Going Local: How one health center is building its social media program

Guest blog post by Katie Kolbet, Communications Specialist with Community Health Association of Spokane, a Community Health Center located in Spokane, Washington

Working in the fast paced world of social media and communications for a non-profit has always been a career goal of mine. I wanted to be able to spread a message and have an impact on the community I live in. In November of 2011, I was fortunate enough to be hired by Community Health Association of Spokane (CHAS). While I was just starting out in the field of communications, I was fortunate enough to work for an organization which was willing to let me grow with it. I have found that taking on the challenge of doing social media for a non-profit is made easier by actually getting to know the people in my community who are great at it! Therefore, that is what I have done!

twitter_birdMost Friday mornings you will find me sipping a tall vanilla latté with about 40-60 of my closest “online” friends, at a local coffee shop, tweeting about a variety of topics. We call this gathering #SpoCT (Spokane Social Media Coffee Gathering). Using the name, aka hashtag, to communicate before, during and after these events. When I tell people that I know a good amount of the people who follow me on Twitter I often get funny looks. “You actually know people on Twitter?” is a common question, to which I reply, “Yes, I have coffee with them on Fridays.” Not many people can say that!

As we all know the world of social media is always changing and no one is truly an expert, guru or master; once you believe you have reached that level you cease to grow. Anyone who tells you they are an “expert” is someone you should probably politely smile at and walk away. I will never stop growing and learning about social media and neither will you… I am proud to say I learn something new every day. These Tweet-ups are a valuable resource for not only me but also my organization. Putting a face to a Twitter handle is very impactful when trying to push a message out.

If you were a fly on the wall during a #SpoCT event, you would see us tweeting funny comments and sharing important information about things that are happening in the community that impact us all. We all come together for one common goal, spreading the message of the day or week. Social media is how a lot of us get our information these days. Having a group like this to help you and your organization promote an event is a great free and easy form of advertising.

You will find many different types of people at this event, some are like me and work for a non-profit, while others are business owners or communication specialists or managers for larger organizations. We’ve even had Harlem Globetrotters and cast members of Flash Dance, War Horse, Jersey Boys and Rock of Ages join us for a Twitter lesson and coffee! You never know who is going to drop in! Regardless of who we work for, we all have one common goal, to help each other. We really are like a family. I know that at any time if I have a question one of these guys or gals will come to my rescue regardless of the topic.

Remember, information sharing is huge; sometimes you need a little help to get your message out there. Networking with a group like this is amazing and the power behind sharing your message with a group like this can be very rewarding.

–Katie Kolbet

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