As my work for the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, I serve as administrator of our social media accounts, and create lots of graphics and video for many of those posts. One of our big events is our Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions – held in August in Castleton Vermont. We may have up to 700 Friends there – and being sure to invite everyone to this community, and keep all informed of some of the discernment there is important. In doing this work, it seems my model of planning and engagement might apply in part of any local event you might host for your quarterly meeting or local meeting. Here’s some things we are learning, and some tools I’m finding helpful!
Consistent messaging at the start is very important. Our Sessions committee discerns a theme for our gathering – and we announce that early in the year, and keep coming back to it. This year it is “in fear and trembling be bold in God’s service. Even before we had many other details of the gathering, we could note this theme, in relation to the faithful work of Friends in New England in many places.
The communications plan
This can be fairly simple – in our case, it includes a timeline of important dates for release of information. We announced, starting in January, our theme, our invited speakers, and our bible half hour speaker. We then released a draft schedule, an invitation for workshop proposals, and a formal invitation to Annual sessions via postal mail and online. Each one of these items was highlighted in our monthly newsletter, and posted to our website. Twice a week or so I posted a news item about Sessions to our social media feeds, to raise awareness. It’s an annual event, so many folks were expecting this news. It’s always good to remember however that part of your audience is NEW and therefore you need to write for them as well! Most of our main communications center around the date of June 1 – when online registration officially opened. Also we decided on one hashtag – now added to all our posts.
Platforms for engagement (and how we are using them)
Website: All our news items, and Annual Sessions information are on their own page, on a tab that can be updated. As we add more news, we will bump it to our main page. During Sessions we will post daily updates, workshop locations, recordings.
We release this every month – and there is a balance between sharing news of Annual Sessions, one important part of our Quaker lives together – and highlighting other ministries as well. Our newsletter can link to more information (on the website) so we can choose how much to share, and how much Friends might want to go to our website for.
A year of experiments! We have ONE Facebook page for New England Yearly Meeting. We chose to not create a separate event page for Annual Sessions. We have 5000 Quakers in New England, not a huge amount on Facebook, and less that folks might follow a separate Annual Sessions page. This event, remember, is not generally public. We would expect all Quakers in New England to follow both – and posting news in one place and not another might get confusing. Know your audience! Britain Yearly Meeting has two pages. They are significantly larger, with a more well established Facebook presence.
I created a Facebook event for this gathering back in October. We knew the dates, and there was no reason to wait for those folks who might see it and click on it. As each major announcement about Sessions was published, I would add it to the events page “speakers announced”, “here’s our theme” etc. I’d also highlight some of those on our main Facebook page. We chose (after registration opened) to boost this event, not just a post about sessions. That encourages folks to click “interested” – and then it will automatically remind them to register, to tell us they are going… we also can post updates and exciting news about sessions to the event – not to our general page. Remember, if we are posting 3-5 items per day to our main page, we do not want them all to be about an event that not everyone attends! Our page represents our entire community. Large news highlights (one a day) about Annual Sessions are on the main page, and in the event we schedule a daily post with more in-depth bios and news about the event specifically.
A new experiment this year – we created a closed facebook group for attenders. We encourage folks to join the group, to share their own news and stories about Annual Sessions. This is for the “super fans” of Annual Sessions – it gives folks a chance to chat with a specific audience, and does not swamp our man page discussions. I moderate this group, and will make sure to keep the conversations on subject. Any longer concerns or discussions I will take to YM folks for discernment and addressing of concerns. This group is NOT a place for deep discussion (there are other places for that). Once we arrive at Sessions, we hope this will be a place to share immediate news, photos from attenders, and meet-ups and information.
Our practice is one post a day. We have increased to two on high traffic days, with one being a Sessions promo. We do not currently use this platform very much (it is newer for us) so we are still building and audience. We therefore are making more general posts, and Sessions posts are ones that might appeal to the widest audience of New England Quakers. We are balancing posts of current witness and actions in New England (there are many right now) and reposts from Friends Camp – another ministry of our Yearly Meeting that uses Instagram much more than Facebook.
We repost most news and events about Sessions. When we get on campus, this platform will be most useful to communicate with other followers. We made sure to choose a unique hashtag for this reason! Many of our local New England Friends are currently not on twitter – so those posts are often reshares of wider Quaker news, and Sessions news and updates as it relates to the wider Quaker world.
What are we posting?
This year, in my new role as NEYM Social Media manager, I am much freer to experiment. I’m learning from others! Here’s some examples of types of posts I’ve created with Canva to support this gathering.
- Register now! You are welcome here!
- Read your Advance documents! Humor and fun memes are great for this.
- What do you like best about Annual Sessions?
- Meet our speakers!
- Minutes coming to Sessions Meeting for Business
- Traveling to/from and what you will find on campus to help you (rideshare, family neighborhood)
And of course, following the best practices for these posts, that relate to timing and specific needs for each platform, is important.
Some items of importance:
- the hashtag #NEYM2018
- Same posts of various sizes/shapes for FB or Instagram
- Our logo on each post
- Pictures of various parts of our community – young, old, various races and gender identities.
- People! Some old dead quakers for humor – but living Quakers from past years – allowing us to imagine ourselves as attenders.
Along with the graphic posts created in Canva, we are experimenting with a few more tools now.
I’m using Animoto to create brief films. Remember – video is a very popular tool for social media! I can share those videos to a page on FB without a watermark – and the paid version allows me enough flexibility to share and post from my phone. Having a bank of recent pictures is really helpful – and I hope to create little one minute “mini films” while at the gathering! Animoto also allows me to download the films to youtube – on our NEYM youtube page we have created a folder for all of the promos. Sharing from youtube is also helpful if you can’t share directly from Animoto.
Yes, it took me awhile to create all these images first in Canva – but now I can use them in many films and posts. I have them all in one folder in Canva.
Here’s a more simple fun video!
Most of these communications are still one-way advertising. We hope to learn this year how to engage in more conversations with Friends on these platforms. While at Sessions, I’ll be serving as a technology resource for folks, and hope to encourage a digital team of social media publishers.
What have you found helpful in connecting with your audience? How might you use these tools for your meeting?