How to leverage social media in community programs

Speech bubblesUsing social media in community programs can be a low cost alternative to help recruit participants and spread the word about your success. Even if you have a personal profile on some social media sites, you'll need to spend some time thinking about how to use these pages for your program. Here are some tips to help you leverage social media in your project:


1. Have a clear goal

To maximize your chances for success, be clear about what you want to do. Your goals could be to build interest, share information, or let people know about upcoming events.


2. Realize that there will be a time commitment involved

One of the appeals for using social media is that it's free. The service is free, but your time isn't. Even if it's just a half an hour a week, it still needs to be worked into your schedule.


3. Go where your audience is

First, decide who you are trying to reach. Your page will be more successful if it's focused. Asking is the best way to find out where your demographic spends their time online. You could put a survey in your next email, or ask at your next meeting. If you are primarily trying to reach youth, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or texting might be the way to go. If you're looking to reach older adults, you might want to consider Facebook, blogs, or LinkedIn. Facebook and Twitter are definitely the most popular social media networks for community programs.


Facebook group or fan page

With Facebook, you can either have a group or a fan page. The main difference is that groups have the option of making it public or private. For example, if you want to send out reminders and share ideas with members of a working group, you can make the page accessible to just the people on the team. Announcements to group members will be sent as Facebook messages – essentially like sending an email.

Fan pages are searchable through search engines so anyone can become a "fan" and see updates. Since fan pages are more public than groups, they can be used to share information with the general public as well as participants. Most dialogue-to-change programs that use Facebook have a fan page instead of a group. Here are examples of programs that use Facebook:


In 140 characters or fewer you can use Twitter to send reminders and updates on your program's latest news. You can also link to pictures, videos, news articles, or blog posts. Of all the tools listed here, Twitter is probably the easiest to set up and maintain. Here are examples of programs that use Twitter:


4. Start with only one page

Learning the ins and outs of each social media page takes time, and starting more than one might spread your efforts too thin. If you've had a presence on one page for a while, take a step back and think about why it is or isn't successful to build on your strengths.


5. Promote it

No matter how much time and effort you put into designing your page and producing content, it will gather dust if you don't tell people about it. Put a prominent link on your website and e-newsletter. Put logos and your URL on flyers or handouts. Mention it at every meeting. Tell people to spread the word.


6. Use tools to help you manage your accounts

You can monitor your accounts and schedule posts in advance using free or low-cost options. Here are two that we recommend you check out to make managing your social media accounts easier:

  • Hootsuite lets you manage multiple social networking sites at the same time by scheduling posts, tracking responses and analyzing data. It also helps you track conversations and messages on your networks. In the free account you can manage up to five social media profiles with basic analytics. Their “Pro” account is only $8.99/month and includes advanced message scheduling and analytics. However, the free version offers more than enough features for community initiatives.
  • Buffer is another option for managing multiple social profiles at once. Buffer also tracks analytics for your posts and shortens links for you so you can know exactly how many clicks they get. They offer a plug-in that installs a “Buffer” button to your social media profiles to make it easy to add content to your queue. The free version allows you to connect one account per social media network, and have up to 10 posts in your queue. Buffer offers an Awesome Plan for $10/month, allowing you to manage more social media profiles, unlimited posts in your queue, and the ability to add two team members to your accounts.  


7. Listen to your fans/followers

Social media is interactive. If you're not getting any responses on your Facebook page, ask them what they'd like to hear. Reply to fan posts when appropriate. Take note in meetings of things that would be interesting to share online. Once you get a good following, experiment with different types of posts to see what your fans like to hear about.

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Connecticut Civic Ambassadors are everyday people who care about and engage others in their communities by creating opportunities for civic participation that strengthens our state’s "civic health."

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.