By Micah-Sage Bolden
In the promotion efforts behind SOCM’s recent ‘Our Community, Our Future’ Kingston Coal Ash Event (featuring a showing of Working Films’ documentary series, Coal Ash Stories), social media proved to be a powerful tool. Facebook promotions drew a sizable proportion of the attendees to the event, video interviews of SOCM members introduced the public to the issue and our membership, and our live-tweeting of the event kept people from across Tennessee updated about the event’s progress as it happened. In all, SOCM’s videos, pictures, posts, and tweets reached over five thousand people over a two day period and elicited an engagement rate of fifteen percent (well above industry standards of five percent).
Although this single event demonstrated social media’s usefulness for SOCM’s efforts, social media has already proven itself as a powerful organizing tool for organizing efforts. Social media allows people from widespread geographic locations to connect and collaboratively work on issues. It can also allow you to personally connect with your audience. Gone are the days when advertisements yelled down to consumers from big media companies; today, social advertisements generate clicks by providing endearing content and personal connections. By taking to Facebook and Twitter, or writing an article on the SOCM blog, you can bypass traditional media and take your message directly to the public. If you can’t find a journalist to pick up your press release, become a citizen journalist and release it yourself as a blog article, Facebook post, or a Tweet; besides, most journalists use Twitter and Facebook to identify stories today anyway, so writing an popular article might get your issue in the paper faster than writing a press release. Facebook and Twitter can also be powerful tools for lobbying or direct action. For instance, when Amnesty International has a question for elected representatives they ask them directly on social media; in a public forum where hundreds or even thousands are watching the conversation as it happens, politicians can’t afford to ignore the public.
SOCM’s goal is to become a social informational hub for people throughout Tennessee looking to make a difference in their communities. We can only do this if our membership comes together to harness the transformative power of new media.
But how can members get involved in helping SOCM’s message spread online? If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, it’s as easy as liking, commenting, or sharing SOCM’s Facebook posts or retweeting SOCM’s tweets; a single like can more than triple the total reach of SOCM’s outreach efforts! Another way members can help our efforts online is by simply sharing their work. Do you have an article you thought was especially enlightening? Share it on our Facebook timeline. Have some data you’ve collected on a particular issue? Send it to our communication team and we’ll create an infographic for you. Do you have a literary side? Use your expertise to write a guest article on our blog to highlight an issue, an event, or your stories of organizing in Tennessee.
One major way that every member can contribute to online organizing is by sharing your multimedia with SOCM; every picture and video you take of SOCM events are priceless additions to our communications efforts. If you are unfamiliar with using social media in your organizing efforts or would like to learn more about the power of digital media, take part in a training put on by SOCM; our staff is in the process of planning two large training sessions for east and middle Tennessee, so stay tuned for more updates! Finally, perhaps the most important step you can take to help your chapter’s media efforts is becoming your chapter’s publicity coordinator. Publicity coordinators play a vital role in today’s media driven world, and there are several leadership development benefits to becoming one, including free traditional and social media training (for example, writing press releases, articles,blogs etc., becoming a SOCM press spokesperson, being a SOCM social media guru, and taking a lead role in creating the media strategy for your chapter, committee or all of SOCM), all of which will help build your media experience and leadership skills.