Patricia Gallagher admits it is hard to keep up with social media in her line of work.
As the Operations Manager at the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) she has a vested interest in utilizing platforms like Twitter to leverage relationships and raise community awareness around the organization’s efforts, but she isn’t always clear on the best way to do so.
This is part of the reason why she attended “Increasing the Visibility of the Immigrant-service Sector” workshop presented by New Canadian Media in Calgary last week. The workshop was the second of its kind; the first was held at the end of June in Ottawa.
“I joined Twitter because everyone was there,” she explained during the workshop. “As a marketing person we have to be on top of those trends, but truth be told I really don’t know what I’m doing with it. I follow a lot of people, and people follow me, and I get stuff … and I can’t keep up with this stuff, quite frankly.”
“Twitter is the ultimate foot in the door!”
Gallagher isn’t the only one. In fact, the two-dozen or so participants in the workshop raised several questions about everything from navigating technical difficulties to deciding on what mediums to use when creating content (i.e. videos, pictures, etc.).
For example, one participant, Maria Soledad Freire, communications coordinator at Immigrant Services Calgary was intent on learning about how social media could be used in effectively spreading the word about upcoming events, such as her organization’s Immigrants of Distinction Awards.
Break out the Twitter ‘toolkit’
Twitter, if used correctly, can be incredibly helpful in this type of work, according to social media expert Mitchell Kutney, who co-facilitated the workshop.
Kutney says that if the goal is to get on the radar of prominent figures of interest, then the organization needs to become visible within related communities and adopt similar interests.
He stresses that making use of the “Twitter toolkit” is important.
“Retweet, use hashtags, and make yourself known,” Kutney urges, “Twitter is the ultimate foot in the door!”
[H]ashtags like #cdnimm, #Syria, #BillC24 or #BillC51 are just a few examples of opportunities for organizations to engage in online conversations.
This could prove particularly helpful at times when issues relating to immigration, settlement and citizenship are popular topics of discussion.
Such discussions could represent ways for an organization to align with like-minded individuals.
Kutney presses that when organizations want to get their word out and develop relationships with industry leaders such as politicians, media reps and individuals, who wouldn’t otherwise be aware of the organization’s existence, Twitter is a great place to start.
“When you are curious about someone,” he points out, “you want to know what [his or her] interests are. Who do they interact with? Who do they follow? What do they ‘favourite’?”
Kutney shows that Twitter is specifically designed to do just that through a series of analytics to guide the process of broadening a network and determining where target audiences reside on various relevant subject matters.
Gallagher, for one, found Kutney’s insight helpful, expressing to him: “Even just the examples you gave, I’m going, ‘Oh my God that’s brilliant! I love that!’ Just the way that you are connecting with people.”
Don’t rule out traditional media
While social media platforms like Twitter may play an integral role in how immigrant-serving organizations build community awareness and disseminate information, they should continue seeking coverage from mainstream news organizations.
Managing Editor of Metro News in Alberta, Darren Krause, who co-facilitated with Kutney, explained to workshop participants of the incredibly competitive media landscape – citing that in Calgary alone media outlets are clamouring for the attention of more than 1.2 million people.
“Create an intentional desire to meet with these people.”
It’s important that organizations offer outlets a story that’s both relevant to their audience and exclusive, but also that the story comes packaged in a concise, clear pitch as editors receiving 200 to 300 e-mails a day simply have limited time.
He also says that it’s important to do research and understand the mandate of the organization, and establishing a relationship with individuals who work there.
Krause emphasizes the value of ‘following up’ when fostering these media relationships. “Send an email!” he says, “Ask how they are doing. Ask them out for a coffee. Create an intentional desire to meet with these people.”
In fact, this could start with what Kutney suggested – follow the journalist on Twitter and get to know them through social media.
Ultimately, Krause presses, a little effort will go a long way.