Social Media Engagement and Program Participation

Events, classes, programs/projects, and funding are where participation is usually directed in cause marketing. These are synonymous with sales in the business sector. But how does an organization get from listening to its online community to participation from them? Even when the organization is not for profit this is the $64,000 question. This is the task now being faced by fledgling health programs being offered by the Wellness Center of Door County.

From listening we hoped to understand the interests of the community. For one program after a few months that did not become apparent, so we simply asked. We did this in a number of ways. A simple question posed on a social media site or at a community event was most expedient. “What do you think about___? How do you like ___? What do you need/want from___? What___ topics interest you? When would be the best time for___?” But we also used an online survey. Different sectors of the community may be reached with each. Facebook has simple built in question and survey tools. Survey Monkey can help to form effective questions.

Once community needs and interests were determined we began a cause awareness campaign. Staff may respond to memos that cite professional research but we will keep them to a minimum most compelling study or two. For the online community and coworkers alike photos, videos, and hyperlinks to factually correct articles that are packaged for more public consumption will help create awareness in a more easily “digestible” form that avoids information overload.

We are now matching staff interests and skills with the community’s interests. The next logical step is to match everyone’s interests to the planning of program activities. Here is where staff must be engaged. If coworkers don’t buy into an idea for community participation they cannot be counted on to support the program or market activities once they are planned. They need to know that the community will be receptive before they commit to the work necessary to garner participation. The answers that have been gathered from months of listening and asking can again be leveraged to influence staff support.

All the work that has come before will prepare the community and the staff for participation.  Collaborations among staff, other Wellness Center programs, and other cause organizations will be formed to lessen load, invite sharing of knowledge, skills or funding and create team spirit. Mailing lists may be formed from online contacts, other community events, survey returns and other affiliated or related causes. Then event planning sites could be employed. Event/class announcements and registration forms can be designed and sent, reminders sent and data collected from these online sites. Eventbrite, which has been used before to market a Wellness Center event, is such a site. It offers several advantages over other sites. It is free if no money is being collected from the event (a fee equal to a small percentage of the sales is required if it is a fundraiser). Promotion and more awareness may be linked from Eventbrite to other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Search engine optimization can also be leveraged from this site. Organization newsletters, affiliated ones as well as our own, and blog sites may also be tapped for promotion.

One more thing we will strive to keep in mind when trying to garner participation from both community and staff: relationships. People want to know who is involved. This gives them a sense of belonging and trust. An endorsement from a friend or relative, respected professional or organization, even a celebrity will go a long way toward garnering participation. We will remember to get out from behind our computers and into the real time public arena ourselves. “Face time” is still important.


Image Susan Gigot-Klein is working toward a Master of Nutritional Science degree at UW-Stevens Point and is the creator and coordinator of Woman Food, a nutrition awareness program offered by the Wellness Center of Door County.