“Do you have a Twitter and a Facebook account?” That question is just about standard these days at the start of any training session which is going to involve media and comms.
And so it was for the participants of the latest citizen reporting training sessions I’ve been running with Raymond Joseph for activists in South Africa. Nothing unusual in that and it can be a great starting point to a wider discussion about social media with a group.
But ultimately, it’s also a pretty limited question – after all, just because a person has an account, it doesn’t follow that a. They know how use it effectively or b. It suits their professional needs.
During our training sessions to date, we’ve tended to talk more about the underlying principles of social media and how it works in the whole mix of media available to a storyteller these days.
- Try out different platforms, but go back to the one that works best for you. If your audience mainly contact you on Twitter use that; if they favour Facebook, focus your energy building the community there.
- Pick a metric and measure the impact of your social content. This might be likes on Facebook, retweets on Twitter or simply the quality of conversation you have around a topic.
- Keep your organisation’s tone of voice consistent. Having lots of different styles is confusing, so establish your values, have them agreed and supported across all levels of stakeholder plus provide training to those involved.
- Think about a visual element. How about publishing video clips regularly on YouTube, Instagram or Vine? Use more pictures. Images embedded directly into Twitter are 94% more likely to get more retweets.
- When. Post less and at specific times. Facebook or Twitter analytics tell you when your community is most active, so concentrate on those times.
- Think short and shareable to cut through the noise. It needs to be new, important or genuinely funny to engage an audience.
Having some general approaches in mind can help people focus on which platforms will be most suitable for their particular projects and campaigns as well as hopefully providing them with some future-proofing for when THE NEXT BIG THING inevitably comes round the corner.
However, there is also a role for some detailed hands-on, ‘how to’ training which is why I’m pleased that we’re going to be offering two short one-day courses which will get into the nuts and bolts of the most popular platforms in the new year. (If you’re interested in signing up for that, please do get in touch).
This work in Cape Town is going to continue in February when we’re going to be working with some of those mapping, investigating and exploring major issues thanks to the support of the Indigo Trust.
Their work unearths some incredibly important issues – participants in this last workshop are looking at everything from the campaigning around antiretroviral drugs to the state of a township’s public toilet provision for example.
I hope to be able to share more of their stories in the coming weeks and months. If you’re interested in following, there is a Twitter list for the participants here and we are using the hashtag #MediaCT.
* The picture gallery above is by participant and journalist Kim Harrisberg. It shows the session taking place at the home of Code 4 South Africa, Codebridge, Cape Town and the hook-up via Google + Hangout with The Guardian in London.