Social Media has dramatically changed the internet in the past decade. In turn, organizations like the Order of the Arrow have made social media an important and sometimes all-consuming way to get information.
So what if I were to tell you that you have been doing social media wrong?
As the saying goes, nothing is constant in life but change. Social media is an example of this change. The “internet” has evolved over time, from tools like usenet and email listservs, to dynamic websites and our social tools today.
Focusing a little more, social media has evolved. In the days of Friendster and MySpace, you simply had a page with a little interaction with friends. Facebook eventually became the largest social network and the 3rd most trafficked website in the world.
You Are Not Thinking About The Algorithm
Despite the obsessive use of Facebook, few people seem to understand Facebook’s News Feed algorithm. Facebook’s philosophy is to prioritize content that is Sharable, Viral, and Engages a large audience. Posts that the algorithm does not believe will engage a large audience will be shown to fewer people.
In addition, if you have set up a Facebook Page, you are going to run into an added layer of algorithmic trouble. Facebook views their Pages as an advertising platform, so they see little difference between the Page for your Lodge, versus one set up for General Motors.
This is also an issue with Facebook Groups. While you may be a member of a particular OA Facebook Group, those posts rarely show up in your News Feed due to the algorithm. This creates an issue of Organic Reach. A Section Chief probably checks his Region Facebook Page pretty regularly. It isn’t as important that a post reach his News Feed, because he will likely check manually. On the other hand, what about less engaged Arrowmen? They aren’t going to check that Page, even if they hit “Like” at one point, and those posts not showing up in their Feed means they will likely never be reached by a social media post.
So what does that mean? Advertising money. Facebook depresses Pages posts because they feel you should have to advertise to increase your reach. It has been said that a 2018 Pages post only has an organic reach of 1.2%. So if you have 100 Likes on your Page, guess what, your post may only find itself in the News Feed of 1 to 2 people with no advertising.
There is a little upside here. Many Sections, including my own, have a Conclave Promotions team, CVC, or line in their budget. My Section has used most of this budget on Facebook advertising, and you can definitely increase that Reach quickly. In addition, you can pick some granular details of who you want to advertise to. This can include people near the Service Council cities in the Section, people who may Like other OA pages, etc.
All that being said though, we have still found email is still reaching more people than social media.
Finding The Connectors
Many of my OA friends know I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. To paraphrase a bit, the book ponders what Gladwell calls “epidemics,” those things that became huge, hits, viral, etc. What the author is often searching for is the point at which the epidemic tips from something small to something truly big.
One of his ideas was the identities of what he calls a Connector. A Connector is basically a person who knows a lot of people. We can all probably think of a few inside and outside of Scouting. In Malcolm Gladwell’s judgment, a Connector is a person who spreads the epidemic to a lot of people. Ideas and values can jump from a few people to millions with just a few Connectors involved. This is how Hush Puppies shoes went from nearly bankrupt to vastly popular in a couple years in the 90s.
What can Connectors do for your social media? If you can identify people who are well connected and know a lot of people, they can vastly help with your organic reach. But don’t leave it up to chance. A Connector should know when your social media post is going up, they should have a plan to comment, Like, and Share your post, and they should know specific people to target. This isn’t something to occur by happenstance. This should be planned well in advance.
Plan Your Social Media Posts Ahead Of Time
Most Lodge, Sections, and other groups simply put up occasional posts hoping to reach a lot of people. This may have been fine before algorithms and Feeds were implemented. It isn’t sophisticated enough now.
Social media is a tool that should advance the aims of your organization. If you have a website, it should direct people to your website. Social media should not exist outside of the current platform you own, otherwise, what’s the point?
If you are a Lodge, you already have a calendar set. You know when your events will be held, you likely know the locations, and other details. So if you have a Lodge Fellowship in the Fall, what is stopping you from making a social media calendar that has a promotional plan in advance?
Would this calendar addendum be of use? If you have a set of Connectors, Lodge Officers, backed by Advisers, couldn’t they use the calendar? What if everybody involved knew you had a Fellowship post going up tonight at 5 PM? What if they all knew to Like it right away, left a promotional comment on the post, then Shared it with additional friends? Think of how much you increase your Organic Reach.
Could that happen naturally? Perhaps it could on occasion, but I bet it wouldn’t happen most of the time. So why not set it up to be successful?
Likes Don’t Matter
Another issue I often here from people is the number of Likes they get on a post. My usual reaction: Who cares?
Every post should have a purpose and Call To Action. If you are a Section promoting your Conclave, you need a way to track the Clicks to the Registration page for the event. The point of the post should be to convert non-attendees to people who sign up.
Consider two scenarios. In scenario 1, you promote Conclave with a funny video, and it gains a lot of traction. 100 people Like your post. A few connect with LOL emojis. All of your friends have seen it. You find your registration is trending about the same before you posted.
In scenario 2, you have a simpler post showing a fun event at Conclave, but it only gets a few Likes. You notice, however, that 2 people have clicked your Conclave Registration link, and you find that both have signed up for your Conclave.
Which post was better? It is obvious that the virality of scenario 1 was better than scenario 2. But it was scenario 2 that improved your Conclave attendance. Again, what was the point of your post, and what was the Call To Action? If you were seeking to improve registrations, then it was the smaller post in scenario 2 that was better.
People miss this point all the time. Post for a reason, and have a plan to track this performance.
Other Types Of Media Still Matter
Social media is a tool, and it should be said that its importance continues to be vastly overrated. Companies like Facebook deal with incredibly complex informational security issues. Groups like Twitter struggle to contain trolling and bullying online. Other social media apps seem to arrive every day. It can be a dizzying problem, and there is growing sentiment against the all-consuming world of having your personality online.
Would you believe me if I told you that email is still much more effective than social media? I believe part of the success from apps like Facebook came from dissatistication with email, a haven for spam, phishing, and junk email. A walled garden seemed like a way to communicate yet deal with the problems of email.
This is true to an extent, but to actually be a profitable company, Facebook and others than to drive traffic and advertising in manners that are not compatible with how we wish to see them.
Email still exists, and pretty much everybody still has email accounts. Spam and other scourges are still a problem.
Yet, when my Section would send out an email via Mailchimp, it was read by over 40% of our email list. Compare that with the 5.6% I reference above, which was also consistent with the organic reach we got from our Facebook Page with no advertising. Email, as it turned out, was 7-8x more effective at being read than our social media posts!
In addition, our website traffic showed that when we put up new material, it was being read by a lot of people. Arrowmen surf to various Lodge, Region, Section, and National websites all the time right out of the URL bar of their browser. Often, that native traffic exceeded what we posted on our Facebook Page!
The point is simple. Keep your other intellectual property up to date and relevant. Drive your traffic to these properties.
Finally, Don’t Abandon Social Media, Just Use It Better And Be Realistic
Your social media strategy should be used in order of the importance of the expected Reach you will drive. Your website should come first. If your website is on WordPress, you can make a Call To Action that engages users to sign up to receive your Blog Posts via email.
Email should come next. I wholeheartedly recommend Mailchimp. The free version is incredibly full-featured and your limit of 2,000 users will fit just about any Chapter, Lodge, or Section. Use it to drive traffic to your website, your registration page, or other online properties. If you write good emails, but don’t send out too many, you can get readership of over 40% of your users. That is great organic Reach!
Finally, coming in last is social media. It only comes last because that it is likely driving the lowest percentage of readership. Dedicated some budgetary money to Promote important Posts. Find those Youth and Adviser Connectors, who can really drive your message to a lot of people. Create a social media calendar with the date and time you are posting. Make sure people are ready and know when those are coming out. Fine-tune who you advertise to. Find the people who like OA Pages who may have never been to a Conclave! You won’t match email, but you can convert some people.
I hope with this page, I have helped you understand the kind of tool social media is, some of its glaring weaknesses, and how you can use it to help your Call To Action. It should be just a small piece of a larger strategy as you promote the Order of the Arrow, events, and other aims of our organization.
If you agree or disagree with this Page, feel free to leave a comment, or if you wish to converse with me on the use of Social Media in the Order of the Arrow, drop me a line here.