Solidarity Sunday: How Social is Your Local? Media Usage in 2023
The demographics of our markets and local unions are changing. If we are going to continue having our voices heard, to recruit, grow our locals, put money in our pensions, and remain financially solvent for the next generation, then we are going to need to attract the attention of younger workers. Attracting younger members while still serving your older members can be a lot to keep up with.
Most of the Baby Boomers (age 59-68 in 2023) are either retired or headed that way and many of our current local union leaders already fall in the "Generation X" (43-58) age range. Many trade unions like the IBEW have started programs designed to get younger "Millennials"(age 27-42) and "Gen Z" (age 11-26) members under the age of 35 to be involved in the growth and influence of the local union.
Information on media habits from Pew Research gives us insight into each age group. Some interesting highlights:
- Almost EVERYONE is on Social Media, regardless of generation. In 2005, only 5% of Americans were active on social media. In 2011 user numbers increased unexpectedly from 5% to 50%. And by 2022, 75% of Americans were using social media daily. While media habits are different with each age group, nearly everyone uses a smartphone for access (91%).
- Podcasting is huge - Joe Rogan is the most popular podcaster in America and I can assure you that many of your members are listening. In addition to Rogan, there are thousands of popular podcast hosts to whom your members are listening. In an increasingly polarized society, long-form podcasts affords viewers and listeners a much more nuanced understanding of any subject that interests them, not just sound bites.
- TikTok is #1 with your Young Members - TikTok is the #1 social media app of choice for Gen Z, with 26 percent of users choosing TikTok as their favorite app. As of December 2022, they average a WHOPPING 95 minutes per day (over 1.5 hours) on the platform. It's growing so fast that it could rival Facebook in total users in the next few years. Something unthinkable 5 years ago.
- Video is Key and YouTube is King- While the Facebook user tends to skew older, Instagram and TikTok are younger, and YouTube is incredibly popular across all age demographics. I am convinced it is the greatest invention since the printing press. Every day 720,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.
- Reels are BIG and events are in real time - Short-form ephemeral videos in 'portrait mode' made popular by TikTok are being copied by all the major social media platforms. 'Instagram Reels', 'Facebook stories', 'YouTube shorts' are all versions of the same thing. Short-form video like this is increasingly becoming a news feed for many young people. Traditional news media simply cannot compete with crowd-sourced news that can be uploaded in real time and tagged for a massive audience from anywhere in your city. A good example is "ATLscoop" on Instagram. Check it out if you haven't. Your city may have something similar.
Ask yourself if your recruiting and organizing strategy reflects your memberships media usage. Are you utilizing video in long and short form to tell your story, inform your members, and target recruits? Are you distributing Local union information on a variety of platforms such as digital newsletters, video, and podcasts to reach your members and prospects where they are? Are you using "hashtags" for individual issues and campaigns in your Local?
So what's up with #ToolsDown613?
IBEW Local 613's Business Manager, Kenny Mullins, created a hashtag, and Union Up produced the content, to rally and engage his members in a campaign for fair wages in the next contract negotiations. Many members got involved by creating their own #ToolsDown613 videos on social media and tagging the local which then spread to their followers. It went viral and had over 22,000 views in less than 48 hours and was shared over 80 times!