By Susan Vlcek, Class of 2001, Junior Leadership Director
August signals the repainting of crosswalk, the peak of flying stinging things, and the welcoming of new classes in each of LMC’s 3 programs: the signature program, Emerging Leaders and Jr. Leadership.
New class members means more alumni. In total we count over 1,300.
One of our goals and great challenges is connecting with our alumni. We have committees addressing it, programs to sustain it, social media to boost it. We even send a fascinating monthly newsletter!
How’s it working? And why do we want it to work? Like good investigative reporters, we really need to load the key questions into the cart before we kick the horse into a gallop.
What we know for sure is that we are better because of the involvement and commitment of our alumni. This summer also signals a milestone in our alumni involvement, as our Board of Trustees has welcomed its first-ever alumni from both Emerging Leaders (Beth Shotwell from Medina Creative Housing) and Jr. Leadership (Johnny Hojnacki, U of Akron student). Their voice and vision will enrich us.
George Bernard Shaw wisely deduced, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
As Johnny and I work together on JrLMC, we have been discussing how to best communicate with our current and past participants. Already the viewpoint of our alumnus is illuminating what we do – and maybe what you do, too.
Thank you, Johnny, for sharing the following thoughts on the rise of social media and the fall of communication:
With the rapid growth of social media and other technology-driven means of communication, it is easier than ever to connect with people, especially high-school and college students. Or at least it should be. If the younger generation is so technology savvy, why is it often difficult to get many of them to engage through the social networks that they use every day? The answer: because everyone is doing it. Some say that the age of information is over, I would say that we have progressed into the age of information-overload. As a college student, I experience this phenomenon on a daily basis. Every group, society, club, student organization, youth group, volunteer activity, etc. that I have ever been a part a part of uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email to constantly be in contact in order remain prevalent in the quickly changing communication landscape. As more and more organizations try to stay up to date, each receives a smaller and smaller sliver of the “attention” pie. Having a strong social media presence is no longer a differentiator for an organization, it is simply an expectation of the general public.
Social media certainly has its place. It is an excellent tool for getting information out to large groups of people. But if you want to truly engage with people through social media, you need your target audience to want to be connected. The nice thing about Generation Y in particular (born between 1980 and 2000) is that they leverage the web to be involved with anything they care about. Whether it be finding events to go to, reading newsletters, staying in touch with a group, etc. The challenge is that they are pickier than ever (myself included). In order for them to move your organization up the priority list, there has to be a compelling reason for them to do so. There are just too many things to be involved with to give the same level of attention to all of them.
Fortunately, there are still things that organizations can do to differentiate themselves and create reasons for people to want to be connected. First, the value proposition must be clear and unique. Whatever it is that is being offered through the organization, be it information or events, it must be something that isn’t readily available to the target audience. Just as importantly, it should be closely related to the purpose of the organization. If that purpose isn’t yet defined, that should be step one. It will be difficult for an individual to want to be involved with an organization that isn’t specific about its goals. Next, quality is better than quantity. While many people abide by this principle in most areas of life, it is easy to get caught up in following the crowd on social media. Don’t do it. If your organization is constantly posting new things, you risk becoming an annoyance to followers. If anything, you want your followers to be begging for more, not wishing their news feed wasn’t so clogged. Take the time to talk with the people in your organization (in person) that you want to connect with via social media and see what they think. Is the content that you are sharing adding value to their lives? Does your organization provide something that they can’t get elsewhere? Find out what makes people want to be connected with you and continue to deliver along those lines. Finally, be ok with being different. Just because everyone else is doing certain things with social media, it doesn’t mean that your organization needs to. Do what makes sense for your organization, and your followers. The funny thing about following the crowd is that you can only be as good as the crowd if you do. If you want to stand out, standing apart may be your best bet.