Monday, 29 September 2014

How I succeeded on social media

Back in September 2013 the only social media I used was Facebook for my own personal use.  Until I started my role as the O.R. Pro Bono Project Manager at The OR Society I hadn’t given much thought to how vital social media could be to an individual’s job role and to the wider organisation.
I started out small, I got myself a Twitter and LinkedIn account and then a few months later started a blog.  Before you start it is important to determine what you want to accomplish by using social media. 

For me there were several reasons for using social media:
  •          To increase the awareness of O.R. to third sector audiences, explain what O.R. is, how it can help and that free support is available via Pro Bono O.R.
  •          To engage with members of The OR Society and the wider O.R. community to inform them about Pro Bono O.R. and encourage them to sign up as volunteers
  •          Through promotion of Pro Bono O.R. to increase the awareness of The OR Society, to increase traffic to the website, to improve member retention as well as encourage new members to join.

To succeed Pro Bono O.R. needed third sector organisations to sign up to receive support and then volunteer analysts to carry out projects. 

Initially I needed to choose which social media platforms to use.  Firstly I signed up to Twitter, this was really useful for sharing information about Pro Bono O.R.  Although I needed to grow my follower base I knew this would take time so I used other twitter handles in my tweets such as @TheORSociety, @Reachskills, @NCVO etc. because if they retweeted my tweet I could reach their followers.  I also created a hash tag #ProBonoOR which I put on all my tweets so that any information or conversations could be easily found through the search function.  I decided who I wanted to follow which in my case was third sector umbrella organisations in order to keep up to date with third sector news as well as individual third sector organisations and O.R. organisations and individuals.

It is important with twitter to make the most of the 140 characters you have, it is best used for short conversations and sharing information.  I try to post opinions, questions, reply to posts whilst including my hash tag, other twitter handles and links to other places like my webpage.

Next I got my head around LinkedIn.  Firstly I spent time on making sure my profile was right, this is the first impression people get of you and it will be at this point people decide whether to connect or not so it is really important to spend some time one this.  LinkedIn for me has been my most valuable social media tool.  It has allowed me to make connections with people that I otherwise would not have had the chance to.  I joined groups which looked like good places to learn and contribute too, such as The OR Society and a third sector sub group where I can post information about Pro Bono O.R.  Through that I have made many connections with O.R. professionals.  I also joined groups that were third sector related, through these I promoted Pro Bono O.R. and made lots of useful connections.  As you grow your connections LinkedIn will then suggest people you may want to connect to.  I have made some of my most valuable connections by this means and has led to some really successful Pro Bono O.R. projects which benefits the organisations, The OR Society and the volunteer.  LinkedIn is useful for sharing short updates, connecting with individuals and groups and sharing information and ideas.  A more recent feature which I like now enables you to write longer posts and you can monitor your views, likes and comments.

Lastly I started to write a blog.  Having never had any experience with blogs my first point of call was google for some tips!  I found a host site called blogger, built up my profile and got going.  What I found important about blogging was to use eye catching titles to entice your reader to open the link and read further.  Trying to write regularly e.g. once a week and keeping your blogs interesting is important.  As well as my own stuff I often share what others have been saying.  Once I write a blog I share the link on twitter and LinkedIn with a short summary to get the readers interest.  My blog is now the centre of my social media strategy where I get most engagement.  As a platform I can extend what I’ve said in other mediums and provide more breadth and depth of information. 

Over the last year I have learnt more about social media and I must say I think a lot of it is about giving it a go and learning as you go.  I use all the social mediums weekly and will adjust what I post depending on my audience and the medium.  Once you have your audience you need to keep them interested so I keep them updated about Pro Bono O.R. and things that are of interest in the third sector and O.R. community.
The reality is that, done effectively, social media success can be achieved in an easy, straightforward manner.   The key is start small and build your social media engagement slowly.