Most who have been in the communications business for a while were taught to be “push communicators” — push out as much information as you can to audiences and hope they connect. Engage in a shouting match for attention and usually the cause that yells the loudest gets the most attention. Not any more.
Social media has changed everything. Facebook, Twitter and others are pull communication media – changing the orientation from shouters to listeners. Instead of pushing messages, you’re now in a position of receiving and responding to messages. You can use that exchange to build a relationship.
If you’re thinking, “But I’m posting things to Facebook all the time and no one’s responding,” you might be a push communicator in a pull medium. Being good at pull communications means tapping into your supporters’ thoughts and needs. When you use social media to learn what is important to them, you can then respond.
So how can you become a pull communicator, while still getting the messages out?
1. Think, “How can I be of service today?”
When browsing tweets or posts, think of ways you can respond. Are followers or fans complaining, questioning, complimenting? Meet their agenda first, not yours. Once that relationship is started, then you can start to share what you want them to know.
2. Be open and honest.
In social media, the more authentic you can be, the better. Being too slick and polished will come across as inauthentic. Openness and honesty build audience trust.
3. Lose a little control.
What if your front-line folks were posting and tweeting for you? Your social workers, teachers, case managers? What if they were empowered to share their love of what they do? Imagine how powerful and interesting that would be. Nonprofits miss out on relationship-building opportunities because they fear losing control of the message. Social media gives you an opportunity to be available to build relationships, answer questions, field complaints and solve problems, you just have to be willing to give people the autonomy to do that.
4. Give them what they want.
Consumers want information on demand – when they’re ready. Your job is to be there when they want information about your cause or mission.
5. If you have to push, do this.
If you must push a message, start your post with a question and an example. Say your organization helps kids with learning disabilities, and you want to share information on homework techniques. Try this: “Do you think having a dedicated space for homework is important? What else is important for getting homework done? Share your tips, and read these techniques.” This approach starts conversation, asks for input, and then tells your audience where to get more information. It allows you to share what you know while allowing others to be engaged with you. Pushing and pulling at the same time!
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