Everyone seems to think they should be on social media. Many jump in without much prior knowledge. How hard can it be to write 140-character messages, after all? But all too often, people get fed up when they don’t see results, the follows, likes, and great exchange of ideas that they keep hearing so much about. Others, especially those tasked to make social media work for their business, can even make outright fools of themselves.
So what is the best way to get started? Knowing why you want to use social media is more important than jumping into learning how it works. Take some time to explore your own motivations for getting in the game and build a strategy. A strategy starts with a goal. What do you want to accomplish by using social media? For Teen Cafes, this might be in getting teens to your events, attracting potential donors to your program, or sharing best practices with fellow adult leaders.
Once you have a goal in mind, you need to know how to measure success. This often goes beyond just likes and comments. Likes make us feel good, giving our brain a bit of a happy “boost” when we see them. That’s fine for personal use, but your work-time is precious and should be focused on tangible goals, such as butts in seats at events or useful collaborations. Those are more difficult to measure and may even be qualitative to you, but finding out which social media platforms (if any) bring people to your events or website in a quantitative sense is useful.
Now, with a goal and a way to measure success, you want to go about crafting your message. What do you want to sound like, or want your brand to sound like? What messages will you try to get across and what actions do you wish to inspire in your users? You might want to make your events sound accessible and exciting, pairing text with pictures to share the full experience.
Only with a message crafted would I then suggest getting onto a platform and making an account. Take some time to explore the culture of that platform, learning the lingo and watching the patterns used by its most successful users. And, most importantly, start building community. You need to give and take for social media to be effective. That means commenting on the posts of others, seeking out like minded-people to “friend” or “follow”, and sharing interesting content generated by others.
Most especially for us at Teen Cafe, it’s important to rely on the teen leaders to drive successful social interactions with teens. We, the adult leaders, can guess all day about how teens use social media and try to fit in, but the best interactions will be natural and come from the teens themselves. Your goal might be, as suggested at our recent workshop in St. Louis, to focus instead on letting interested parents know about your events so they can pass them along to their teens!
Social media can be a valuable extension of our “meatspace” interactions and relationships for both personal and professional use. I’d encourage you to take a look, even if you’ve been scared off before! Everyone had to start somewhere.