Social media can be a new tool for local association communications and organizing. Recent examples of chapters using social media tactics in bargaining crises and strike situations are Capistrano in April, La Habra in December, and National City in February this year. Here are some tips from these Southern California chapters.
Although Capistrano did not use social media strategies initiated by the chapter, relying instead on their existing website and e-mail distribution system, individual members, parents and community members set up their own Facebook and other social media sites to discuss and communicate about crisis issues. Take-away lesson? Chapters and leaders that are used to a greater degree of communications control should understand that in the age of social media, anyone can and will use these channels to express information and opinions. For two perspectives on the uses of social media, see the videos “Social Networking in Plain English” and “Socialnomics: Social Media Revolution 2” on YouTube.
Neither La Habra nor National City had functioning chapter websites going into their bargaining crises. To facilitate immediate internal crisis communications, each created Ning sites (ning.com), offering quick and easy setup with a variety of features for modest fees. Other possibilities are Groupsite.com and BuddyPress.com.
The two chapters also created Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, both to enhance internal communications and to offer parents, community supporters and fellow union members the opportunity to share information, content and support. The Facebook pages quickly filled with expressions of resolve and encouragement, information items about rapidly changing events, and historical records including photos and video.
The 140-character “tweet” limit on Twitter makes this medium ideal for transmitting brief snippets of information — rally or meeting time and place reminders, bargaining progress updates — that followers can access through their computers or as text messages sent to their cell phones. The chapters made sure to inform media covering the crises about the ability to follow events through the social media outlets, with many joining immediately to stay current.
Be sure you have the organizational capacity for the immediacy required by social media. Content on social media must be updated frequently. For Facebook, you might get by with three or four new postings per week, but a Twitter feed needs daily monitoring and to be “fed” with updates at least three or four times per day. Once a crisis puts multiple demands on a chapter president, bargaining chair and other leaders, they shouldn’t be expected to keep the social media tactics going too. Recruit a member already engaged with social media for personal communications to take that role for the local chapter.
You can check out CTA’s presence on Facebook and on Twitter @CATeachersAssoc.
Other resources include:
Visit gcflearnfree.org/facebook101 for a Facebook tutorial and bit.ly/1EsHAk for advice on best Facebook practices.
Visit bit.ly/hpock for Larry Ferlazzo’s list of Twitter resources and bit.ly/b65V4U to see a video on Twitter basics for teachers at Jason Renshaw’s blog.