Recently, at the AHA office, we have been working on communications audits for several clients. One of the areas that we review is their use of social media. (We also research and analyze how other organizations in the same field use social media and provide them with best and worst practices during this process.) In our research, we discovered an interesting trend: many organizations have reverted to a more traditional approach of pushing information out through social media channels rather than engaging and starting or participating in conversations.
Of the five communications audits we have done in the past few months, four of the organizations are dealing with challenges in that their social media networking communities are not growing and there is little or no engagement or interaction.
One of the challenges of social media is that it is easy to lose perspective when it comes to content creation and social media. We see it quite often – there is great intent to share interesting, informative, engaging content. Unfortunately, it gets sideswiped when the content creator sees their role only as the publisher of information and not as a facilitator of conversation or content.
The traditional paradigm of providing information is to push it out. It’s a one-way approach where people are “told” – facts, information, stories and ideas. Social media allows us to do more. It allows us to actively participate, to put information out and to take information in. It gives us the opportunity for a conversation, for a two-way (or three-way or twenty-way…) approach. It encourages a community approach that inspires participation and interaction. Many organizations just aren’t there yet; they are defaulting to the more traditional way of doing things… putting information out through Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
It is a cultural shift and it does take time for this approach to take hold – for it to become the standard of how you communicate. There are straightforward, simple ways to start to do this. Of course, the first step is recognizing that you aren’t encouraging interaction, but are using your social media networks as a megaphone to push out information.
Review the last month or so of your updates and outreach. How often did you ask for input from your community? How often did you respond to others asking for input, opinions or advice? How often did you link to ideas or conversations that were relevant – but didn’t directly benefit your organization – even though your community would be interested in the topic? How often did you recommend a blog, Twitter or Facebook follow that you felt would bring value to your followers? If it isn’t often, it’s time to shift a little.