Sincere thanks to our guest blogger Janis La Couvée for sharing her thoughts on using social media to promote events. Janis is passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive social change. You can follow her on Twitter at @lacouvee.
In April 2009, like many other individuals in the community, I was a social media neophyte; but when an acquaintance at a business breakfast mentioned that people using Twitter in Victoria were actually meeting face to face, I had an “aha” moment.
For over 20 years I have been actively involved in the community, organizing events, committees and people to accomplish anything from a beach clean-up, back to school welcome dinner, neighbourhood fun day or silent auction. We’ve used phone trees, newsletters, email, websites, media releases and web calendar postings to generate interest in these activities.
With the advent of social media, it made sense to connect in this new way.
It was a very steep learning curve, but also a time of incredible digital community building – everything was new, and save a few very early adopters, most of us were learning together as we went.
In the past 18 months (and the past year since the first Twestival Victoria) the Twitter community has grown exponentially. In some ways, it has made it easier for new people just starting out, since norms have been established (such as using the #yyj hashtag to indicate Victoria-based events for instance). However, with the increased numbers of individuals using Twitter, comes increased communication and competition for attention. It is harder to stand out now.
Twitter seems simple. 140 characters to convey a message. But, like any communication strategy, the message needs to be well thought out, well executed, and persistent in its nature. There is little room for missteps and mistakes are visible to all.
Given that social media, and particularly Twitter, is social, you must consider if your organization or group has the time needed to interact with people to build credibility within the community. The first Twestival was organized in 6 weeks because we already knew of one another before forming an organizing committee.
If you do not yet have a Twitter account, start there first. Listen, pay attention to the nature of conversations. Contribute when appropriate. Thank people for talking to you, for forwarding your messages, for following you. Be grateful! Ask questions, seek clarification. Be humble. You may be a key player in the voluntary sector in Victoria; this is a new digital world. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; find key influencers in the Twitter community and engage them. People are incredibly generous; if they believe in your cause, they will help to promote you – sometimes even without asking.
Make sure that your tweets (Twitter messages) link back and repeat the information on your website, blog, Facebook page or external calendar links. There is incredible SEO (search engine optimization) to be gained from using Twitter.
Connect with the media outlets currently using Twitter. It is absolutely amazing how easy it can be to have personal conversations (on Twitter) that you would never be able to have by using the more traditional methods of email, phone calls and press releases. Of course you must not ignore these more traditional avenues either.
The first Twestival in September 2009 took 6 weeks to organize, and raised $5,000 for Power to Be Adventure Therapy Society in Victoria. We were the #2 Canadian city. The second Twestival in March 2010 demanded much less organizational time and raised over $8,000 for Concern Worldwide. We were the #16 city worldwide in total raised, and the #8 city in dollars raised per capita! Our third Twestival will take place in the first quarter of 2011.
Victoria has a rich tradition of connections and networks. I encourage you to embrace technology and bridge both your current offline and potential online networks. There are people just waiting to connect with you.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have further questions about digital community building. Connect with me on Twitter at @lacouvee.
Janis La Couvée, together with a team of 10 very committed individuals, is the lead organizer of Twestival Victoria. The next Twestival takes place Q1 2011. Details at http://victoria.twestival.com or @yyjtwestival on Twitter and Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/pages/YYJ-Twestival