Facebooking for Cyberunions

If your union isn’t using Facebook, you’re the exception to the rule. With over two billion active monthly users, it’s safe to say that most of your delegates, members, and advocates live there. Which is exactly why you should too.

Facebook is a tool. And like so many other tools, it can be used effectively or ineffectively. In the hands of someone with know-how, it can encourage conversation, participation, openness, and community. Values that translate into a more engaged, more committed organization. And not just online, but offline, too.

For as many unions as there are on Facebook, a surprising number of them aren’t taking advantage of everything the platform has to offer. They neglect their Facebook communities, post irregularly or just don’t know how to craft relevant content—which is understandable. Facebooking can be challenging. It can be extremely time consuming and for understaffed unions, it just isn’t a priority—even though it should be.

Facebook is becoming an increasingly important component of unions’ digital strategy. It empowers their members and extends their influence both online and off.

Getting Paged

Setting up a page is an essential Facebook first step, and it’s where all organizations start. A page is like a profile for an organization, but with added functionality. Like a profile, you can use it to provide details about your union—your mission, location, hours of operation, links to your website, other social media accounts, or certain action pages you’ve created.

It’s also a place where you can share content: informational posts, events, graphics, videos, etc. Increasingly, unions are taking advantage of video content. Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm actually favours video over other content types. Turns out videos uploaded onto the network have ten times more reach.

It offers options to customize tabs and add call-to-action buttons, a feature that complements site-specific campaigns by funneling Facebookers to take action there.

Finally, your page gives you access to Facebook’s extremely powerful suite of paid advertising tools…

Knowing When to Pay to Play

Paid ads are incredible. Too many unions ignore this powerful feature, or are simply scratching at its surface. Thankfully, Facebook has been introducing greater ad transparency. One benefit of this is that only organization’s with a page can use ads. Another, that the public can see exactly which ads an organization is running.

That means you can go to another union’s page, click the “ads” tab and see how they’re using the tool.

Generally, unions use paid to promote and publicize their campaigns to Facebookers outside of their communities. Using extensive targeting, they can locate people in a certain region who are likely to support a certain cause. This has the added benefit of bringing more users into the fold.

But paid can be used in other ways, too. It can promote your page, gaining you more followers, or increase exposure to news items hosted on your website.

From Connection to Community

Armed with a new mission statement, Facebook aims to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Before, they were all about connecting individuals. The change certainly sounds nice, but what exactly does it mean? And how does it affect unions?

One word: Groups.

Once upon a time, nobody used or cared about the Groups feature. For one, posts made to Groups weren’t visible on a user’s newsfeed. They were, for lack of a better word, invisible. Unless a user navigated into an actual group to get the update. This has changed.

But Facebook has also invested group moderators with a great deal of control over their own communities. Now, they’re self-policing. Moderators also have a suite of analytics tools to see how their content in groups is performing.

Groups are going to become extremely important for unions. Not only do they reflect a change in Facebook’s business ethos, they also reflect an important function of unions—to build community.

All unions should have a Page, a space where they post public-facing content, like news updates, organizational events, press releases, and so on. But with Groups, unions have an opportunity to further organize their people. They can create private groups made up of staff. Or groups mobilizing people for events—say a political or solidarity rally.

As a communication tool, the feature offers plenty of new ways to connect with union members and supporters, to mobilize them, and to empower them with information.

The Bigger Picture

Remember: Facebook is a business. While some of its values align with your union’s, others do not. That’s why you shouldn’t limit yourself to Facebook only. Beyond the numerous other social media sites, it’s important to host and maintain your own website. All of your campaigns should run through it with social complementing your efforts there.

Ultimately, you should be using Facebook to communicate with your people who already live there. To increase their commitment, reduce barriers of entry into your organization, and empower them with a union voice.