Public Works Partners is offering an online course for workforce development service providers on using social media to connect with participants and increase program outcomes. This is Part 2 of an 8 part series:

 

  1. Why Social Media?
  2. Making social media a part of your overall participant engagement strategy
  3. Deciding which social network to use to interact with participants
  4. Using Facebook groups, pages, and/or profiles to interact with participants
  5. Deciding what to post
  6. Building your audience
  7. Measuring the impact of social media on your outcomes
  8. Teaching participants how to use social media9652873

If you’re introducing social media into your workforce development program, it may be tempting to just turn to an intern or particularly tech-savvy staff member and say, “Have at it! Make a Facebook page for us!” While this sort of experimentation can be a quick and easy way to get started and test ideas out, it’s not likely to have a major impact on participant engagement, much less program outcomes.  To have an impact, you need a strategy.

Think about it. Your workforce development program has a lot of moving parts and is operated by multiple staff members. Without any strategy or guidance, a lone staff member may try a new, unproven tactic, but then give up or worse, develop bad habits and propagate them among other team members.

This may sound obvious, but it’s a critical first step: when introducing social media into your workforce development program, you need to make it a part of your overall participant engagement strategy and, by necessity, rethink parts of that strategy.

Think about the different actions that comprise your existing participant engagement strategy.  You probably expect your staff to use a combination of phone calls, emails, text messages, flyers, or other “traditional” media to recruit new members to your program and engage existing members. Evaluate them from different perspectives:

  • What’s working well and should continue?
  • What’s not working well and should be dialed back?
  • Are there particular sub-groups of participants that are harder to reach, and what defines them? Age, gender, etc.?

Hopefully you have hard data to answer those questions with, but even if you don’t, your staff can give you an anecdotal sense based on their day-to-day experience.

Based on this understanding of what is and isn’t working well, you can create goals for improving participant engagement. Maybe it’s to bring more young men into the program. Maybe it’s to improve the frequency of people showing up to workshops. Maybe it’s to increase the number of participants that apply to job opportunities.

So now we put some social media in place to meet those goals, right? Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, full speed ahead!

Not so fast. Like in any problem-solving exercise, when considering using social media to solve problems with participant engagement, it’s important to avoid leaping to solutions without thinking through all of the alternatives. Some problems may lend themselves readily to social media solutions, while others will be best solved through traditional media and outreach. In other words, think strategically about what you want social media to accomplish within the context of your other participant engagement methods. Set realistic goals for social media, and don’t expect it to be a silver bullet solution.

While you consider what social media can do, you’ll also need to think carefully about who on your staff will make your social media strategy happen. Don’t just put it all in the hands of the aforementioned intern or tech-savvy staffer. That person may be perfect for writing posts and responding to messages and comments, but least one supervisor-level staff should be coordinating across teams and providing overall direction to social media activities.

That’s a lot to think about, and we haven’t even gotten to the specifics of the various social networks and the tools that they provide. But it’s important context that will increase the likelihood that the tools you ultimately choose will actually serve the larger objectives of the program.

And speaking of those tools, in the next part, we’ll take a look across a variety of social media platforms—not just Facebook and Twitter—and consider how they can be used in the context of a workforce development program.

In the meantime, please send us your feedback and questions! Leave a comment on this blog post, or contact us on Twitter or LinkedIn.