My trip to the Dominican Republic to visit the people behind the Alta Gracia brand was anything but an ordinary business trip. There was no hotel, no conference room, no flashy PowerPoint presentations, and no guarantee of electricity. Instead, I found myself adopted by a host family for eight days, eating home-cooked Dominican food and commuting by motorbike to the Alta Gracia factory (don’t tell my mom that part!). I had the time of my life and I can’t stop gushing about it whenever I can slip it into a conversation.
If you’re not familiar with Alta Gracia, here’s the story: the Alta Gracia brand is the result of a decade-long collaboration between students and factory workers coming together to help change the garment industry. It’s the first brand of its kind to pay workers a living wage, which allows them to provide housing, food, education, and healthcare for their families. Alta Gracia workers are also permitted to form unions, giving them the opportunity to collectively fight for their rights.
During my trip, I had the opportunity to interact with the workers, hear their stories, and learn more about their day-to-day lives. As the manager of Alta Gracia’s Twitter handle and Facebook page, I spoke at length with the workers about how we can best use social media to engage people with the brand, and learned several valuable lessons in the process. Here are three of my key takeaways from my trip to the factory.
Stories create the best content.
What makes for good social media content? I’d say it’s anything that pulls at your heartstrings. At Alta Gracia, many of the factory workers have heartbreaking stories of being treated terribly at previous jobs, and earning next to nothing for their work. They described what a difference Alta Gracia has made in their lives, and the lives of their families. I met a woman named Maribel whose Alta Gracia paychecks allow her to provide better access to education for both her children and herself; Maribel recently enrolled in nursing school to pursue her passion for helping others.
Compelling stories like these can be transformed into social media content—pictures, quotes, videos, or blog posts—that can easily be shared with an audience and help an organization or company increase its reach.
Get to know the people you are representing.
When you’re managing social media for an organization or company that centers around human stories, it’s important to get to know the people at the heart of the work. With Alta Gracia, I wanted to meet the workers in person and see for myself the improvement the brand has made not only in the workers’ lives individually, but also in the community around them. I wanted to really get to know the workers in order to accurately tell their stories.
I was invited to the factory workers’ homes, and many of them were proud to show me the kitchen appliances and furniture they are now able to afford thanks to their employment at the factory. I also had the opportunity to chat with workers who now have the means to afford to go to school, as well as women like Yenny Perez who have been instrumental in the formation of Alta Gracia.
Hearing these accounts first-hand left me with a strong desire to share the stories, and a deep respect for the people who shared them with me.
Get everyone on board.
Before heading to the Dominican Republic, I strategized about how to best engage factory workers with Alta Gracia’s social media channels. It was important for Alta Gracia to make sure the workers were aware of the brand’s online presence and to inspire them to start interacting more with the brand’s fans, the majority of whom are social media-savvy students who have supported Alta Gracia since the beginning. I also figured it would be gratifying for the workers to see how much support they were getting around the world. I prepared a PowerPoint presentation with ideas and tactics for social media engagement that I planned to share with the workers when I arrived.
But when I got to the factory, it quickly became clear that the workers were busy working on Alta Gracia’s new clothing styles, and didn’t have the time to sit through a formal presentation. I figured I’d improvise and just speak to them individually. I met with them one by one for a little social media 101 and jotted down the URLs to Alta Gracia’s social media channels on pieces of paper. To my surprise, the majority of them were active on Facebook, but didn’t know Alta Gracia had a page on it.
To be honest, I don’t know who was more excited about this—me or the workers—but it was great to see the fruits of my labor when I logged on to check Alta Gracia’s Facebook notifications later that week and saw many of the factory workers liking, commenting, and sharing. It was great to witness them sharing their excitement about the brand’s successes in a place where Alta Gracia fans could see.