08 Apr Baha’i Social Media Basics
Today we’ll be talking a bit about how your Local Baha’i Community can successfully use social media to engage the wider community in your city. How do you use Facebook right? What constitutes “success”?
If you were just exploring social media for the first time, you might think that “success” is defined by how many “Likes” on Facebook or “Retweets” on Twitter your Page racks up. Alternatively, some people measure social media engagement by how often people comment on your post or tweet. Don’t get me wrong, those numbers are important — but you need to remember that they’re just that: Numbers. Numbers can be misleading, leading you to think that you’re having a big impact when you’re not, or to believe that you’re not making much of a difference in people’s lives when you are. The number of likes and retweets you get are useful, though, because they give you a hard number of the amount of interaction that’s taking place, if not the quality.
Real Goal of Social Media
Likes and retweets are really a sideshow, however. The real purpose of social media is to build a bigger online audience (whether passive or active) and then to influence them to take the action that you want. In the case of our Baha’i communities, action could be anything from praying for people in our city, encouraging a more devotional attitude in life, or to write their local congresswoman to co-sponsor a bill protecting the friends in Iran. You can have all of the “Likes” in the world, but if no one calls up their representative, the amount of social media engagement is pretty meaningless.
The Cycle of Social Media Marketing
This is a thought tool that companies big and small use to optimize their social media strategy. Your Baha’i Community can use it, too.
Social media is inherently bigger than just your city or neighborhood (though they should still be your focus). One thing we’ve done in my local community is create Baha’i memes that illustrate spiritual principles or highlight quotations from Baha’u’llah or the other Central Figures. They’re branded with our local community’s logo at the bottom, but they’re picked up and shared by people all over the world. In a similar vein, whenever we post pictures of people at events (such as this Ayyam-i-Ha), friends and family from all over the place “like”, comment on, and share the photos with their circles.
Numbers and engagement are more important than the location of who you’re engaging with. Again, your primary focus should be on the people, Baha’i and non-Baha’i, in your city, but just know that if you create great content it will be shared around the globe. 100,000 people following your posts globally is better than 100 people locally, because eventually the impact of that larger number is going to get back and impact your numbers locally.
Create compelling content. This is the hard one. This is the key. If you’re going to post something on Facebook or Twitter, make sure it is worth the time it takes people to read it. Create something that inspires people. Heck, if nothing else, you can repost articles elsewhere on the web that you know will be inspiring or thought-provoking to your audience. Just don’t get needlessly controversial, political, or too far-out for the mainstream. Specifically, don’t post about natural health, conspiracy theories, anti-GMO, or articles on race that have a negative tone on your Baha’i page, because you don’t want to alienate neutral people who would otherwise be interested in investigating Baha’u’llah.
Know your audience.If this seems hard, think about it this way: Pretend we’re going fishing. Now, the thing about fish is that they are actually pretty picky about what they want to eat. Sometimes they feel like grasshoppers or crickets, sometimes worms sound pretty appetizing, and sometimes they just want something shiny, like artificial bait. Depending on the kind of fish and the weather conditions, the desired type of bait changes. The key is to use the bait the fish wants, not what you want to give the fish. This is hard. As the person creating the content for social media, we tend to create whatever we like and expect that other people will like it, too. It’s great to let some of your personality shine though on your posts, but you must remember to try very, very hard to create the kinds of things that your wider community will find interesting and inspiring.
Consistency -> Trust. Probably as difficult as creating great content is putting yourself on a schedule to create it on a regular basis. But think about it: how do you feel when you look at a business website and the owner was once active but hasn’t updated the site in a couple of years? It makes you wonder if he’s still in business. It’s no different when outsiders view your Facebook page — if there is a good amount of content and then it stops — people will wonder if there’s really very much going on in your Baha’i Community or if you’re even still there. Consistency builds trust; inconsistency rips it apart.
Trust -> Loyalty. In the same way, once people trust you, they become loyal. This loyalty is the biggest prerequisite you need when you want people to take action on what you want them to do.
Get them to commit. How? Ask yourself, what would they get out of it? Will they receive an increased sense of well-being, have an enriching time at a Core Activity, feel like they’ve accomplished something worthwhile if they help teach a children’s class? Be clear. It doesn’t have to always be a verbal explanation; sometimes you can illustrate what people will expect to receive through an image or a video if you’re creative. But remember, people almost always act with the expectation of receiving something out of any activity they give their time or money to, even if that something is feeling good about helping others.
If you do the other parts of the circle right, the people you’ve engaged through your social media presence will become your fans and will raise awareness of your Baha’i page for you. Ideally, this can create a new sustainable measure of growth that begins the Social Media Marketing Cycle all over again.
For those of you who prefer videos to text, here is the video version of this post: