Evanston puts non-profits through social media ‘bootcamp’
Luke Stowe, city of Evanston webmaster, instructs during the social media seminar for non-profits at the Civic Center. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
The event: the city’s first “boot camp” for Evanston-based non-profit organizations designed to help them successfully employ social media tools.
The host: The city of Evanston, a leader in social media. In metric counts of cities of 50,000 people and over in Illinois, Evanston ranked first in Twitter and Linkedin, and second in Facebook.
The future: Thursday’s workshop was a warm-up. The city plans to hold more followup sessions. Follow the city’s website at cityofevanston.org.
Also, the city is seeking Social Media interns who will be paried with local Evanston non-profits for its Social Media Boot camp project.
Volunteers will have the unique opportunity of helping craft the brand of the organizations they work with while exercising creativity and innovation in community education. Volunteers will be expected to commit to assisting an agency for a minimum of three months for 2-5 hours a week. To volunteer, contact Adelita Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-859-7833
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:20AM
EVANSTON — Barbara Sittler is the executive director of an organization whose mission is to link community volunteers with isolated older adults.
The group has had its share of successes, but, with two part-time staff, both over 60, it can sometimes be a challenge getting word out.
“So with the use of Facebook and other social media we’re able to tell our story in a way that quantifies what we do,” Sittler said Feb. 21 at a city-sponsored social meedia workshop.
More than 40 representatives of Evanston-based non-profit organizations attended the free “boot camp,” and participants followed closely as Luke Stowe, webmaster of Evanston’s very successful Citizen Engagement Division, led the group through Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other social management tools to help them better get their message out.
The workshop, which was a little-advertised test run by the city, drew a wide range of participants.
“We did a pre-workshop survey and some folks are not on social media at all, and others are very involved in social media but just want to figure out a way to do it better,” Stowe said.
How many folks use Twitter in their organizations?
About a third of the hands went up.
A helpful hint: “Keep your tweets to 120 characters,” Stowe advised his now very attentive audience.
“The reason you want to keep it to 120 is when someone retweets you can click on the retweet button and it’s shared with all your followers.”
Stowe drew an example from experience.
The city seized on a short news release about Zagat Survey recently naming Edzo’s Burger Shop at 1571 Sherman Ave., as the “Best Burger” in Chicago in its survey.
The city published the story on its website, and then tweeted out the news.
“It was re-tweeted 10 or 12 times,” Stowe said about the wave of publicity which is putting the burger place on the map..
“It’s a really powerful way to reach your audience,” he said, moving to his next topic, “How to build your Twitter list.”
Barry Kaplan, president of an Evanston dance company, CoCoDaCo, on Foster Street, brought two young interns with him.
“They know a lot more about social media than I do,” said Kaplan, approached by a reporter.
The company, which has just started up, wants “to get the most bang for the buck, and younger people who are interested in contemporary dance in the Chicago area are very big on social media,” he said. “It seems like this is a great way to target our potential audience in terms of people coming (to performances) but also donors,’’ he said.
Ashley Turner, one of the interns, agreed. “It’s a great free way, to test your market,’’ with an emphasis on “free.”
“Art is a very social thing so if you’re not taking advantage of modern social realms and outlets and methods, then you’re not going to be a successful arts organization anywhere, no matter if you’re in the city here or if you’re in Nebraska.”
Sittler, whose organization Senior Connections is located at 535 Custer Ave., said she also had some young advisers — members of Evanston Township High School’s Senior Studies program — urging her “to pump it up a little bit.”
She was impressed at the breadth of the social media universe. Stowe, in his overview, started with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Linkedin, but at the end, was explaining lesser-known sites such as Tumblr, Mailchimp and Hootsuite.