Using Social Media to Build On the Table Participation in Your Community

April 9, 2019 by On the Table NLN

Communities across the country have promoted their On the Table initiatives in a variety of ways – through local news media, direct outreach and word of mouth, paid advertising, and by producing a variety of collateral and promotional items. Social media is another powerful way to connect with your community, build awareness and drive participation in your conversations.

Here are a few ways you can get the most out of social media.

Choose Your Channels

Will you use your organization’s existing social media channels or create new stand-alone channels to promote On the Table? While either approach has pros and cons, many organizations have used On the Table as a way to introduce themselves to new audiences. Using the organization’s existing social media channels can help expand your reach and not only be an opportunity to learn more about the On the Table initiative, but also about other projects and initiatives. On the flip side, other organizations have created a new channel specifically to promote their On the Table efforts (such as the Philadelphia Foundation’s @OnTheTablePHL Twitter handle). The Chicago Community Trust uses both strategies – promoting On the Table through its existing organizational social media channels, but also through a dedicated Facebook group to drive conversation year-round. The key is determining what is right for your organization.

Keep Your End Goal in Mind

Keep in mind that the end goal is to drive participation in your On the Table conversations – and all posts promoting On the Table should be messaged acordingly. How you do this can vary. You use personal stories featuring hosts explaining why they decided to host a conversation or a guest expressing why they are excited to participate. Infographics can show how easy it is to register. You can also provide tips from your host toolkit on how to lead a productive On the Table conversation.

Be Visual

Images and videos will help drive engagement with your posts. Free or low-cost online tools like Canva make it easy to create social media graphics for any platform. Videos can be highly produced or be filmed with your cell phone camera. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation is one of a number of organizations who have hosted Facebook Live conversations to answer questions from hosts in advance of On the Table conversations.

Develop a Hashtag Strategy as a Way to Track Engagement

While social media privacy rules are always changing, developing a hashtag is still the most effective way to track digital conversations about On the Table. Make sure another organization isn’t already using the hashtag for their conversations, or that the hashtag hasn’t been used in the past for something unrelated. For example, searching #OnTheTable will result in a lot of photos food and dining room tables. Adding a year, location or other indicator to the hashtag, such as #OnTheTable2019, #OnTheTableCLT (the Charlotte airport code) or #OnTheTable219 (the area code in Lake County, Indiana) can help. Other communities have come up with a custom hashtag, such as #LetsTalkPhilly or #ChattChat (DESCRIBE). You can track engagement with your hashtag using tools such as Hashtracking, Social Searcher and more.

Mobilize Influencers

Another way to reach your target audience is to distribute your message through social media influencers in your community. Identify friends of your organization; local business, school, nonprofit or faith leaders, as well as local celebrities – including radio and television hosts, with a large social following. Talk to them about On the Table and ask if they’d be interested in sharing information with their network. This can be as simple as providing them with template language and graphics to post on their channels.

For example, the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley uses video as a tool to mobilize social media influencers to promote On the Table. They produced videos that were posted on their website and on the Foundation’s existing social media channels, and encouraged influencers to share on their personal channels, as well. Through this approach, potential hosts were able to hear from respected local voices, including a college basketball coach , entrepreneur and church pastor, about why it was important for them to be part of this important initiative to discuss important issues facing their community. 

Consider Advertising on Social Media

In 2018, Facebook and Instagram made major changes to their algorithms. As a result, users are now seeing more content from their friends and family, making it more difficult for content from organizational pages to be seen. Putting some money aside for advertising – boosting a post for $20 can long way – can ensure your followers and intended audience see your posts. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram make it easy for you to plan and administer advertising campaigns on their platforms.

Reap the Benefits Day-Of

Be sure to include your hashtag and social handles in your host materials to make it easy for people to share photos and takeaways from their On the Table conversations. This will help amplify posts from the field, allowing participants and others to share and comment on all the great conversations happening around your community!

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