In one of our recent blog posts titled In Praise of Diversity, our CEO Bob Stevenson asserts, “Unions by and large do a lousy job of public relations. They let their enemies mold the public perception of unions which are so stereotypical it would be redundant for me to even address it.” If so, I ask how that can be when there are many widely used established and emerging communication channels that are alternatives to the traditional media (TV, radio, press). Of course, I’m referring to the plethora of “social media” outlets – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr, etc.
Surely, unions are in a perfect position to take advantage of these vehicles. After all, they have compelling messages, an established following (i.e., membership), and no excuses that it costs too much or is controlled by some opposing organization. At first glance, it’s a perfect match – unions and social media! However, an unscientific survey of several unions with over 1 million members reveals that social media may not be delivering much bang for the buck.
AFL-CIO 78K Likes 37K Followers
SEIU 17K Likes 40K Followers
IBT 120K Likes 11K Followers
UFW 3K Likes 4.5K Followers
UFCW 44K Likes 7.5K Followers
Compare these statistics to a few different social media heavy hitters:
Red Bull Energy Drink 38 million Likes 930K Followers
National Public Radio 2.7 million Likes 174K Followers
Rush Limbaugh 1.2 million Likes 369K Followers
Rachel Maddow 827K Likes 2.6 million Followers
US Chamber of Commerce 328K Likes 103K Followers
So what’s going on here? Why doesn’t a union with a million plus members have Likes and Followers in numbers of the same magnitude? It could be the quality of the content, though unions have plenty to say that their members should be interested in. Or it could be that members just don’t know the unions are participating in social media, though most of the unions have their social media participation prominently displayed on their websites (and I hope in any direct communications that go to members). Maybe it’s the demographic or technical competency of the average union member, though over 80% of Facebook’s 100 million plus active users are between 18 – 54 years of age and 72% of US households reported accessing the internet in 2011. (Most recently Facebook has provided statistics that the average age of its members is now 41 years old.) So, if the general union member demographics are adequately represented via these social outlets, is it only a matter of time that until we see a jump in the number of Likes and Followers?
There are some bright spots. The AFL-CIO (AFL-CIO.org) has seemingly embraced social media in a big way; not only displaying it prominently on their website, encouraging visitors to share what they read and think, but also hosting online conversations about high interest topics.
JayStar is embarking on its own use of Social Media as a way to keep our customers, prospects, and the general public better informed. We’d love to know about your use of Social Media – what’s working and what’s not and whether Social Media is a key component of your organizing strategy – so please comment on this post! And be sure to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for the latest union news and company updates.