Complete guide: Best social media sites for your union in 2023

Whether you are a union leader, seasoned union comms officer, or just starting out, it’s helpful to know about the most popular, and most trendy, social media sites in 2023 for unions.

Social media is hugely important for unions to communicate with potential and current members. Research shows that Australians are very online81% of the population are active on one or more social media sites.

Picking the right social media sites will help you engage with the right people at the right time, and achieve your union’s goals (of growth, protecting rights, winning industrial disputes, etc). It’s also important to consider whether the social media site is the right fit for your union. Is your membership or target membership using that site? Have you got the resources and expertise to manage multiple social media accounts?

To assist, this article goes through the main social media sites that unions should consider in 2023. Most will be familiar, but some are brand new (e.g. the various Twitter replacements like Threads, Bluesky) or are mainly used by people from specific countries or languages (e.g. Weibo).

It’s important to note that you don’t have to be on every social media site.

For most unions, I recommend prioritising Facebook as your primary social media site — in Australia, it is still the largest, most widely used social network, and has the lowest barriers for union communications staff and organisers to use.

However, if you are specifically trying to reach migrant workers who speak Cantonese, or young workers, you may want to consider WeChat or Tiktok for example.

Time spent using social media apps in Jan 2023 - infographic
Via <a href=httpswearesocialcomaublog202302digital 2023 australia 1 in 3 australians use social networks for brand research>WeAreSocial<a>

Also important to note: using a social media site for your union needs to be purpose-based. By this, I mean you need to have specific goals that you are trying to achieve for your union. These should obviously align with the overall strategy of your union: e.g. growth, winning organising efforts and campaigns, etc.

You can read more about effectively winning through digital and social media campaigning with my free book, Introduction to Digital Campaigning for Unions.


Facebook is the largest social media site in Australia and the world, with around 40% of Australians having an account. Research shows that this is much higher (in the 90% range) for workers who have very pro-union attitudes.

It is relatively easy to get started on Facebook, and easy to create engaging content (especially compared to other sites) — text, images and video content. You don’t necessarily need a team of graphic designers or comms staff to effectively use Facebook to communicate with members or potential members.

Many unions use Facebook groups, especially private groups, to communicate with and coordinate activists and delegates. The main benefit of this is that most people in Australia will have a Facebook account, so there are relatively few hurdles for the members. However, Facebook generally and Facebook groups is not a very secure or private forum to use.

Facebook also has created a Tiktok clone, called Reels. Reels is Facebook’s attempt to keep young people using its platform. For that reason, if your union has the capacity to regularly create short-form video, then you can use the same or similar content for Reels, Youtube Shorts and Tiktok.

Finally, Facebook as an interactive social platform, means that unions will need to decide whether or not to reply to comments. For most unions, you are not likely to get 100s or 1000s of comments (although you may!). In the corporate sector, especially in e-commerce, the “comments” are a crucial customer service channel. Because they are visible, they let you respond helpfully to questions or reply respectfully to criticism. Your capacity to respond to comments will likely be impacted by your resources, but if your union has a call centre or member service team, then responding to comments could be something they are assigned with.

Constant changes to the Facebook algorithm over the past 3-5 years has made it a challenge for Facebook page admins to reach your audience. This has worsened in 2023 — largely because Facebook wants pages/businesses to buy advertising, and so deprioritises page content. Most large political pages (including politicians and activist organisations like unions or GetUp) have experienced a massive decline in engagement and reach. There is also a risk with Facebook that it may remove your page or ban it — as it did in 2021 in Australia. Putting all your eggs in the Facebook basket is therefore a risk.

Despite this, Facebook is the social media site that most unions should focus on. If your union has limited resources, then I recommend for most unions that you focus only on Facebook, before going to other social media sites.


Youtube is the second largest social media site in Australia, with around half of the population using Youtube each month. It is also Australia’s (and the world’s) second most used search engine — with millions using it to find videos to solve problems or find information about specific things.

Youtube has a higher use among women aged 18-24 and men aged 25-34. For this reason — as well as its Tiktok clone called Shorts — Youtube is a promising platform for unions trying to reach younger workers.

<a href=httpswwwstatistacomstatistics1373431australia breakdown of youtube users by age and gender>Breakdown of YouTube users by age and gender in Australia in 2022<a> Statistiacom

However, creating engaging videos, even short-form videos, is a resourcing challenge. Video production typically requires more specialised skills, specialised equipment, and more time for shooting and editing.

It can also take a long time to build an audience organically on Youtube. Even “viral” channels from the big Youtube stars with millions of subscribers almost all took several years to “break out”. This means that your union likely faces several years of creating videos that get only 20-30 views.

To good news is that while you persevere in building your Youtube channel, the videos you create can be re-used on your other communications channels: you can link them in emails you send to members, and share the videos on Facebook Reels and Instagram Reels, as well as Tiktok.

(Like Facebook, Youtube also has a comments feature. For this reason, you should also plan your approach to how your union will respond to these, if at all.)

Why bother with Youtube? For many unions, I don’t think it would be worth it. However, if you have the resources and staff with the creativity and technical skills, then Youtube, and Youtube Shorts is an absolute must. The potential audiences on Youtube are likely very aligned to your union’s target audiences, and the Youtube discovery algorithm is easy to understand and benefit from.

WhatsApp & Facebook Messenger

Relatively few unions are active on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, but both are widely used in Australia. (SMS is obviously the most widely used messaging tool.) While most people use both messaging apps to communicate with family and friends, since the pandemic, more people have become willing to use these apps to communicate with “brand” accounts — which includes unions.

Both WhatsApp and Messenger allow unions to communicate with members or potential members, and share updates one-on-one. Sharing information about particular campaigns or events, responding to requests for support, and otherwise providing a good union experience are all ways that unions can use messaging apps.

You should use the “WhatsApp Business” app to do this. For Facebook Messenger, you can use the Facebook Business inbox.

Many unions will already have dabbled with SMS messaging for organising, comms and campaigning. Especially during the bushfire crisis and pandemic, SMS and messaging was a major way for unions to connect with members. Several unions are also using “peer to peer” SMS and messaging apps like Yabbr, which integrate with the IMIS membership system.

The experience of a lot of unions was that two-way messaging is resource intensive — and there is also an expectation of one-to-one messaging conversations to be more responsive and real-time, compared to email.

For this reason, using messaging tools like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger should be approached cautiously by unions. It would be most effective to train a large number of your staff on how to use messaging apps, rather than expect just your comms staff to monitor and respond. If your union has a call-centre for example, then they should have access to and use your messaging apps.

The bottom line for WhatsApp and Messenger is that they are very useful social channels, but need more time and resources to use effectively.


Telegram is a free messaging app that has end-to-end encryption and is therefore the messaging app of choice for the disparate network of right-wing groups in Australia (and across the world). It is very popular in Australia generally, behind Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat.

Encrypted messaging apps like Telegram have potential use for unions to use for organising. Because Telegram is encrypted, your organisers or industrial staff could use it to talk with delegates and members. Telegram is more secure than Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp — although a warning: it is not fool-proof encryption.

Right-wing groups and networks use large public Telegram groups to share memes and links, and then invite individuals to private groups to radicalise them. Right-wing news outlets like American Spectator and conservative influencers like Steve Bannon use Telegram’s channel feature to share news and links to their websites. Telegram channels can broadcast to up to 200,000 users.

For a detailed examination of how the right uses Telegram and messaging apps, read this article: Understanding Telegram’s ecosystem of far-right channels in the US.


As a visual social networking platform that focuses on photos, Instagram is the place for showcasing your union visually. On the app, you can share a photos and videos (and videos have a range of content types, including short-form Reels and Stories (which vanish after 24 hours). Instagram has a large user-base in Australia

Instagram, more so than Facebook, requires a strong visual style to stand out. The successful accounts and businesses are ones that invest in high-quality, engaging photography, design and videos. Most people on Instagram want to follow “real” people rather than brands or organisations — so the successful organisational accounts are ones that invest in distinctive and creative visuals.

Like Youtube or Tiktok, Instagram has a higher barrier to entry and higher barrier to effectiveness compared to Facebook. Just re-posting your Facebook content is unlikely to be an effective way to engage or reach your target audience.


TikTok is the fastest growing social media site in the world, especially for teenagers and under 30s. It allows users to share and watch short-form videos that are typically around 15-60 seconds long.

There are a vast number of Tiktok niches, from local neighbourhood walking tours, food recipe tutorials, dancing, memes and jokes, and DIY tricks — not to mention news and political commentary.

Tiktok is especially popular for young people under 30, and for unions who are focused on communicating with young workers, Tiktok is an essential social media site.

Moreso than many other social media sites, Tiktok success requires authenticity and very, very fast-paced reactions to new trends. Tiktok especially caters to entertainment, so keeping that in mind as your centrepoint will help you create effective content for your union.

For this reason, success with Tiktok requires that your union consider how you will develop a unique formula for content creation. Tiktok itself provides a range of tools to create the videos themselves, but you will need to be willing (moreso than other social media sites) to engage in trial and error and have a willingness to experiment with creative formats and features.

Understanding the dynamics of platform is also especially important — there are numerous subcultures and communities in Tiktok, with trends and memes sweeping rapidly across the platform at a bewildering pace. Your union will need to adapt approval processes to keep up — a popular trend one day could be outdated and uncool literally the next day.

Because of this, Tiktok is both an increasingly important channel for unions, but comes with a steep learning curve.

If your union is contemplating getting into Tiktok, I recommend that you contact the ACTU to discuss developing your strategy. There are several ways to approach Tiktok, dependent on your resources.

However, here is some practical advice:

  • Be responsive: keep up with the platform’s trends. If you don’t respond to a new trend quickly enough, by the time you publish a video the trend could be deeply uncool and outdated.
  • Simplify: This is advice for all communications, but for videos that aim to be shorter than 60 seconds, you need to K.I.S.S. No jargon, no complications and stick to one topic or issue per video.
  • Authenticity: The influencers and successful organisations on Tiktok have a distinct and unique voice — they don’t try to copy someone else. This is especially important for unions, where jumping on a Tiktok trend may be deeply irrelevant to your union or its membership.


At roughly 12 million active users in Australia, LinkedIn is more than the job search engine it was a few years and is fifth most used social media site. It is now a widely used professional networking platform where workers share content, job updates, and often-tedious “influencer” content.

LinkedIn allows you to create a page or profile for your union — you could even use the “showcase page” if you have a sub-brand for different parts of your union (e.g. Professionals Australia and the Game Workers Union), or for a specific long-term campaign (like United Workers Union and Big Steps).

LinkedIn is useful for unions in two ways:

  • Work mapping and outreach: With millions of users who put their full career history (including current employer), LinkedIn is a great resource to assist organisers to map worksites, especially for workers and employers in the professional and white-collar service sectors. Looking for current workers with a particular employer? They’re a search away. And the generally accepted LinkedIn culture is to be accepting of cold messaging via LinkedIn Messaging. You could also use LinkedIn Groups to coordinate or communicate with members (although this is not a widely used tactic).
  • Work and career content: LinkedIn is the perfect channel for your union to promote its work and career services. Does your union provide training services or continuing professional development, or professional indemnity insurance? Promote it on LinkedIn. You should even promote membership (so long as it’s in a professional manner that suits the LinkedIn format).

LinkedIn’s format and culture are far more work-focused than all of the other social media sites in this article. For this reason, it is advisable to not simply re-post content from your Facebook page.

WeChat and Weibo

WeChat and Weibo are chat apps (Weibo is more of a Twitter clone) that are especially popular with Chinese people, but are more widely used as well. There are about 3 million WeChat users in Australia; about 38% of these users are not native Mandarin or Cantonese speakers. The users of these apps also skew younger, with most being under 35. Both apps also have a large range of other features, especially mobile payments, food ordering and instant messaging.

Both WeChat and Weibo have attracted controversy and criticism due to being owned by Chinese companies, and being part of the Chinese government’s surveillance state. However, the companies that own these apps claim that overseas users are not monitored or censored.

For unions considering these two apps, it is important to think of your audience.

The largest group of users for both WeChat and Weibo are Mandarin and Cantonese speakers (although as noted, a large number are from other demographics and language-speakers) — and there are around 1.3 million people with Chinese ancestry living in Australia. Migrants from China are the largest single group of overseas workers in Australia (followed by workers from India). Consequently, being active on both of these social media sites may be very valuable for your union.

As with any social media app, you should ensure that if your union does create an account, you have enough resources and time to create content and monitor messages. There is a comprehensive guide to WeChat over at Hootsuite. There’s a few more steps that you’ll need to go through to create an “enterprise” account, but the Hootsuite guide walks you through these.


Twitter is struggling as a platform since it was taken over by Elon Musk. In Australia, it ranks behind Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Tiktok and Reddit. With around 3.7 million users, it emphasises real-time information and commentary about news, entertainment, sports and politics.

One thing that many progressive political users of Twitter often don’t appreciate is that “political Twitter” and “news Twitter” are a relatively small part of the overall Twitter user-base. Rather, the majority of users are there for entertainment, celebrities and sport.

However, Twitter remains important because of its news and political users. Journalists and politicians are heavy users of Twitter, so for this reason, Twitter remains an important social media site for unions who want to engage with those users. For the same reason, it is advisable that unions approaching Twitter with the goal to engage with “decision-makers” and journalists to focus on individual accounts (e.g. of the union’s leadership) rather than an institutional account.

Institutional Twitter accounts are potentially an important member service channel. A very large number of “customer service” interactions happen on Twitter — for many large companies and e-commerce brands, Twitter is a defacto service hotline. For this reason, if your union has a Twitter account, it would be advisable to ensure your call centre or member service team can access and monitor it.

In 2023, following Elon Musk’s takeover last year, Twitter has increasingly been saturated with right-wing accounts and bots. Various platform decisions by Musk have significantly reduced Twitter’s value as a communications channel. Unexpected and incoherent changes — like limiting the number of tweets that users can see each day — have largely ruined Twitter as a useful platform.

Unions without a large existing audience should think carefully about the reputational risk of remaining on Twitter. Increasingly, the risk is the association with racist, transphobic accounts — including Musk’s.

Twitter clones: Bluesky, Mastodon, Threads, Substack Notes

Twitter hasn’t been in a great place for months, and that means that there’s a lot more competition in Twitter clone platforms. Until very recently, Mastodon was the most well-established, but there are many other services trying to replace Twitter. Here are the top platforms:

  • Mastodon: Mastodon is a “decentralised social media platform”, where users control their online presence rather than being locked into a “closed wall” platform like Facebook or Twitter. There is a very high learning curve to getting started on Mastodon, because it requires that you join a “server” or create your own. The benefit of this is that it allows users to move their account to other platform that use the same decentralised protocol. Mastodon has around 2 million users, which makes it one of the larger Twitter clones, but a very, very long way behind Threads and Twitter. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend your union setting up on Mastodon for now. Read more about using Mastodon here.
  • Post: Post is small social platform catering to journalists and news publishers. You make posts, you like and repost other people’s posts, you follow interesting accounts — but it lacks most of the features that Twitter has, e.g. DMs, Bookmarks etc. Because it is trying to appeal to journalists and publications, it allows for “micro-transactions” where you can buy access to a single news article. With around 60,000 accounts, it is still quite small — so unless you have a specific goal of engaging with the journalists on this platform, it is unlikely to be particularly useful for your union.
  • Substack Notes: Notes is a Twitter clone created by email newsletter platform Substack. It has a larger built-in audience of several million from the subscribers of newsletters written by creators on the platform. It is regularly used by Substack writers and their super-fans, but has not yet expanding beyond this user-base. For this reason, it is unlikely to be a major social platform — however, if your union has a email newsletter strategy and you’re considering using Substack (which is free for any email list size), then Notes could be a way to connect with members or supporters who are especially engaged.
  • T2: T2 is an invite only Twitter clone with very few users — only a few thousand. Given the launch of Threads, it is unlikely to be a major social platform.
  • Bluesky: Like T2, Bluesky is an invite-only platform that has built hype by recruiting its first users from the “super-users” of Twitter. While it is invite-only, it is probably not a platform to focus on for your union. Read more about Bluesky here.
  • Instagram Threads: Threads achieved more than 50 million downloads in its first day, leveraging the huge network effect of being connected to over a billion Instagram users. Threads lets you pull in your existing network from Instagram, and requires an Instagram account. It has fewer features than Twitter — no DMs, Communities, Bookmarks, Lists, or Trends (although it was only launched on 6 July, so no doubt many more features will be released soon), and limited options for organisational account management — although you can create a “page”/brand account. Because of its Instragram link, account authentication is ported over, which will help prevent impersonation and fakes. More here.

At this early stage, unless you have a significant amount of resources, or there is a specific audience you are chasing (e.g. journalists on the Post app), again my advice is to focus on one of the large social media sites — especially Facebook.

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