politics, this is called the “vomit principle” — “if I see this message/slogan one more time, I’ll vomit”.

When you feel that way, your message is just starting to cut through to your audience.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that sending one email, or posting a message on social media is enough for people to remember it and be persuaded to act. (Note that some people may respond to minimal contact, but they are the minority.)

What’s more important is pre-planning your interactions with members and potential members over a period of time – at least five times. The more diversity in channel they receive the same message, the better (this creates a rich network of synaptic links in the brain.) This could include emails, social media posts and digital ads, workplace posters, direct mail, SMS, and phone calls.

An important part of the vomit principle is consistency. Consistency builds trust. Trust builds retention. You can create this consistency across all of your communications and organising (website, emails, letters, SMS, social media, member portals, workplace posters and flyers, even how your team answers reception calls and Member Service calls).

Consistent branding (including language, colors and fonts, design, messaging) at everything from your email to your ads to whatever in-person things you might even be doing — all of that matters to ensuring that your members and potential members notice and remember your messages.

Remember: if you want people to take action and remember your message, repeat it at least five times and keep it consistent.

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