The Internet is awash with tips on how to be successful on social media, but which tips are most relevant to watershed groups or projects?
Here’s a list of tips I think rise to the top, some of which were crowdsourced from watershed professionals who attended a previous Life Hacks over Lunch about using social media in watershed work.
Determine your goals. Embarking on any communications endeavor should start with setting goals. To what end(s) are you going to use social media? What do you want to accomplish with it? Get specific. Example goals could include build community, raise awareness about your project, or get people to take certain actions.
Define your target audiences. Who are your most important audiences for reaching the goals you just set? These will likely be the same audiences as those you are engaging anyway in your watershed project, but it’s important to identify who among them is most active on social media and target them.
Discover which social media channels your audiences use. With so many different social media platforms these days, your target audiences are not going to be on every platform. So you don’t need to be on every platform either. Focus only on the platforms you know your audiences use. If you aren’t sure, do some research. You might find that information on the internet – for example, farmers tend to use Facebook – or ask the stakeholder groups you already engage. If your watershed project is nested within an organization with a broader scope, work with your colleagues to determine which social media platforms to use to communicate with your project’s audiences.
Create a content calendar. Success on social media often requires discipline and consistency. One way to keep yourself organized is to develop a content calendar to plan what you post when. For example, flag events or days that might resonate with your audiences – e.g., World Water Day or National Agriculture Day – and prepare content to align with them. Or consider a regular themed post, such as a volunteer of the week or weekly tip for landowners.
Use Images. This is a common tip for doing social media, so perhaps you’ve heard it before. Visuals grab people’s attention better than just plain ole text. So make sure you or someone else is taking pictures of your watershed work that you could share on social media. If you want to create graphics, Canva is a free and easy-to-use design tool with lots of templates for social media.
Be authentic. Be consistent about the voice and tone you use on your social channels. One of the most important considerations is authenticity. What does that mean for social media? It means being genuine and honest. Talk about the great things that are happening in the watershed, and share the lessons learned. Show the people who are making the work happen. Don’t post “click bait.”
Try Facebook ads. If Facebook is one of your platforms, ads or post boosts are worth a shot. They can help you get your content into more feeds, particularly of folks you want to reach but who don’t already follow you. You don’t have to invest a lot of money to get results; although, the more you spend, the farther your ad will go. It is also important to set goals for your ad campaign – do you want to increase engagement, or encourage people to subscribe to your email list, or attend an event?
Leverage partnerships to cross-promote. If you are partnering with another organization or business on an event or other effort, coordinate posts with them and make sure to tag each other. Even if you aren’t working together on a specific project, but you think a post would have relevance to a partner’s audience, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they would be willing to promote it on their channels too. One suggestion on this front is your state’s university Extension or a local Extension office.
Enlist your volunteers for content fodder. If you work with volunteers – whether they’re farmers or stream monitors – recruit them to help you tell your watershed’s story. They could take pictures of what they’re doing in the field to contribute to your image library. You could capture quotes from them to share what they’re doing and why it matters.
Track how things are going. How do you know your social media efforts are working and worth it? Track your metrics. You don’t have to track every metric possible, though. Decide on your “key performance indicators” – basically, a small set of metrics that you think are good indicators of how successful your social media efforts have been, based on what your goals were. For example, tracking growth in followers may indicate the visibility of your project. Or the level of engagement with your posts could indicate how well you are building community.
If you’re curious to see what watershed projects in the region are already doing on social media, here are a few examples to check out.
- Farmer-Led Watershed Councils of the St. Croix and Red Cedar Rivers in Wisconsin
- Banklick Watershed in Kentucky
- Dry Run Creek Watershed Improvement Project in Iowa
- Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance in Wisconsin
- Fond du Lac County Land and Water Conservation Department in Wisconsin
- Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy
- Winnebago Waterways in Wisconsin
Header image courtesy Fishers and Farmers Partnership