The wide access to internet has helped many Community Councils create new ways to engage with people. Community Councils can now keep in touch with members of the community through email, newsletters, websites, and social media. These methods of digital engagement are easy to use, and most of it is free or very low cost compared to other forms of engagement. It can take some time to build an audience for a newsletter or a social media account, but the time invested compared to possible reach is often very low compared to other forms of engagement. For spreading information, it is more flexible and cheaper than print media but it should not just replace traditional engagement methods. Different channels work well with different audiences.
Social media can bring many great benefits and provide means to share information easily. Because most people use social networks once in a while and a lot use them every day, they are an excellent way of reaching a large audience. Community councils should be sharing stories and reports about the work they carry out: this will encourage others to become involved and it is important that the wider community is aware of the work of their community councils.
Here are some of the top advantages of using social media:
- It allows the community council to engage with a large number and wide range of people, including those who may not be aware of or able to attend meetings or events, such as people with disabilities, single mothers and shift workers. It is especially good for reaching young people, whose voices are often under-represented in community councils.
- It allows members of the community to interact with the community council; they can give views on what is important to them and provide feedback on work and projects, at a time and place convenient to them.
- Many people and groups already use social media to discuss local issues – tapping into these conversations will help community councils to understand and engage with local issues.
- It allows community councils to access a large amount of information that may be of interest to them, such as funding opportunities. Connecting with other local groups can create a quick and easy way to share resources.
If you do not already have a community council email address, it is a good idea to create one. This can then be used to set up some social media sites (instead of a community councillor’s personal email address). This means that when community council committee members change, the password can be handed over and the site/emails will retain continuity. There are some sites, where it is necessary to use personal accounts to set up a page or group, but it doesn’t mean you have to share access to your personal pages.
Social Media Tools
Below is information on two of the most popular social media platforms –ﾠFacebook andﾠTwitterﾠ– but there is a whole range of other tools such asﾠInstagram,ﾠFlickr, Vimeo,ﾠYouTube,ﾠLinkedIn. Facebook and Twitter allow you to share links to these other social media sites and web resources. It is worth thinking creatively about how you could best reach your community through sharing on several networks. It can be a bit daunting thinking about managing several accounts, but to make this easier, there are free social media management tools that you can use such as Hootsuite or Buffer which you can use on your PC or smartphone. These can also give you some insight into how often people reads or shares your content.
|Social Media Site||How it Works||Useful Guide|
|Facebook profiles can be created for individuals, groups, businesses, or to promote a cause. Facebook allows you to upload photos and videos, send messages, create events, and share ‘statuses’, which operate like microblogging.|
'What is the difference between a page and a group?' - Help to decide whether a group or page might be best for your Community Council
|Twitter allows you to post short messages, pictures, and videos, called ‘tweets’, which registered users can see. The shortness of the messages is known as ‘microblogging’. It is a great way of keeping people up-to-date on your work, as well as learning about what others are doing.|
'Getting started with Twitter' - Twitter's own guide
'Twitter for beginners' - a basic Twitter guide from social media site, Mashable
|Wordpress and other blogging sites||Blogging is a great way to share information about the work of your community council as you can write longer content than on for example Twitter (Twitter can however be a good way to share the link to your blog). Wordpress can also be used a website.||'Wordpress tutorial: a guide to Wordpress for beginners' - This guides explains the basic in setting up any blog and focuses especially on setting a blog up with Wordpress.|