How Best to Fulfill Communication Goals
Published on October 2nd, 2017
Communication tools are quickly evolving, providing more methods for which to connect with targeted groups.
But as we move from an era of phone calls and mail, in which the message was directly delivered, to a time now with various online platforms to provide a message, determining how best to fulfill communication goals is critical.
Rich McVeigh, who represents the International Hobie Class, contacted a number of the larger class associations to learn what different one-design classes are finding to be the best practices.
The Hobie Class uses traditional websites, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Mail Chimp to communicate with our members and followers. Like most classes, we have a number of regional, country and local organizations that operate under the umbrella of the international class and all these organizations also have websites and social media outlets.
We have tried a number of different approaches to using Facebook and social media but we wonder…what really is the best practice?
Most of the classes I contacted responded and from the replies it’s clear that we all have the same question. All the classes that responded are trying to use Facebook but none of us are experts. Several commented that they are “also trying to figure this out.”
Most use volunteers to manage their social media sites but there are a few very large and very well-funded classes hosting events that hire professional media teams.
One interesting comment: “Typically we use the website for content rich postings, like NOR’s, and entry forms, boats for sale, etc. Facebook is more conversational, so we may post something like an announcement that the dates have been released for next year’s nationals.”
Another commented, “My personal take is that Facebook would be most effective if we can find a way to more tightly integrate between our other mediums (website, class magazine, YouTube, email). It’s probably less important where they get their info and more important that it’s consistent, timely, and easy to find – so I feel like this might be as much a logistics issue as anything else. It’s great that we have so many places to share stuff, but it backfires when people don’t know where to go or only find half of the info they’re looking for.”
Eduardo Cordero from the Sunfish class was kind enough to share Facebook insights data from their recent world championships. Comparing this to the insights data from recent Hobie events, it’s clear there is a large audience out there interested in our events and when we are actively covering our bigger events, we do see large spikes in activity. This validates using both social media and traditional websites to reach our members and followers.
Looking at how some of the big class championships are being managed, I also see a mix of approaches. Some use dedicated sites, some use the main class site and others use event sites linked to the main class site. In some cases, you can go to events that are underway and some of the links say “under construction” or “coming soon.”
One trend I have noticed is that some organizations are using Facebook as their primary outlet for all class news rather than using a traditional website. I worry that this is mistake. To truly reach out to all our members, I feel we need to use both social media and traditional websites.
We all know people who do not use Facebook at all. Additionally, some demographics are using other social media platforms. For example, teenagers are using Instagram and Snapchat instead of Facebook. This suggests that classes with lots of kids such as Opti and 29er should do more on Instagram and Snapchat but keep in mind the parents/coaches are likely using Facebook.
I was able to contact a social media professional for a large company and gather expert advice on a variety of social media platforms. I also inquired about services such as buffer.com and hootsuite.com, which are pay services that allow users to coordinate their social media postings over a number of platforms at once.
Two of the expert’s comments really resonated with me:  Know your demographic and use the social media sites that best reach your demographic. Fortunately Facebook provides details about the demographic of your followers.  As most of our organizations are primarily run by volunteers, think about how much time/enthusiasm you really have for this. It’s better to do a good job on a few sites than a bad job on lots of sites.
What follows is a summary of what I found and my thoughts on what a “best practice” might be. Of course, nothing here is gospel and “your mileage may vary”:
• Know your volunteers’ appetite to create and maintain content. I will repeat (and paraphrase) the observation from earlier – “It’s better to do a good job on a few platforms than a bad job on lots of platforms.”
• Use a multi-platform approach, so that you catch the non-Googlers and the non-Facebookers.
• Know the class demographic. Adults use websites and Facebook. For Youth-oriented classes, there is a “must-add” of Instagram / Twitter / Snapchat.
• Know what type of content you have and share on the appropriate platform. Minimally, utilize a website for static content and choose social media for dynamic content.
• Follow the numbers. Given that we all have limited resources, use platforms with known penetration (Facebook has 2 billion users; Websites are found using Google searches that top 4.5 billion per day,)
• Use the power of the platform. Facebook provides some guidance on using their site at wwww.facebook.com/help. When using Facebook you want your members and followers to be able to find news on your class and its events. If you make a stand-alone Facebook site for an event, you start out with no followers and the new site is not linked to your class site where you already have a large following. Make it easier for your followers to find news about your events. Either use your main Facebook site or create an “event” page from your main Facebook page, this links the event to your main site. You will still have to invite your followers to like the event page but you can foster this by “pinning” the event page to the top of the news feed on your main Facebook page. Alternatively you can also share the event page on your main page. Pinning the event page, keeps the event news at the top of your feed and once the event is over your can unpin it. The event will still always be found from your main page under past events. I think this is important as it preserves the history. Incidentally this theme very much follows Craig’s recommendation in his Unique Event Websites article. Make your page easy to find and do it in a way the preserves the history.
I think it is also important that we are not over-reliant of Facebook or any social media site. It’s easy to see how people do this as Facebook makes it so easy and traditional websites are often not easy but remember not everyone uses Facebook.
There is still a place for the traditional website. It’s a controlled platform and all the links can be preserved for the future. I like to think of the website as a source for content rich information and also an archive of information from our past. We are actually scanning old class magazines from the pre-internet days and posting digital versions on our website.
Typically we ask ourselves, ‘Is all this worth it? Is there a gain? Yes.’ Be present (not absent) on platforms where people would expect to find you (website, Facebook).
This is Marketing 101, plain and simple. People lead busy lives and there is a lot of competition out there for their limited free time.
Editor’s note: To read all the tips on best practices for event communication, click here.