Friday, 17 March 2017

Penguins and Polar Bears - Part 2

If you didn’t read my part 1 of this 2 part blog about Rotary’s online presence, do yourself a favour and read it. If nothing else it will save me from explaining the Penguin & Polar Bear analogy again.

I promised this second part would cover some of my thoughts on Facebook, and more importantly the way Rotary uses, and sometimes misuses it. I will again stress, as I did in part one, that I don’t consider myself an expert in the field, but I’ve been using it long enough to understand it fairly well, and I wanted to share a few tips about aspects of Facebook for Rotary that don’t often get talked about.

One of the comments I made in part one was that if your club doesn’t have a strong online presence, you might as well be invisible to anyone under 50.  It simply beggars belief that there are still Rotary clubs that don’t have Facebook pages. For some, it’s because they don’t feel they have within their membership the necessary skill set to create and maintain such a page. If that's the case, I would be fairly confident there are members at district level that would be prepared to help set up a page. Have you considered asking your alumni for help? Rotaractors? Interactors? Family members? For others, it’s because they fear it and cannot see the good that can come from it. Sadly for some, Facebook represents change which must be rejected in all forms. 

I wish I could say that no harm can come from a Rotary club having a Facebook page, but unfortunately I can’t. I have seen instances where, as a result of improper security protocols being observed, disgruntled Rotarians in admin roles have caused some serious damage. It is vitally important that a club has at least two page admins, preferably more. There are also some practical reasons for this, such as ensuring some diversity in viewpoint and stories posted by your page, and being able to spread the load – especially if one admin is busy or sick… or leaves. As a personal example of this, I set up a Facebook page for my former Rotary club quite a few years ago. I did make sure there were other members appointed as admins, but over the years I made 99% of the posts on behalf of the club. That page was extremely active, and I used to post on behalf of it 3 or 4 times a week, but I left that club in November 2016 and sadly there has not been one single post made by that club’s page since. Not one. And there are most certainly members in the club capable of doing it. 

How important are “page likes”? They play a role, but are not as critical in determining reach as they once were. Even if I understood Facebook’s algorithms which determine who sees what in their Facebook feed, there would be little point in explaining it, because come next week it will likely have changed again. But even if only 10% of your “likers” get your message, 10% of 500 is better than 10% of 100. So in that respect, the more, the better. Rightly or wrongly, page likes can also play a role in conveying viability and relevance. Whether it’s a page for a restaurant or another small business, or a Rotary club, for some people, a high number of page likes conveys that “this is a popular organisation”. Some Facebook users would find a local Rotary club with 600 page likes a hell of a lot more attractive than a neighbouring club with 50 page likes. How do you get more page likes? Just ask. If every member asked all of their friends to like their club page, you would get a surprisingly positive result. And you can do it all at the push of a button. You can also embed a clickable Facebook “Social Plugin” onto your website, so visitors can like or visit your Facebook page from your website.

Understand though, that a large majority of those who have liked your page are likely to be fellow Rotarians, so there’s an element of preaching to the converted going on when you’re using Facebook to spread the message of the great work you are doing. Sometimes it’s really advantageous to spread a message to fellow Rotarians. For example, if you are holding a quiz night or some other event where you’re trying to get bums on seats, Rotarians in other clubs can be a great target audience. But if your aim is to try and get non-Rotarians interested in your club, you need to employ different tactics. Engagement is where it’s at. If your posts can generate comments and conversations, likes, and shares, your message will start spreading.

I feel the most underutilised resource in spreading great stories about your club and its work are your own members. Well, to be clear, those members with Facebook accounts. In my current club (average age 47), 25 of our 26 members are on Facebook. But in my previous club, with an average age closer to the national Rotary average of 71, less than 50% of members had Facebook accounts. But those members, even if only 50% of your club, can play a vital role in pushing out those posts. 

I do see members hitting the LIKE button, but I really want them to start hitting the SHARE button. Why is it that we will happily hit the share button when it's a video of a cat eating fruit loops out of the packet, but we can't find it within ourselves to share amazing stories about the work we do as Rotarians? Each of your members will have Facebook friends outside of Rotary, so whenever they share a story about your club, more and more members of the general public will get to hear about us. If 20 members each with 300 unique Facebook friends hit the share button, that story could potentially be seen by 6,000 non-Rotarians. Again, Facebook’s complicated algorithms will somehow conspire to make sure that it won’t be the full 6,000, but if NO-ONE hits the share button, your story’s life is limited to a portion of your page likers.

The final concept I wish to convey is something I have spoken about many times before. There are so many facets to Rotary, and so many stories to tell. If you really want to engage your Facebook audience, you shouldn’t limit your content solely to the activities of your own club. A comprehensive story about Rotary will also include stories of what your neighbouring clubs are up to, our Polio eradication efforts, Shelterbox, Peace Studies, Water and Sanitation projects, the Rotary Foundation, Youth Programs, Rotaract, Interplast, Romac, RAWCS, Australian Rotary Health, and many, many more. All of these programs have their own Facebook pages, as does Rotary Down Under, and those pages can all provide great content for your own club page. Just search for them all and like them, and as their fabulous stories fill your own timeline, you can share to your club page to give your audience a taste of that wider world of Rotary.

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