Northwest Network - Spring 2012

Summary of the Workshop on Social Networking: at the Chase Garden

Saturday, 24 March 2012: 9:30am-5:00pm

Chase Gardens
16015 264th Street East
Orting, WA 98360


John Buller of the Loyalty Solutions Group organized his presentation into 11 conversations and guided us with discussion, video, and documentation introducing us to the various facets of social electronic communication (commonly termed social media). He aided us in realizing why it is important for our horticultural non-profit organizations to include electronic community building in our outreach efforts. Additionally, we learned a good deal about what to do to initiate and develop a social electronic communication program for our organization.

Conversations 1-2

We discussed the question: is pursuing social electronic communication something a horticultural organization is advised to pursue?

The data indicating yes is persuasive, particularly for growth of our organizations into the future. Younger people use electronic communication almost exclusively. The use of landline telephones and cell phones for conversation is shrinking relative to email and texting, and email loosing to texting as a popular means of "talking". The number of older people using Facebook is growing rapidly.

Social electronic communication is relatively easy to learn. Your organization can build relationships quickly by "dropping" information pertinent to your mission into electronic loci, like Face Book, a garden blog, or Google Plus. By doing so you promote sharing of what is of interest to your organization. The dynamic added by social electronic communication, which makes it more effective than traditional print media and phone calls, is the capacity it gives to your existing community members to share quickly with their "electronic friends" and your organization. Social electronic communications provide a way for parties interested in your organization and what it is doing to interact and aid you in the effort to build your community. The opportunities for smaller non-profit organization are significant, as the capital expense for electronic outreach is less than for traditional print or media outreach. To be successful, however, you need to be willing to consider and commit to three things.

    1. Your goals in using social electronic communication need to be clear; this will give you a way to evaluate your ROI (Return on Investment).
    2. You need to figure out how to sustain the effort over time so that the communications and relationships evolve through time in directions you would like. This requires staff time and building staff skills.
    3. You need to figure out how to have your organization build a coherent responsible approach to using social electronic communications; all of the staff in particular needs to do this.

Conversation 3-4

We discussed how you develop a sound social media program for your organization. Three things are essential: a) you need to have a clear understanding of your organization's mission and link your efforts in social electronic communication directly with that mission. b) You need to develop means of quantifying the success of your efforts in electronic social communication. c) You need to be savvy in constructing the information you post onto Facebook, or Google Plus, or twitter and have that message integrate with the rest of your outreach program.

As you figure out what your general direction for the social electronic communication is you should also figure out the measurement criterion. If your goal is increasing general awareness of the organization, then measure the hits to the website and the volume of email activity in response to your effort. When formulating the information package that you drop into the realm of social communication, be aware of your primary target audience and what attitudes they hold that might affect how they understand your message, before you create your message.

Conversation 5

We discussed how you build a coherent responsible approach to using social electronic communications?

You need governance:
Whether directly involved or not, all staff should be aware of the goals of the program and the etiquette of communication. The potential for the rapid spread of a posting is great.
Some one within your organization needs to assume oversight and ownership of the effort. They need to integrate the social media efforts with other marketing activities and to establish a review process and quality controls shared by all in the organization.

You need a program, a process, and personnel:
You need the capabilities required to use electronic communication systems and to create an information package you post:
Your staff needs skills, the equipment, and the time to implement your efforts, replying to email feedback is as important as posting a blog.

You need to maintain integrity:
Your policies need to be clear your oversight effective and you need to review your existing systems and processes to integrate them with your new effort

You need security:
You need to protect your information and communications systems and processes.

Conversations 6-9

We discussed some of the tools required for effective social electronic communication: websites, email, video, twitter, social networking sites like Face Book, cell phones, computers, browsers and more to come in the not too distant future. All of these tools require some proficiency to be used to best effect.

Your website is a hub for your social relationship effort. The home page should be simple and visually embody your mission. It is increasingly important that your website be interactive, engaging people with some aspects of organization. This can be accomplished by including videos of events or seasonal highlights, a blog, opportunity for comments, and a link to twitter. The site should be a resource for these who visit the garden and those who wish to visit, and even those who cannot visit.

Structuring emails is very important. Email communications should be constructed so that they are integrated with the whole of the social electronic communication program you are building. Thus, they should contain links to the website, twitter, your blog site and be archived on your website for future reference.

Facebook has a large community following and posting to Facebook gives people who use it access to your organization. You need to develop a routine and a purpose for your posts. By way of example, the Seattle Center Facebook page gives the Facebook community the ability to view timely practical and socially focused information about their visit to the Center that day. Using Facebook as a vehicle is a little like having a website they both require regular attention. Facebook, even more than a website, requires that you keep it fresh with "new" content which is designed to encourage electronic conversation. The conversation is initiated by you, but guided by your community. By paying attention to what your community says you can learn about what your community thinks of your organization and you can work to initiate new opinions.

A blog gives your organization a means of generating news and comment in the interlude between newsletters. The content should be coordinated with the postings to Facebook and newsletter articles.

There will be more tools for social electronic communication as they are evolving rapidly, your goal for your organization is to remain aware of what is possible and coordinate those tools you chose to use so they work together to build a strong community engaged with your organization.

Conversations 10-11

The final conversations focused on two things horticultural organizations in particular can enhance in their social electronic communications effort; the use of images in communication and the development of more effective strategies for getting your community involved in sharing information relevant to your organization, helping to build your core audience

Images of gardens and the plants that grow in them are evocative as are the pictures of events in which you have participated. Visual communication is almost instantaneous in its impact and powerful emotionally, and it is easily shared, thus it is a very effective tool for social media. Horticultural organizations can use visual components in their websites and e-communication more than they have, in the recent past to build their organizations.

One of the great advantages and challenges of social electronic communication is that you can have your community become advocates for your organization by sharing your information with their community of friends, spreading knowledge about your organization and an affinity for it. John Bull reviewed the websites of the organizations participating in the workshop and this review indicated to him that there is room for horticultural organizations to develop strategies for outreach should incorporate more techniques for encouraging opportunities for your community to share information and opinions about the content you offer them with their friends and with you.

John Buller has <ahref="%20http:/" target="_blank">posted some of the materials he provided those who attended the workshop on his website in the form of an article. This is a valuable resource for those wanting to learn more about how to implement a social electronic communication program for their organization.

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Last update: 18 February, 2018