Working for a domestic violence shelter was a learning experience; not just for myself as a social media and PR intern, but for the shelter as well. Lydia’s House is the only program in the St. Louis area providing confidentially located, stationary transitional housing for victims of domestic violence and their children. The mission is to help battered and abused women to gain the skills and resources necessary to find permanent housing, jobs, or to accomplish schooling. For many women, this safety and support is something they haven’t experienced in years.
When I was first hired as a social media and PR intern, there wasn’t a job description for me. Social media was something they let fall to the wayside, unsure of how to use it while still protecting their residents. They did not understand how social media could help, rather than harm.
And they were not alone. Many organizations and businesses may have that belief: social media does not work for me. But my experiences at Lydia’s House tell a different story. Here’s how we started:
Finding what the audience likes. I began posting daily status updates on the Lydia’s House Facebook page, and could tell immediately what posts were the most popular and which posts people could care less about. I was given a list of statistics about domestic violence to educate our followers. These posts got very little attention, and if anything almost seemed to upset our audience. The last thing I wanted to do was turn people away; if they liked Lydia’s House on Facebook, then they understood domestic violence and didn’t need to see statistics on a daily basis.
Putting on a creative hat. This is when I got creative about my posts. I started Trivia Tuesdays and Thankful Thursdays to get our followers interacting on our page. Every Tuesday I would post a trivia question about Lydia’s House, our history, what we do, etc., and people began commenting and becoming involved. Thankful Thursdays were a great way for us to acknowledge our donors and followers for their support, and ask what they were thankful for.
Sharing photos that are emotional in nature. For the safety of our residents and their children, we could not post any photos of them. One day we had arts and crafts time with the children with the topic being “draw what Lydia’s House means to you.” The children drew such touching pictures of love and how they finally felt safe. We scanned a few of the drawings and put them on Facebook to an overwhelming amount of likes and comments. We began taking pictures of the children’s hands while painting, vegetables the women grew in the community garden, donations we received, and much more.
Celebrating successes with other organizations and individuals. A few of the Cardinal’s wives came out and remodeled the residents apartments, donating furniture, clothing, and home goods. We posted pictures of the interior of the apartments along with the Cardinal’s wives, and people loved it! The Cardinals posted the pictures on their Facebook and retweeted us on Twitter, getting us more attention and followers. More followers for us meant more donations and volunteers- something that a non-profit truly needs to support their cause.
For years, Lydia’s House ignored social media, believing it to be their enemy rather than a great asset. Social media does not work for you – that is true. The problem is the order of that sentence. Facebook, Twitter and other platforms are tools. And tools do not work for anyone. It is you who must get creative and apply your energy. You work with social media. If I can use it to help Lydia’s House, then you can use it in your organization.