Consumer Engagement and Social Media: SORA’s Journey to a Social Media Launch

Business Presence on Social Media

Just over 42% of the world population is using social media on their mobile device. More than 3.48 billion people are active social media users – that’s 45% of the world’s population. These users support an e-commerce market valued at $1.786 trillion for 2019, and that’s up 14% from last year.

Why Your Website is Not Enough

Most organizations have a website, but not all have invested enough into engaging with consumers on social media. Google, YouTube and Facebook are the top three visited websites globally. Google will direct consumers to your organization’s website, but having a website alone won’t give you a presence on social media. According to Hootsuite, 90% of brands use social media to increase brand awareness. The 10% who don’t use social media are just not going to remain relevant or competitive.

Consumers spend more than 3 hours each day on their smartphones (e-marketer, 2019), and 90% of that time within smartphone apps (not their internet browser). Media connected users are spending that 3+ hours in audio-media apps, social media apps, and video-media apps – in that order. Your organization’s website may be at the end of a google search, maybe, but if you neglect audio and social media, then you’re out of sight and out of mind.

Consumer Engagement

Social media platforms offer a venue for customer service, consumer engagement, and consumer generated content. Users expect to be able to use a social media platform to provide feedback and stay informed, and they prefer social media platforms to calling in their feedback. Customer satisfaction is just the beginning. Your brand awareness depends on engagement on social media. Consumers want an experience that they will then share with their network using hashtags and location tags.

An Organization’s Journey to Social Media

I found an organization at the cusp of starting their journey to a social media launch, and interviewed its founder and creator. I’ve also volunteered to be part of that journey by committing to planning and strategy meetings for the launch. On a sunny, somewhat windy day in July, I sat down with Tasha Chapman at the Ike Box coffee shop in downtown Salem and learned what follows.

The State of Oregon Research Academy (SORA) is a data-happy nerd club of sorts, its creation inspired by Chapman’s experiences. From 2007-2014, Chapman hosted the State of Oregon SAS Users Group (SOSUG), which provided training sessions for state employees interested in SAS programming. The sessions were viewed as “useful, but had low engagement”. Chapman said that in 2013, she had “discovered these Learning Sessions that Pam McVay was hosting at DHS for OFRA.  The content for these sessions was very broad and engaging, but the sessions were essentially limited to just OFRA employees.”

Chapman envisioned a group with an expanded purpose and scope to include any State of Oregon research employee, and a broader range of experiences offered, and started SORA in 2014.

“I wanted to pair the content of the Learning Sessions with the wide open format of SOSUG. So I hosted the first SORA session solo in September 2014.  After that I asked for other volunteers to help join me, and thus began the first SORA Executive Committee.” – Tasha Chapman, 2019

SORA now has a beautiful and practical website, built and maintained by Julie Huber of the State of Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). SORA’s website boasts a membership of “more than 700 members, representing close to 20 agencies across the state. Members include research analysts, financial analysts, economists, database architects, information systems specialists, auditors, managers, legislative staff, and even entomologists!”

SORA Focus Group Study

Engagement has increased and grown for SORA in it’s half-decade of life, but the SORA board sought to measure its members’ experience with a Focus Group Study. The findings were many and varied from feedback about the types of offerings to the benefits of membership, but the resonant feedback was a request for SORA to have a social media presence. Members wanted a place to exchange knowledge, share events, and stay informed about SORA’s events. They want to network in real time, in addition to the networking events hosted by SORA, and they wanted a place to ask questions.

GovSpace – the MySpace for Government Employees

I hadn’t actually heard of GovSpace until I interviewed Tasha Chapman, SORA co-creator and board member. Tasha says GovSpace was considered as an option for launching SORA’s social media presence for several reasons. First, State of Oregon employees can use the site at work without violating any policies. Also, GovSpace provides users with a space other than their personal social media profiles, so their private lives can remain private while they interact with GovSpace. GovSpace has collaborative spaces and customizable user pages, much like MySpace – if you remember what that was like. GovSpace, however, has low engagement and is simply not widely used enough to meet SORA’s goal of increasing engagement.

SORA’s Social Media Sub-committee

SORA has only just begun its journey to social media, and its first step was to form a Social Media Sub-committee. Part of the sub-committee’s purpose is to determine the best place for SORA’s social media launch, whether it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or some other platform. Also on the agenda is whether SORA should launch in multiple platforms, or focus on one.

Chapman wants the subcommittee to consider the benefits and drawbacks of the two options. A single platform could mean users would have a forum for discussions and sharing, but we would have to consider which platform would best reach our audience. Multiple platforms would enable broader announcements and promotions to the group through many platforms, but we risk siloing feedback and discussions because users will engage through their preferred platform.

Tasha Chapman and Lora Edwards

Tasha Chapman is a Research Analyst at the State of Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services. She co-created the State of Oregon SAS Users Group, which she expanded in 2014 to become State of Oregon Research Academy. Tasha remains on the executive board for SORA.

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