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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 6 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 to social media (and how to do it)
  6. Building your audience
  7. Measuring the impact of social media on your outcomes
  8. Teaching participants how to use social media

Welcome back to Social Media for Workforce Development! In the last post, we shared our three guiding principles for posting content to social media: make your content 1) eye-catching, 2) relevant to your target audience, and 3) inviting for engagement. If you’ve internalized that, congratulations! You’ve got eye-catching, relevant, and inviting posts that are sure to be a hit with … the 2 people who like your Facebook page, who are … yourself and one of the program’s career advisors.

Clearly, you have some work to do so you’re not speaking to an empty room on social media. Building an audience isn’t something that just happens organically. It takes deliberate and consistent effort. Start by demonstrating the value of your social media content to participants with, well, actually valuable content. Even though you’ll have no audience at the very beginning for your posts, you’ll need to have at least a few things posted BEFORE you start to promote this actively to participants. This way, when the first batch of participants load up the Facebook page or Twitter feed, they’ll immediately see things like job postings and resources that make it clear that this is worth adding to their timelines.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to make direct appeals to your participants to connect with your program on social media. Some programs that we’ve worked with have actually made liking the program’s Facebook page a requirement for enrolling in the program, but for most programs, social media will likely be something you ask your participants to opt into but not require of them. In this case, you’ll need to make constant appeals using a variety of methods. Make sure staff verbally promote your social media in orientation…and again during follow-up one-on-one interactions. Include links to social media in staff’s email signatures. Promote social media in as many promotional materials as possible: flyers, brochures, business cards, handouts, etc. If your program has a computer lab, set up links to your social media sites on your computers.

And of course, use social media tools to reach out to participants! Facebook provides a feature for page administrators to import a list of email addresses and send invitations to like the Facebook page (Note: as of this posting, Facebook is limiting the availability of this feature). You can also invite participants to events such as job fairs through Facebook, and steer participants to look at job postings through a Facebook or LinkedIn page. Use social media as part of your workshops and training, for example, by posting homework assignments or answering questions on the page. For Twitter and Instagram, it’s as simple as looking up and following your participants, in hopes that they’ll follow you back.

There’s plenty you can do to directly encourage your participants to join your social media audience, but don’t be shy about asking for help. Find program participants whom you trust and get them to act as ambassadors for the program with their own social media. If there’s a large overlap between your target audience and a well-established community organization with a large social media following, ask that organization to help promote your program. Other, more established, programs within your larger organization can also help you.

Above all else, be consistent in your content production, even with a small audience. Don’t be discouraged. Set stretch goals for growing your audience based on number of participants and benchmarks set by peers, and give yourself a reasonable amount of time to get there. If you’ve internalized our guidance and put enough effort into your social media operation, you will get there!

In our next post, we’ll talk about how to measure the impact of social media on your program’s outputs and outcomes. Until then, please send us your feedback and questions. Comment on this blog post or contact us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or our Facebook page.