Using social media tools for communication: a case study

One of the questions I’m asked frequently is: “How do I use social media tools for communication?” I addressed this during my presentation at the PMI Leadership Institute Meeting in Dublin, and one of the organisations I drew on to illustrate how other people are doing it was the Chartered Management Institute.

The CMI makes excellent use of social media tools for communicating with their members. In a project environment, the approaches that they use could be used for communicating with members of your local project management association group (PMI, APM, IPMA etc), the project management community within your organisation or with external project stakeholders. You could even adapt them for communicating with project teams.

I spoke to Adi Gaskell, Content & Communities Manager, about how he does it and what benefits he has seen.

Adi, what social media tools do you use for communicating with CMI members and how do you use them?

LinkedIn – the LinkedIn group provides an easy to use destination for members to discuss management issues. As it’s a closed group it offers a contrast to the public forums on the CMI site.

Twitter – Whilst Twitter offers good opportunities to promote various things, I think its main value comes in being able to react to issues members have and to reach out to stakeholders of CMI.

YouTube – The YouTube channel is home to all media mentions and an increasing array of footage from central and branch events. Only last week I uploaded full footage of a recent CMI Wolverhampton event. The footage from the previous year’s event has already had nearly 2,500 views, so it’s a good way of reaching out to new audiences.

Facebook – Facebook is relatively new but is a great way to engage with a different audience. Our analytics show that membership of the group averages around 30 years of age, a significantly younger demographic than CMI as a whole. With our desire to reach younger managers, and indeed school children, I think this will be a key mechanism for doing so.

From what people tell me, project management communities are also keen to reach a wider group – both to share their expertise, as in the case of PMI Colombia, who are positioning themselves to be able to advise local communities on public sector projects, and for education. I wrote recently about the PMI Educational Foundation’s work in schools, so I agree that Facebook is a key strategy for engaging this audience. Anything else?

Slideshare – I upload all of our research reports and an increasing number of PowerPoints from events to our Slideshare page. This allows each to be embedded into the CMI site for easy viewing and also promotes them via the Slideshare site. A recent presentation from a branch event was featured on both the Slideshare homepage and education category page and has thus far been read nearly 1,500 times.

Flickr – Our Flickr page is used to house a lot of our photos and other imagery. A common use is to take event photos and combine them into a slideshow that can then be embedded into the CMI website.

Blogs – The Management Blog continues to grow and regularly attracts 1,000 views per day. It has allowed us to broaden our reach via syndication on sites such as Google News, and of course LinkedIn and Twitter.

Discussion forums – The discussion forums allow members to discuss current news or issues pertaining to their professional lives. This can be in the national forums or via the dedicated forum each CMI branch has. Whilst widespread adoption of the forums has been harder work there have still been over 8,000 comments left thus far.

Wow, that’s a lot of communication channels. What has been the most successful?

Of the external social media I think the most successful thus far have been our LinkedIn group and our Slideshare account. The LinkedIn group grows membership at a significant rate, and the engagement in discussions is quite substantial.

With regards to the onsite social media I think without doubt the blog has been the key success. The platform was only built 18 months ago and is now one of the leading management blogs in the UK. There are still lots that can be done but so far it has been a big success, especially as delivered with £0 budget.

How do you track if things are a success?

Slideshare has delivered tremendous increases in reach for our reports and branch activity. For instance, research reports have gone from double figure readership to well in excess of 1,000 reads per report on average. Everything I do is tracked for effectiveness. It’s one of the beautiful things about the web – pretty much everything you’d want to track can be.

What proportion of the membership base do you think you reach through the range of online tools you use?

It’s difficult to give an exact figure as our website analytics doesn’t identify named individuals. My honest answer however is “not enough”. The CMI demographics do lean towards the older age ranges who are perhaps not digital natives but we are working hard to both engage with members more often and to provide as many platforms to enable that to happen in an environment that suits the member.

An environment that suits the member is important. If people are already hanging out online, it’s a good idea to be where they already are. How do you encourage people to visit and take part in the community when there are so many other sites they could be part of? As you say, the competition is just a click away, so the only way to attract, and keep, members is to provide engaging content. That is the ongoing challenge.

What’s your top tip for people who want to start using social media to communicate with members?

My top tip is to persevere. Engaging with people (on whatever medium) is not going to be a quick win, so you’ll need perseverance to keep at it.

Thanks, Adi!

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