Grassroots Social Media and Digital Engagement

A Q&A with Shakeir Gregory, Senior Account Executive Digital and Social Engagement, on how social and digital platforms are used to support clients’ initiatives

How do you assess a client’s social media capabilities?

I think correct and comprehensive utilization of a platform is most important. Is the client’s content compelling? Are they on message? Are they using the platform the way it’s meant to be used? And are they using it regularly? I think those are core factors that determine whether somebody is doing social media well. Posts should occur regularly—most people would say daily, multiple times daily, but the rules vary depending on the client’s resources and objectives. If target audiences are not seeing your content, then you’re not using the platform correctly. You need to post things that are relevant to both what you do as an organization and that are meaningful to your audience.

One advantage I think about when it comes to social media is that it is instantly measurable and can be easily recalibrated. If audiences are not liking or commenting on your content, or you have a lot of followers but little response to your call to action, then what’s going wrong? It probably is that your audience does not feel compelled to engage with your content. Social media fosters two way communication as with an everyday conversation, so what do you have to offer as a company, nonprofit or a membership organization like a union that will move your audiences to act? What are your objectives for your audiences and what can you communicate to achieve those objectives?

What objectives might an organization have in its social media strategy?

Let’s take a union as an example. Internally, a union might want to foster better communication among its membership or better explain union benefits, contract details or to activate members around a legislative issue. Externally, a union may want to rally the general public around a cause that is important to workers such as pushing back on things like privatization and the destabilization of programs that protect union workers and their interests. And, you want to call out worker exploitation wherever it’s seen. Social media’s two-way communication and mobile reach is the union’s modern day organizing and activation tool. Most people today in every age group are reachable in some way shape or form online. Even at the oldest age group 65+ use some form of social media.

What steps are often successful as an organization tries to increase its social media presence?

One of the biggest first steps is to look at what platform is being used and whether it effectively intersects with the target audience. For example, if I’m doing a campaign to raise awareness on the cost of credit card debt and the rising burden it is placing on young people across our country, who am I going to talk to? Probably people below the age of 25. What social media platform do people below 25 use? They are Reddit, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. They may also have a Facebook, but is that their preferred platform for content? All of these answers are measurable. These metrics are attainable so you have to choose your outlets first and foremost when making a calculated decision about who you’ll be talking to.

And then it’s a matter of format. What messages are going to be most compelling to your target audience and is your message properly formatted for the medium you’ve chosen? For example, if you have a multi-paragraph long statement to share, Snapchat may not be the right place to distribute it. If you have a chart it may not be the best idea to post that to Pinterest. So it really just boils down to these three things: Who are you talking to? Where are they? What should you be saying to them and how?

Teamsters Labor Union: An O’Neill and Associates Case Study

For the Teamsters we were engaged to help rally membership and raise awareness of right to work legislation that was being considered in the NH legislature and heavily advocated for by the governor. The Teamsters realized was that their membership wasn’t fully engaged, and so we looked at their membership’s age range and noticed that it skewed older. They had a larger audience on Facebook and not as much on Twitter. Therefore we made sure we were doing everything we could to activate their members via Facebook, including using paid advertisements, publishing videos, placing content that was visually appealing with pull quotes, and complementing this with a traditional earned media PR strategy. If members skew older, they probably still subscribe to and read their local paper whether that is online or in print. We made sure to share that PR content online and extend the lifetime of that content through regular posting on Facebook. This might sound simple and straightforward, but every campaign has a lot of variables to consider.

Ultimately members were commenting on posts and saying “I was definitely against this right to work legislation– I might have been aware of it but I started seeing some of your posts” or “My spouse shared it.” Really the goal of a grassroots movement is getting to that word of mouth stage where people are so aware of what the issue is that they start to form an opinion on it, they start talking about it, and they take action. The goal is to get an audience to see it numerous times and get them thinking about the cause for which you’re advocating.