On March 5, 2021, the Alberta Mentorship Program hosted our final spring boot camp. This session discussed how to promote your mentoring program using social media. Our Start-Up Boot Camps are a community learning space to cover important topics for new and growing mentorship programs. Stephanie Gillis-Paulgaard with Take Roots Consulting led the boot camp presentation supported by Bruce Randall, Executive Director of CRIEC and Doug Piquette, Executive Director of Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC).
Social media often seems overwhelming, especially when you are getting started. You may wonder if it is worth the effort, but social media can be a powerful tool to reach potential mentors, mentees and community programs if used with a clear strategy.
“We have small budgets and limited resources in dollars and people,” says Stephanie. “We can harness advertising through social media, but we need to think about how we can engage and connect.”
If Alberta mentorship programs connect and build those connections within the larger mentorship community, we can all be resources for each other. Together we can build our own social media profiles while sharing information, events, and resources with each other, our mentors, mentees, and community partners.
Social media is a useful and direct way to reach potential partners and participants for your mentorship program. Social media can be a valuable tool that can build community and connect to other people and organizations in the mentoring community. It will help you share information and stories from your organization and other organizations.
As you grow your audience organically (without paid advertising or promotion), you will be able to engage with people online. The challenge is that it does take some time and intention to build your profile and your audience. Before you choose which social media platforms to set up, take some time to make a social media marketing plan. This does not have to be a complex plan, but it is helpful to consider:
Read More: Create a Marketing Plan
How do you know which social media platform to choose? Consider who tends to use each one and will your intended audience be on that platform. If you aren’t sure, choose one and try it out to see how it works. Likely LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are the key ones to try first.
“For AMP we opted to grow a community with LinkedIn and Twitter, not all the communities,” says Stephanie. “You don’t need to do all the platforms.”
You can start with one or two that are most relevant and decide if you need to expand to other platforms over time. AMP added YouTube later to be able to store and share the videos from our online events on our website and on social media. You may decide that some platforms will not reach or serve your core audiences and never engage with them. It is better to focus on one or two platforms that best reach your audience and do them well, instead of trying to do everything.
Whichever platforms you choose, create consistent handles on all of them so people can easily find you. Keep your handle short and use an acronym if your ideal handle is not available.
Add a profile photo that:
Creating profiles with this consistency is good for reinforcing your program brand and making it easy for your audience to find you.
General social media analytics show that there are days and times that are most effective to post. The best day can depend on your audience’s habits and schedules and when your chosen platforms are busiest.
For example, on LinkedIn, Sunday is the worst day to post, but the best days are:
As another example, on Twitter the:
“Sprinkle your content on the best days,” says Stephanie. “And do other engagement in between such as comment, like, retweet, and interact with other people.”
These general analytics are guidelines. Give them a try or experiment with different times or days to see what works best for your organization. Regular posting and engagement will be more important than getting the exact time and date right every time.
Once you have chosen where and when you will be posting, the next challenge is finding, and creating the content for your social media profiles. All your posts should be supporting your program goals and mission. Social media is a great way to showcase the quality of the programs you are putting together and how mentoring is changing the lives of your mentors and mentees.
“People do business with people. People are inspired by people,” says Stephanie. “We want to connect and evoke and emotion.” For her Take Roots brand, about 1/3 of her posts are educational, 1/3 are inspirational, and 1/3 are personal so potential clients get to know who she is as well as learn about what she does.
There are many ways you can tell your story. Consider trying some of these ideas to generate content:
“Still feeling stuck?” asks Stephanie. “Think about the most frequently asked questions you receive and create content that answers them."
If you are not sure where to start with questions, there are free, online question generators that can help you find questions people are asking about mentorship. Type in mentorship and hundreds of questions will be displayed. Use these as frequently asked questions and provide answers to some of the most common questions in your social media content.
Unless your program is completely new, you already have content. Think about what you have already created for your website, promotional materials, videos, or newsletters. Take that information and share it on a different platform to engage people in different ways.
“If you’ve got it, use it!” says Stephanie. “If it is interesting, and important, it’s worth sharing again!”
Some people may have missed your graphic or blog the first time. You can also shift the same content in many ways to make it fresh and reach different people. Some people love video, others would rather read than watch the content. For example, your blog post content can be turned into a:
Shift the content to a new medium and you’ve created fresh content that you can use multiple times. This reduces the pressure to create new content constantly.
Phones are great for snapping quick photos and taking video. Make sure your phone camera lens is clean and your settings save images as high resolution. There are great sources for free or inexpensive stock photography, but getting photos of your mentorship program, events, and participants will build a better connection to your mentorship program.
Popular sources for free stock images:
“2021 is the year of video,” says Stephanie. Your videos do not all need to be polished and professional. Sometimes the behind-the-scenes and informal videos can be just as effective as the produced videos. They give a different and more personal perspective about your organization.
Video is great to use for:
Some free video tools include:
Only use photos and videos you have rights to use and permission to use. You can purchase images and videos or use ones that have an online creative commons license. Building trust with your team, participants, and community includes photograph and videography.
Download: Photo Release Form
Need some help creating content? Use the graphics or content on our Alberta Mentorship Program accounts or link to any of the Mentor or Mentee resource pages to add your social media as you build up your own content, stories, and information.
With all this information, managing social media can feel like an unrelenting task. Creating a content calendar or using scheduling tools will help you plan. Use a day of the week method such as:
Scheduling tools include:
Remember! It is important to cancel all scheduled posts in the event of a tragedy or crisis. When an unexpected event happens, pause your scheduled posts rather than seem insensitive or out of touch with current events.
To manage your social media, you will need to do more than post your content and leave it. Building your audience requires some engagement with your followers. Responding to people who comment on your posts or mention you in their posts is a great way to build an online community. This engagement also helps your algorithm and promotes your profile to more people.
Be intentional about connecting to followers and follow other people and organizations who share your mission and provide information and services related to your mentorship program.
“You don’t need to follow every follower,” says Stephanie. “Make sure you look at their bios and make sure they are aligned to your purpose. If you communicate with followers, their followers will see it."
Use hashtags to see what the community is using and use the same ones. They can help to connect you to ongoing information, news, and trends. If you are having an event, create an event or program-specific hashtag so supporters can share or connect to more information.
“Feel the fear and jump in anyways,” says Stephanie. “Just start and get going. You will learn to engage and grow the community.”
Download: Social Media Tip Sheet
For some mentorship programs, you may be working within a larger organization. This means that you do not have direct control over your social media or need to get approval for all posts. This creates a barrier in some senses because you will not be able to post quickly. But the Marketing Team is there for a reason. They protect the brand and key messages of the organization.
The best way to get your message out via social media is to plan and be prepared. The biggest challenge is that a Marketing Team will need more time to get the posts out. Likely there will be a lead time of a few weeks, a month, or more. To get your message on time, you will want to engage with the Marketing Team well in advance of events and come prepared with topics and information you want to get out on an ongoing basis.
Every Marketing Team will be different. Some will want to create and control the social media posts and will create content based on your discussions. Others may take your created content and post on your behalf. The best way to create a good, ongoing relationship with your Marketing Team will be to discuss with them what they need and how they need it, with clear expectations for lead times. This way you can provide them with the needed information within a required timeframe.
Having a content calendar could help you work with a Marketing Team to promote your program. Planning two to four weeks of posts could give them content and the timing to share content directly for your program and services.
With a larger organization, likely your mentorship program will have a different audience than for the other organization programs. When you discuss social media with the Marketing Team, discuss with them who you are trying to reach and what messages you want to deliver to them.
“I am by no means a social media expert, one of the things we did being strategic about it,” says Doug. “The board would sometimes be worried about the content.”
ERIEC always goes back to their mission and focus on posting content that will support newcomers meet their professional potential. Using social media to reach new mentors and mentees, and to educate the local community about ERIEC programs supports this mission.
“I need mentors and mentees and I need to get the word out. Social media is one of the ways we do it,” says Doug. Creating a clear plan and building a continuous relationship with your Marketing Team will help to speed up the approval process.
“As part of your strategy, address ‘What is the risk if you don’t do it and the risk if you do?’ ‘How do you handle a bad comment?’” says Doug. The ERIEC board wanted to know if and how the ERIEC team would handle criticisms about immigrants “taking” jobs. When the team could provide strategies to address likely difficult questions or criticisms, the board was less concerned about creating social media.
"We have an annual view of our communication document,” says Doug. ERIEC reviews and updates the plan every year to make sure that is current and then shares it so their board and staff are familiar with the plan.
“It’s good to have standard messaging when we see a comment like that,” says Stephanie. “Try to get them off the public-facing platform and into the direct messages to continue the conversation.
“As people call you out, call them into a conversation,” says AMP Program Manager Cheryl Whitelaw. “It does not always work but it's worth trying.”
If you have multiple people touching your social media platforms, make sure that all of them know your social media plan and goals. Have clear expectations about who can post and what they are expected to do.
“CRIEC has a communications plan,” says Bruce. “Nobody tweets except me or the comms person.”
“Last spring, we felt it was important to get a note out to our community in response to George Floyd and Brianna Taylor and we wanted to make sure that it was done in a good way,” says Bruce.
This was such an important message for CRIEC that they struck a sub-community to look at what say. Bruce wrote the first draft and the committee ramped up the message. They wanted CRIEC to be more specific and show their connection to the Black community in Calgary.
“They said to use the term my brothers and sisters in the black community in Calgary,” says Bruce. “We felt like if there is criticism bring it on. It took about two weeks. I resisted the knee-jerk reaction and went back to the strategy.”
That strategy to pause, draft, and consult proved effective. It is better to be thoughtful and considerate than to be the first to say something. “We had the right voice, a collective voice, that struck the right tone,” says Bruce. “It was the most important tweet we sent out in 11 years.”
Being public on social media is a risk. Working with your Marketing Team, your board, or your program team to prepare and be ready is the best you can do. You might not always get it right, but you may be able to mitigate a situation.
“When people ask me about our program, I am going to move into a passion place and I will defend it with passion, I will give you the human case and the business case and it all comes from my heart,” says Doug. Even though he is ready to defend ERIEC and the work they do with newcomers to Canada, it does not come up a lot.
There are some people with radically different views of what Alberta should look like and what Canada should look like, and that could be a challenge. But more often you will get a lot of comments saying, “This is an amazing program!” “I didn’t know this existed.”
“People have chosen Canada and they want to live and work here,” says Doug. “Most of us are immigrants. It is a story we can go to with a lot of feeling."
To help you get started with your social media plan, we have created some templates and samples. These will help you take these general tips for social media and customize them to your target audiences, location, and program. The more you pay attention, the better you will get at engaging with audiences in your area.