WNY CommuniTREE Stewards, Part 2: Using Social Media to Connect Participants

Gregory Badger headshotBy Gregory Badger, CommuniTREE Stewards Volunteer

I grew up hiking the woods of Honeoye in Western NY and learning about trees from my father and when I moved to Philadelphia after college, I began volunteering for some of their TreePhilly programs. Yard tree giveaways, street tree plantings, pruning days, and community gardens got me involved in the community and fueled my passion for trees. Eventually I was offered a chance to volunteer for an inventory study which put me in touch with some great people and got me interested in urban forestry.

Upon moving to Buffalo I reached out to anyone I could find to get involved, which led me to the wonderful opportunity to work with Re-Tree Western NY and the CommuniTREE Stewards Project (CTS). I knew there were a lot of trees, and a huge need for even more trees and tree care. When I got involved, this program was already moving ahead, but I wanted to help any way I could. Since I seemed to have a knack for social media, when the idea was brought up to use that to get the word out, I offered to do it.

Using social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn allows us to bring together a network of individuals interested in community trees. It gives those volunteers the tools to help, while maintaining certain standards and a certain control of the information being published. Knowing what you want to get out of your group in terms of event planning, document sharing, and discussions and what you don’t want it to become is an important factor, especially as the program grows throughout the region. For the CTS group, we decided to use Facebook as a private group for only the trained individuals of the program and the LinkedIn group as a public group for Buffalo trees in general.

FB screenshotFacebook

Facebook is great for sharing information and getting things out to the public. So why did I create a private group for only our trained members? I wanted an easy way to communicate a lot of different types of information that made it easy for the users. Facebook groups have the right features for that such as documents, events, and the discussion board.

The documents section allows me to add useful documents such as training information, handbooks, reference sheets, presentations, etc. Creating an event on Facebook gives you a lot of options for sharing information but more importantly, Facebook acts as a calendar, reminder service, and flyer all at once. When I create an event, it appears to everyone in the group and asks them to attend. Facebook will also remind attendees they have an event coming up that they committed to attend. The discussion board shows anything added on the page, with the newest on top. For example, I can create an event, add a document, type a message to the users, share a link, post an article, post something from someone else—it all shows up right on the main page. Members in the group can post information they want to share and everyone in the group will receive the post. This is a great way for all the members to share and exchange information.

LinkedIn

The LinkedIn group called “Buffalo Trees” is public and therefore open for anyone to join and contribute to. It’s similar to Facebook in its capabilities, but the audience is a bit different. I made this as a means to connect and share information with professionals, companies, and related groups in Buffalo and beyond. When I started to create this group, I realized that while other Buffalo groups have websites and Facebook pages, they all seemed disjointed and separate. There was no unifying page or group that connected everything and since this was going to be a public platform for tree care, why not make it all about community trees in the Buffalo area? The LinkedIn page will have links and connections to all the western New York tree groups and hopefully many groups outside of Buffalo such as Arbor Day Foundation and Alliance for Community Trees. I hope to turn this group into a much larger platform for both the Buffalo community and the urban forestry community. Here’s the link to the group; please join us!

Challenges:

There are definitely some difficulties involved with both of these; the biggest so far is connecting with people who don’t use social media. How can we get information to the specific people we need to within the CTS group or publicize all this information to media-less members of the community? There are a lot of other methods such as email, websites, newsletters, even paper advertisements and flyers. I think we still need to learn what method works best for our specific group.

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