NICVA hosted a Twitter “Tweet Up” for its members, to review various aspects of social media and its relevance for the sector.
The Twitter hashtag for the event was #NICVATwtUp
The host was UTV’s Marc Mallett (@MarcMallett_UTV), an informal, sofa chair style panel containing Chris Brown (@CB_PRandPA), Susie Brown (@Brownturf) (“I am not Chris’ partner, mother or any other way related!”), and Eamonn Mallie (@EamonnMallie). Coffee provided by Common Grounds (@commongroundsni) (with its manager participating — clever marketing).
Lisa McElherron (@Lisamcelherron), Head of Public Affairs at NICVA, welcomed all and made some introductory remarks. She said that social media can be used to get your own good news stories out into the public arena, instead of relying on broadcast media, which is inclined to focus on negative stories. Lisa acknowledged the fear by organisations of losing control of one’s message. Once you put an item onto Twitter, you don’t know how your followers will respond. But engagement is the key; Lisa reviews her list of those she follows, and will routinely unfollow those that are simply posting a stream of press releases:
Chris Brown, a Public Relations & Public Affairs professional with MCE, said that he uses Twitter as a replacement for an RSS feed, as his means of reviewing daily news that may be of interest to his clients. Indeed, he pointed out, many times they think he has an inside track on the news agenda, when he simply watches the evening news for reports of what will be in the print newspapers the next morning, and tweets those notices onto his Twitter account:
Chris gave some advice on the use of Twitter:
- Don’t tweet anything that you can’t verify
- Don’t take the bait (of a troll or provocateur)
- Don’t leave it to the intern to post tweets of the organisation
- Do remember who you are following (to save potential embarrassment)
- Don’t be one-sided, posting all but not replying to anyone else’s tweets
Marc Mallett argued that it wasn’t the number of Twitter followers that one has that matters, but the quality of engagement. Perhaps ironically, Marc then asked Eamonn Mallie how many followers he has, and he answered 10,500. For Eamonn, he viewed his success on knowing what works, what interests your readers. He clearly enjoys his profession as a journalist, as he told the audience some recent spontaneous stories that he reported on (such as a family of five travelling on two bicycles). But he added, “I’m a bit elitist,” waiting for the likes of the Financial Times to make use of Twitter. He subsequently praised The Guardian and The Mail for their adaptation of social media in their business models:
Susie Brown, Head of Communications at the Northern Ireland Assembly, described how social media “is in our DNA”, as an integral part of the Assembly’s corporate communications policy. She explained how they are moving evermore to using social media as a means to get more engaged with the general public. Later, in answering a question about how to regulate what your staff say about your organisation on Twitter, Susan answered that the rules of engagement on social media is the same as other media: you wouldn’t expect a staffer to say anything inappropriate to a journalist face-to-face, nor post anything that could be picked up by a journalist online:
Stewart Finn (@stewartfinn), part of the NICVA team, contacted me, by a public tweet no less, to ask me if I was willing to facilitate one of the event’s “Unconference-like sessions”. After reverting to an old school phone conversation, I agreed.
In preparing a brief introductory presentation, I discovered Prezi.com, and I am a convert; I will never use Powerpoint again!
My presentation reviews some larger dimensions of social media for non-profits. I emphasised that it is about turning communication into interactive dialogue; if you’re not going to respond to anything that is asked about your statements, or to what others in your industry or sector are posting, then what’s the point? You might as well print glossy leaflets and leave them on your reception desk, hoping for the best.
I argued reasons for using social media, including the desire to turn your supporters (followers) into active promoters of your organisation’s goals. A proven way of doing this is to tell stories about what you do. In marketing speak, this is called context marketing. But as I like to say, people buy people; the more human the story, the more likely you’ll evoke the desired response. So this requires careful consideration and creativity in explaining your campaign to your supporters.
I finished with a set of questions:
- What is your story?
- Why do you do what you do (who are your recipients)?
- Why should anyone care (who are your supporters)?
- How could social media be part of your organisation’s next objective?
Marc announced that there was already positive feedback and an expressed desire to have another NICVA Tweet Up next year. I would like to see another one well before that: I think more frequent sessions, perhaps quarterly, would be enjoyed by all.
Also, considering the multitude of social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Audioboo, YouTube, WordPress.com) and how fast this medium evolves, there would be further benefits in assisting organisations in the third sector to keep up with it all.