Social in Housing – top tips from our CIH Housing Conference panel event: “Harnessing the power of social: How can housing associations embrace social media?”
Social media’s the channel of choice for more and more customers and residents. So now’s the time for organisations in housing to make a long-term commitment to social.
When it comes to community engagement and relationship building, housing associations can use social to create real change.
But how do you do it?
SoCrowd’s Founder, James Leavesley, hosted a panel of experts at the CIH Housing Conference 2022 to get their inside take on the power of social in the housing sector.
Tanya Moravec, Digital Comms Officer at Hyde Group, Beth O’Malley, Digital Manager for CIH, and Sam Clough, Director at BECG and Love That, were also there to talk about what’s working on social for the housing sector right now.
Let’s dig into the highlights…
A strong start: the foundations of social for housing
To kick things off, the panel talked about the need for organisations to be strategic in their approach to social media.
“When you’re starting to embrace social for your organisation,” said Tanya, “it’s important to recognise where your audiences are. Customers might be on one channel, but stakeholders, community partners and contractors could be somewhere else.”
That means you need to understand the different social platforms and what they’re for. CIH learned through experience that posting the same content across Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook didn’t get results. “Those tools have different purposes,” Beth told us. “People are on social at different times of day, looking for different content.”
And once CIH understood what their audience wanted and set targets for social media, they grew their engagement by a whopping 79%. Knowing whether you want your followers to use social for discussion, complaints or to get updates means you can plan your content effectively.
Sam agreed. She advises organisations to have a clear strategy – starting with just one or two channels. “Know what you want to get out of social, and the communications you want to build.”
A company affair: building social up
It’s not just the social team who need to know what’s what with your social media strategy, the panel said, the wider business has to be onboard, too.
“Playing the strategy and goals back into the organisation should be an integral part of what you do,” said Sam. “As housing associations take a digital-first approach, have those conversations with senior teams to make sure they understand the value of those channels and allow you to invest.”
“There’s a risk that social can be seen as annoying and inconsequential,” Tanya said. It’s a problem they’d faced at Hyde, but SoCrowd’s help meant that everyone at Hyde could embrace social media. And now, the housing association uses its platforms to provide great customer service to customers and residents alike.
When you’ve got company-wide buy in, you can grow the effectiveness of your social. Say your audience tends to engage with you in the evenings, not during the day: “One of the big challenges is that social is always on,” James said. “If you need more resource, you need to be able to justify it.”
With the right software, social teams can gather proof. And with proof, the business will allow you to scale.
“It’s surprising,” James says, “more and more content falls outside core hours. When you’re looking to get more resource, [software like SoCrowd] can give you the evidence and be the driver to change the way you operate.”
In other words, if you can respond to your audience at a time when they can engage with you, you show you care. And you improve your relationship.
Avoid crumbling reputations
With tenants, residents and customers all online, there’s a fear everything’ll turn negative.
But, as James explained, that’s the time to truly embrace social media. “The conversation’s already happening. You may as well put yourself in it, that way you’ve got the opportunity to respond and rectify.”
And, said Beth, when you get the chief execs using social too, they can jump into conversations and help.
Put it another way: when people across your housing association can advocate for what you’re doing, followers can see you’re human. They can see you’re trying to resolve problems. And that enhances your reputation.
Encourage engagement from your followers
What’s the best content to post? An audience question got the panel talking the nitty-gritty of interaction with followers.
At CIH, Beth told the panel, they’d had great success with polls. “If you want to know something, ask” she said. CIH asked about the issues their followers were facing, how they wanted CIH to get in touch, and how they wanted to see the content. Posting up to five polls a week gave them great engagement.
Sam supported that idea, too: “You need to ask questions. Structure the tone of the post to get opinions.” But, she also said, make your content timely. “Tie in with current affairs and remember, something that’s important to your audience will get greater engagement than general hashtag days.”
And, Tanya reminded the conference, “there’s nothing people like talking about more than themselves. If you can get them on a topic where people have an opinion, that always works really well.”
How to get the most from social: in a nutshell
The panel had plenty of top tips on getting the best results from social media in the housing sector. Here’s a round-up:
- Have a strategy – then you can work towards your goals
- Get the whole organisation onboard with the importance of social media for building relationships
- Invest in your content and be human (and don’t worry about being slick)
- Experiment with content types – change things up to keep things varied and see what works for your audience
- Encourage engagement by asking questions, using polls and getting opinions
Thanks to our panel Tanya, Beth and Sam for sharing their social know-how with James. R
And if you’d like to know more about how SoCrowd can help you harness the power of social, get a sneak preview of our exciting new functions here: https://socrowd.com/showcase/