Communication & Cooperation

Communicating with Your Community

When I was about two years into my career, working at one of our North American universities, a concept called a “meme” appeared on the social media scene. Keep in mind that Facebook was still relatively new at this time, having only been open to the public (not just Harvard students) for a year or two. I was baffled. Eventually I brought a high school student into my office to explain the concept to me. Nearly a decade later, just last week, I found myself in my office (a different one, at a different university) getting a lesson in how to use Snapchat.

There’s a lot out there. Even Millennials like myself can’t keep up with all of it, and when your boss comes to you and says, “You’re in charge of social media,” or your constituents come to you and ask, “Why aren’t you on X or Y or Z website?” it can be overwhelming. And if you haven’t grown up in the age of the Internet, social media, memes, and Snapchat, successfully managing social media for your organization might seem as unlikely as, say, becoming an astronaut.

Photo: Pixabay

The truth is that your community doesn’t mind your methods so much as it wants to hear from you a) regularly, b) honestly, c) personally, and d) simply. Let’s break those down a bit.

Regularly. Social media 101 says “If you’re going to make an appearance, stick around.” This rings true of any type of communication you choose. Once you make an effort to reach out to your community, don’t stop! Whether you craft an e-newsletter or start an Instagram account, give it a fair try and stick with it.

Honestly. Be real with your community. We can all smell a fake, and no one wants to be toyed with. So while acknowledging there are some things you just can’t say, be absolutely truthful in those things you do say, even if it’s hard.

Personally. Every organization has a personality. Use yours to be a unique voice wherever you choose to speak. Post behind-the-scenes photos and videos, use Facebook Live or Periscope to interview a colleague or guest speaker, share little-known facts about your history, your people, and your space. You have a voice, and you have a personality, so give your organization a face!

Simply. Don’t make keeping up with you complicated. If it takes more thought than clicking a button to engage with you, you’ll lose a good portion of your audience very quickly. Make good use of hyperlinks, embed videos when you can, and make your web presence easy to find—and easy to remember.

Each of these aspects of communicating with your community could be expounded upon in its own blog post, of course. But for now, keep these four words in mind when you’re contemplating how to approach communicating with your community, and you’ll be off to a good start.

Note: Article written and posted in English

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