The June 2013 flooding disaster in Calgary and its surrounding areas has demonstrated just how powerful and valuable a tool social media is in bringing entire communities together for a common cause.
At the height of the crisis, social media had empowered individuals by providing them with up-to-the-minute news on how to volunteer or donate, while enabling various organizations to coordinate community-wide flood relief efforts.
To paint a picture of how social media played a big role during the crisis period, here’s a summary of the spike of activities on our social media channels: our Facebook page had 174,000 shares; our Twitter page acquired 1,000 new followers; the Blog had almost 40,000 visitors and more than 59,000 views.
The rapid dissemination of information brought in much-needed support from all over the province and the country. Various volunteer-run initiatives like YYCHelps.ca and Calgary Clean-up have thrived almost overnight with the increased demand for ways to get involved, which would not have been possible without the driving force that is social media.
Social media has proven itself to be a critical communication tool when it comes to disaster response, as it provided a swift and accessible method of connecting with a wide range of audiences, whenever and wherever.
The above is an extreme example of how social media can be used to further a cause. On a day-to-day basis, organizations can harness the power of social media to enhance communication and connect with the communities that they serve.
Social media can amplify your voice and expand your reach. Powered by social media, your organization can…
…have a dialogue. Social media facilitates 2-way communication, some real-time, that enables you to engage in conversations directly with your supporters. This is a great way to tap into ideas and get feedback directly from members of the community. It also breaks down barriers and makes you and your organization seem more accessible and personable, bringing your cause and mission closer to peoples’ hearts and minds. Just take a look at the great @Nenshi phenomenon here.
…listen in. Ever wondered what the community thinks about what you are doing? Monitor what the public is saying about your organization; this empowers you to correct false notions about your organization (if any of them are floating around in cyberspace) or to express gratitude to your avid fans.
…create awareness. Being active on popular social media sites can help drive traffic to your website and help you promote and position your various programs and services.
…raise funds and support.Drive visitors to specific pages on your website where you need support the most with links to your online donation or volunteer sign-up pages.
…spread the word. Messages sent through social media channels have the uncanny ability to spread like wildfire. Empower your influential and passionate supporters to promote your organization by distributing your message through their social networks.
…broaden your reach. By engaging with online communities, you are able to reach more people, allowing you to acquire new contacts and connect with supporters with less effort. Social media also fosters connections between people in the non-profit sector, enabling them to work together informally across boundaries, opening up endless possibilities for collaboration.
…be transparent. An online presence helps build trust and loyalty from your supporters, as it not only allows your organization to be more accessible, but also gives the community the ability to share their feedback and opinions in a public forum.
Before embarking on a social media rampage, study the different platforms and consider which ones work best with your target audience, your message, and goals in mind. Social media takes time and investment. You must never lose sight of the fact that, as the name implies (“social”), it is all about building and nurturing relationships. Used diligently and strategically, social media can be a very powerful marketing tool with exponential possibilities. But as with any tool, it is only as effective as whoever wields it.