Education Association Learns the Value of Social

As social media matures, many organizations are looking to boost their capabilities and take interactions with customers, employees and members to a higher level. One organization that has focused its efforts in this arena is the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), a labor union that represents more than 195,000 teachers and other school employees in the Garden State.

The organization focuses its efforts heavily on collective bargaining tasks, as well as professional development. “Members pay dues, but our goal is to get them actively involved,” says Patrick Rumaker, an editor at NJEA.

It’s a task that requires a clear strategy and specific tools. “One of our biggest challenges is to make NJEA a really great brand and serve our members well,” Rumaker says. ‘We want to be strong advocates for quality public education and make sure that people have a positive outlook toward it.”

Consequently, the organization, which dates back to 1850, relies on a Website, newsfeeds, discussion boards and other tools to facilitate communication and dialog. At the center of everything: “Our social media platform is a key to sustaining the campaign, ensuring that our message gets out and people have a chance to provide feedback,” he says.

Social Media and Brand Reputation

About three years ago, NJEA turned to social platform vendor Meltwater to aid in the management of social media and brand reputation. It uses Meltwater Buzz as a workflow system to track relevant topics and issues and to respond to its audiences in real time.

In addition, the organization uses the tool to identify and flag comments, so that staff can respond to them in a timely manner. NJEA also uses the technology to generate a morning report that relies on tagging to aggregate key articles into a branded newsletter.

The system helps ensure that coverage is relevant to readers by keeping them abreast of key issues. And NJEA’s social media team is able to schedule social media posts on Facebook and Twitter at desired times.

“We are attempting to take social media beyond the basics,” Rumaker says. “It’s less important that somebody clicks the “Like” button or retweets an item than that they actually use the materials we develop. A big challenge is nudging people past the tendency to think they’ve done something significant because they’ve clicked, shared or retweeted an item. We want them to take real action.”

This requires members to post questions or discuss controversial issues online in order to ignite discussions. “We do not delete or block comments that are negative,” he adds. “We’re not trying to sell Coca-Cola. We want people to be honest, and we’re okay with them being angry with us for the right reasons.”

NJEA is also turning to social listening and analytics to better understand sentiment and the constantly changing and evolving member thinking.

“We are looking to find key words at any given moment—particularly in areas such as pension or testing—and understand how people are thinking about them and responding,” Rumaker explains. “That helps us formulate a strategy and narrow communications to better match the needs of our members. The goal is to build interactive communication that takes advantage of today’s environment.”

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