Communicate for Community

People on phones interacting on social media

One common mistake I see regularly on social media is organizations that communicate solely about themselves. They will only share their organization’s news, achievements, upcoming events, blog posts, special offers and announcements.

While the goal of an organizational website is to communicate about the organization — its mission, vision, history, team, achievements, etc. — too many organizations (wrongly) carry this same rationale to their social media platforms.

Social media, by its very name, is meant to be social. Let’s face it, no one enjoys a three-hour dinner with a guest who speaks only about themselves. Organizations on social media that only communicate about themselves provide their followers with a similar experience. And, just as one would tune out an overly talkative, self-absorbed dinner guest, social media followers will eventually tune out and dismiss the overly self-referential organization. 

So, then what?

Action: Engage your followers by posting content that appeals to the concerns that inspired them to follow you to start with. This content would be aligned with your organization’s work or mission, but would not be about your organization. It could come from authoritative sources other than your own website. It could be from collaborators or others aligned with your organization’s goals. Demonstrate that you are engaged with the rest of the world, that you’re interested in more than your own advancement. In short: Be social. 

Social media is for community. Too often organizations understand community exclusively as their followers on social media, and building community exclusively as increasing their number of followers. But understanding community in this way is far too narrow and limits the ways in which an organization can engage new audiences and extend its reach. 

Let’s think about the concept of community. Community (my definition) is a place or a space where people invest in relationships of care, work together for the common good, peacefully coexist and provide conditions where others can thrive. Relationships in a community are reciprocated. Community is formed by reaching out beyond those who can advance one’s own objectives. A community recognizes its members, creating a sense of unity, solidarity and belonging. A community-builder is other-focused.

Interestingly, many organizations engage in community relations in their real-world environments, increasing their visibility and profile in a community as an organization that cares and is for the common good. Oddly, many organizations do not transfer this important communications function online.

How can your organization lead in community-building on social media? 

Action: Start featuring and celebrating on your social media the achievements of people outside of your organization (or other organizations altogether) that are aligned with your interests and in some way have come into contact with you through a professional friendship or collaboration. Share posts by these collaborators and friends to your social media page. Demonstrate care and interest, help others succeed. In this way, you are investing in relationships of care and creating conditions for growth. In short: Communicate for community.

Social media is a network. But you wouldn’t know it the way some organizations use it. Social media offers endless opportunities to reach out to groups that are aligned with or could be supportive of your organization’s mission — groups and people around the globe to which you would not normally have access in your immediate real-life environment. Instead, many organizations are content to communicate online with people who they already know in geographic proximity — that’s the opposite of networking!

Action: Search on social media for people and organizations that are aligned with your work, mission and values. Follow them, like them, message them. Prepare a short pitch to introduce yourself to them, underlining what you have in common and how pleased you are to have found them online. In this way, you will create an international web of relationships that can help grow your organization and stimulate dialogue with like-minded individuals. In short: Invest the time to make connections.

Try this new, other-centered approach to social media and let me know how it has enriched the online experience for your organization and your followers.

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