How Associations Can Turn Numbers Into A Story On Social Media

From membership numbers to operating budgets, conference registration and website traffic, numbers are important to your association’s success. So, it would stand to reason that your organization has numbers coming out its ears.

On the flip-side, stories are the material that make social media run. A good story will provide your audience with a reason to become emotionally connected with your association and thus make it valuable for them to engage and invest in your organization in the present and the future.

The real question is, how do you turn raw numbers into a great story for your social media accounts? Here’s a few ideas that can raise your online game to a new level:

Put A Face To The Numbers

Here’s the scenario: You have all these numbers floating around your office that show how much you’re helping members; how much members are saving on education each year, the salary increase members get from credential programs, how many members are becoming eco-friendly and so on and so forth. The problem is, you don’t know how to take these raw numbers and turn them into something that will entice members.

Presenting the numbers themselves, as is, can be effective, especially if they are rather impressive. However, singling out a member that is part of that data lets you create a story around their experiences and takes an impressive number and elevates it to pure value. For example, if a member who goes through your association’s credential program earned 25% more based on your salary survey, profile a member who has gone through this process. Give them a write-up on your blog, post a video of the interview on your YouTube channel, post a short version on Facebook and share all this on Twitter.

This takes a number and turns into concrete evidence that your association does help members and create value for them. It makes the numbers more relateable and easier to remember when they are deciding whether to join your association and participate in it.

Get Creative With the Numbers

Here’s the scenario: Your association is presenting their annual findings from its post-conference survey or its compensation survey or its AGM or any other business-as-usual data collection. The problem is, no one seems to be paying all that much attention and you’re wondering how to make people in the industry excited about your efforts again.

Your members see the same information year after year after year and even though the numbers are relevant to their careers and position in the association, they can’t help but let their eyes glaze over when they hear/see the stats. A good way to tell a story with these numbers is to have some fun with them by transforming them into relateable, bite-sized chucks of content. For example, instead of telling members how many hours of education your association provides, tell them how much money each minute at a particular seminar will save them on the job or compare the hours spent at a conference to some other, less valuable pursuits that take the same amount of time (ie. you can drive from Toronto to Winnipeg or you can learn about 8 different topics at our conference). Post these little tidbits to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or wherever!

This fresh perspective on numbers and how they relate to the lives of members tell a richer, more interesting story that simply reeling off stats. It will encourage members to see their investment in a different light and appreciate what the association does for them.

Turn The Numbers Into Visuals

Here’s the scenario: It’s the end of the year and you want to show members and non-members alike what your association has accomplished over the last 12 months. The problem is, you’re unsure how to promote the value your association provides without it looking like a hard sell for membership.

This is a common conundrum that plays an important part in any association’s membership drive & renewal process. Turning numbers that indicate success into content that industry members can consumer and engage with is no easy task. One of the best ways to transform these stats into a story is through visuals. Infographics are a great way to present facts and information in a way that is colourful, engaging and easy to relate to. Infographics are also easy to share on any social media platform you can think of. Another great way to tell a story with these figures is through photos. Document the great times at a conference, the meetings you’ve had with politicians or other allied organization and other ways in which you’ve boosted awareness of the industry. Post these pictures, along with a short, story-like description in an album on Facebook, a board on Pinterest, a collage on Twitter or posts on Instagram.

Visuals are a powerful way to capture the attention of your online audience and stimulate conversation. It brings the ordinary onto a new level and presents members and potential members with definite proof of what your association can offer them.

The 80/20 Rule And Why It’s Crucial For Social Media Success

You may have heard about the 80/20 rule over the past few years. It has become a tenant of the content marketing craze that has pervaded the brand-boosting strategies of everyone from the mom and pop store around the corner to Fortune 500 companies. It goes like this; 80 per cent of the content you post to social media should not be a direct sales pitch for your company or its products and the other 20 per cent should be.

The 80/20 rule is a great start point in understanding how to build a successful social media strategy. As with most things in life, it’s better to realize and act upon the logic behind this rule than to take it as an infallible law. You don’t necessarily need to take 10 pieces of content and ensure each and every one is split along the 80/20 border. However, you do need to make sure the content you are posting has a good balance between a hard sales/promotional approach and an engaging, fun approach.

The logic behind the rule is centred around the goals of your audience and your goals as a business owner, fundraiser, association executive, etc. Your goal, quite simply, is to expose people to your organization and have them spend money on your products or services. The goal of regular individuals on social media (ie. your audience) is to discover information that is valuable. This value might come in the form of information, entertainment or social interaction. The key is to bridge the goals of the audience and the goals of your organization. This is where the 80/20 rule comes in.

Imagine your organization’s social media account is like a store in a busy marketplace in the middle of a park. Not only are there so many choices for the regular person to buy from, but many of the people who come to the park aren’t even looking to shop; they just want to come and have a good time at the park. Your store needs to not only attract customers, but also keep them coming back. You need to let the shopper know what you are selling and  why shopping at your store will bring more value to their life. However, you also need to make the environment of your store a place where people want to go even if they are on a leisurely walk with their friends.

In this scenario, a hard sell is not the most effective approach to the create the aforementioned environment. Catering to the interests and wants of your audience is. If you are selling sports equipment, what is more likely to intrigue casual passerbys with no intention of buying anything: A pitching tutorial from the local baseball star or a banner that says, “Our shoes are the best in town and we have them in every colour you want!” The safe bet would be on the first option. It’s interesting, educational and entertaining all at once. It also gets customers in the door and looking at your products.

Transferring this logic to social media, it’s easy to see how the 80/20 rule breeds success for brands. People are more willing to visit your Facebook page, share your tweet or like your Instagram post (thus increasing exposure) if the bulk of content is something that engages them and doesn’t attempt to embark on a one-sided sales pitch. That is why content marketing is such a hit. Instead of writing a blog about the attributes of your sports products and posting it to Twitter, a smart marketer writes a post about the best places to play sports in their city and posts it to Twitter. That is information that engages people, offers solid advice they use in their real lives and drives traffic to your website, thereby increasing the likelihood they will at least consider spending money on your product.

So the next time you are building a marketing plan or content calendar for social media, make sure you establish a good balance between the hard-sell, aggressive marketing content and lighter, edu-taining (educational and entertaining) content that engages your audience and their interests. Your bottom line will thank us.

How Twitter’s New Polling Feature Can Help Associations Boost Their Marketing Efforts

Twitter has recently undergone a minor facelift, refreshing its look a bit, adding some new tools and rejigging old ones (turning the ‘favourite’ button into a ‘like’ button) in the platform’s ongoing attempt to appeal to social media users.

One of the more interesting parts of this refresh is Twitter’s addition of a polling feature. Facebook users have long had access to a survey-like tool that allows them to measure whether friends want to play board games or drinking games at their next party and Twitter seems to have finally caught on to the usefulness of this type of feature.

Not only is the new Twitter Poll tool fun to use and experiment with, it could also be quite useful to associations. If you’re interested in boosting your organization’s social media strategy and strengthening its efforts in other areas, check out the three ways Twitter Polling can help:

It Can Give You More Data

Content might be king on the front lines of marketing, but data reigns supreme when it comes to building a sustainable, successful strategy for associations. Twitter polls can act as a tool to collect stats and numbers that your organization can use to improve its various initiatives, events and services and attract members.

There are a variety of ways in which associations can get more data from Twitter polls. After all, you just have to ask a question, sit back and see how your audience responds and then act on the information provides. For example, you can ask your followers what part of their job keeps them up at night and provide some options. The answers will help you get a better sense of what problems your members are facing, which will help your association work towards providing solutions (and “solutions” is another word for value). You can build your conference education, webinars and benefits program out of the responses from this question.

Just remember, sample size counts. You can ask the question several times in different ways to make sure you get a total response representative of your membership. Encourage comments and discussion around the results as well to get a broader outlook on the issues your members care about most.

It Can Boost Member Engagement

Member Engagement is the holy grail of association marketing. It’s nice to have lots of people join the organization, but if they aren’t involved, engaged and making the most of their membership, its hard to prove the association’s value, which threatens retention rates. Twitter polls are just one more small way to increase member engagement and bring awareness to the association’s value.

First thing’s first, the very act of asking a question encourages members to get involved by answering. It is an easy way for people to engage with the association without having to fill out a long survey, volunteer on a committee or attend an event. It is the epitome of micro-volunteering. The next step in this process is to act on the responses from the poll. If you ask in a poll what subjects should be the basis of a conference education program and then take the suggestions from your Twitter audience, members will feel like they have made a difference and have a voice in the direction of the association. When people see results from their engagement, they are more likely to keep on participating and finding value in their investment.

Your association can also increase member engagement by simply highlighting some of the services it offers with a Twitter poll. Ask your audience which service they find most helpful. Some members might not even know these services exist. Knowing a service exists will make it infinitely more likely that members use the service and engage with the association.

It Can Provide More Content

Data and member engagement are useful tools for your association and will help it benefit in the long-term, but sometimes you just need to help your members have fun in the here and now. Twitter polls can provide your organization with some great content to use across its multiple communication channels to make flat, clunky-looking content more visually appealing.

Twitter poll questions don’t need to be completely serious all the time. Ask your audience a fun question about their job or the industry. Take their responses and create a visual display of the data for the organization’s e-newsletter, magazine or website. Post the results on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media platform and ask for comments or stories. You may even get an idea for an article or author (or both) from the responses that you can add to your communication channels.

In the end, you have to be able to mix the promotional efforts, attempts at gaining member insight and a fun element to use Twitter polls effectively. The more content you can produce without utilizing a great deal of resources, the more cost-effective your association can be at engaging its community and providing value that will go a long way to retaining members.

The Three Most Important Things For Organizations To Remember When Starting A New Social Media Account

Creating something from scratch is not an easy task. It takes a great amount of dedication, time and passion to take an idea and make it a reality.

At first glance, this line of thinking doesn’t seem to apply to social media accounts. The various platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) have made it extremely easy to set up an account in less than 10 minutes. However, if you are creating an account for an organization in a bid to attract customers, engage members or capture the hearts of donors, you have to build a high-quality arena in which to promote your organization. This takes much longer than 10 minutes.

While tackling the small details of building the perfect social media account can seem overwhelming, there are three main elements you need to keep in mind. Here they are:

Have a Plan

Having a plan is probably the most important part of creating a social media account. Without a plan, building a quality account will take much more resources than if you took some time beforehand to sketch a blueprint for the social media site.

Having a plan includes a variety of elements that need to be considered before you go to work posting, uploading and gaining followers. First of all, you need to think about the overall goals of the account, including the audience you want to target and the brand you want to convey to this audience. These factors drive the creation process and the rest of your account management.

Once you have figured out your goals and strategy around the account, you need to plan the more tangible parts of your account, such as the photos that will be used, the wording that composes the ‘About’ sections and collecting other smaller details, such as the contact information for the organization. This will make the process much faster and more efficient.

Lastly, it’s important to plan the  content you are going to present on the account in the short-term. Creating an account and leaving it dormant while you think up a post or a tweet or a video, etc. is no way to encourage a following. Have a few pieces of content ready to go in order to populate the account for the first week or two. Draw up a publishing calendar and stick to it.

Connect With the Right People

The whole point of having a social media account is to promote your organization and you can’t do that without having an audience. Your potential audience is not going to flock to your account immediately as they often don’t even know you’re on the platform. This is when you need to connect with the right people in order to draw attention and gain an audience.

The first step in connecting with the right people happens before you even set up the account. Create a list of people and organizations that you will connect with once the account is built. This includes users in your community and your target demographic that are active and influential on social media. For instance, if you an association, connecting with members who are very active and have a large following on the platform you are starting on will help you gain traction and hopefully increase your following.

After launching the account, start by including users from your target demographic in your posts. Share their content, give them a shout out or just say hi. Whatever it is, tag them, engage them and show them why your account will add value to their lives. Making these users aware of your organization’s existence on social media will make it more likely that they will engage with your organization in turn (which should include a follow!).

Lastly, make sure your first set of posts are visible to a wide array of relevant online communities. For example, if you have just created a Twitter account for your clothes store in Toronto, research the hashtags that correspond to your target audience and their use of Twitter. Use these hashtags in your posts. This will go a long way in establishing your brand and organization into the community of people that you want you want to attract.

Don’t Get Discouraged

The last part of creating a social media account that you should always remember is to never get discouraged. It is likely that in the first couple weeks of a new social media account that you will not receive the huge boost in engagement and followers (and sales) that you were expecting. This is normal. Creating an online presence takes time as there is only so much you can do to lead users to your organization’s account. Sometimes they need to discover you by themselves and that takes time.

Instead of panicking, keep on working towards providing valuable, high-quality content to your audience. Promote the account through your other established means, which might be an e-newsletter, your email signature, business cards, a magazine, at events or through word of mouth. Keep tracking the response to your posts and develop strategies to counteract any obstacles you see developing from these measurements. Remember, online marketing is a cost-effective way to get the word out, so stick to it and the results will come eventually!

A Marketer’s Guide to What Facebook’s Newest Feature Could Look Like

Facebook’s ‘like’ button has inserted itself into everyday language and become synonymous with social media itself. For years, there has been a clamouring for a ‘dislike’ button to appear as an option as well and it seems like Facebook users are going to get what they want. Well, get what they want in a kind-of-sort-of-not-really-but-almost type of way.

Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that the team at Facebook has been working to create a new feature that will let users express how they feel about a post in new ways. No one is quite sure what exactly this new feature will look like, but it is certain to change the way people use Facebook forever.

These developments beg the question, how is this new feature going to impact the way companies and organizations use Facebook? The short answer is, we don’t know. Without knowing what the feature looks like, and what it will allow users to express, no one can predict how it will change the way marketers draw attention to their organizations or causes. However, we can look to a few sources to predict what this new feature might look like and its influence on businesses, associations, non-profits, etc.

The first thing we need to think about is what the feature would look like. Zuckerberg has said that the feature would help users express their feelings toward a post in new ways and he specifically mentioned empathy. For example, if a tragedy occurs and someone posts about it, the Facebook CEO wants users to be able to express sympathy or empathy towards it, something a ‘like’ doesn’t convey. Zuckerberg ruled out a ‘dislike’ button as a solution, but there are a couple other likely ways Facebook can give users a better way to express emotions on the fly.

The first would be quite simple and play on the popularity of emojis and emoticons, those digital icons of smiling faces, cute cats or random eggplants that are popular with the iPhone crowd. Alongside the ‘like’ button on posts, there could be heart icon or a similar emoji to symbolize love or empathy. Instead of 26 likes on a tragic post, you would get 26 ‘hearts’ perhaps.

The other theoretical option for the new feature would have Facebook take inspiration from Buzzfeed, one of the most popular websites around with a knack for posting viral content. Buzzfeed has a rating system that allows visitors to tag articles as ‘lol’ if it’s funny or ‘cute’ if it’s, well, cute or a variety of other rankings. Facebook could adopt a similar format that allows users to flag a post as one of these emotions, such as sad, funny, cute or useful.

When examining the impact of these two options on Facebook marketers, the first option will not impact businesses or organizations too much. There aren’t many occasions when small businesses or associations would post about tragedy or sad topics, but when they do, this new feature will allow their followers to react accordingly.

If the second option is instituted, it will certainly be interesting to see how organizations use an emotional rating system to increase views and engagement on their content. For example, organizations may tend toward creating and sharing more Buzzfeed-like content, which is made up of gif-based lists and viral videos (although they have great long-form journalism that is often forgotten or barely mentioned), in an attempt to get more ‘lol’ or ‘cute’ ratings.

Whatever the case may be, there is one certainty for organizations and their marketing departments that will come with a new Facebook feature alongside the ‘like’; it will give them more data to work with. Giving users another way to express emotion allows both Facebook and its users to get a better handle on how people respond to different content. Organizations and businesses can take this new set of data and format their marketing around it. Marketers will be able to get a better sense of which type of data preforms best and which demographics to target. More of any type of data can only be a good thing for organizations using Facebook, so keep an eye on the social media platform and watch for the mysterious new feature!

Three Ways Associations Can Increase Value for Sponsors Through Social Media

For some associations, sponsors are everything. The generous donations they provide allow for conferences to have robust educational offerings, the creation of scholarship programs for student members, quality publications to be printed consistently and countless other initiatives to be implemented. So it goes without saying that associations need to provide value to the sponsors for their investment.

If you’re looking to provide increased value to sponsors, ensure their loyalty and draw in new sponsors, social media is the place to start. By telling stories about a sponsor’s contribution, you are giving them more exposure to your association’s members, industry stakeholders and the public, broadening their reach and encouraging others to interact with their brand. Here are a few ways engaging ways to tell your sponsors’ stories on social media and create a win/win situation.

An Infographic

Take a program, service, event or product that is sponsored, break it down by the numbers and then present those numbers in a visually appealing way. At the end of this exercise, you’ll have an infographic that depicts your sponsor’s story. For example, if your association’s conference education sessions are sponsored by a certain company, crunch some stats, make them relevant to your members and create an infographic that illustrates the importance of the sessions to your audience.

Make sure to include the sponsor’s logo and name and their role in providing this benefit at various points in the infographic, including in the title, at the bottom of each page and perhaps even in the colours you use as the background. Publish the infographic to your association’s blog and share it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any other social media accounts you have.

A Hashtag

Creating a hashtag is a great way to create a community and engagement around a certain issue, initiative or event. If you and your association want to generate some buzz around a sponsored event or ongoing program, develop a hashtag and tack it on to any social media promotion you send out. Post about logistical details, fun facts surrounding the event/initiative, articles about it or, better yet, the live coverage of the project or program.

Include the sponsor’s name in the hashtag and include the hashtag in any posts about the initiative, including responses to questions or feedback on posts. The upside of including your sponsor’s name in the hashtag is that it keeps the sponsor’s name in front of a key audience and includes the sponsor in any conversation surrounding the event, connecting the company directly with an engaged audience.

A Contest

Everyone likes a good social media contest; after all, it’s easy, quick and the return on investment is usually fairly high for those who enter. Make a social media contest part of a sponsored event/program/project for your association. Have members post their best picture of the event or say why they love using a sponsored service or even have them share a link to the sponsored project for their chance to win. This increases engagement and increases exposure of the event/project, the sponsor and the association.

Remember that hashtag we talked about in the last section? Use it during your contest and make it a requirement for contestants to use it as well. Add the sponsor’s name and logo to any links or promotional material surrounding the contest and, if the sponsor provides the prize, make this known as well. This keeps the sponsor’s name in front of a target audience and engages individuals who may not have been engaged otherwise.

Social Media Lessons From The Major League Baseball Playoffs

The Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs started last week and it has provided baseball fans with some great moments so far. From sudden-death games to amazing plays and pictures of stadium-goers cheering their hearts out for their teams, there is excitement everywhere one looks.

So, why can’t it be the same for your organization’s social media and its target audience? You might not get people painting their faces with your logo (although one can dream), but the MLB playoffs can teach us a thing or two about engaging your audience and creating a special feeling around the activities of your organization, whether it’s an association, a non-profit or a small business. Here are just a few of those lessons:

Put It All On The Line

There’s no moment that is more exciting in professional sports than a do-or-die elimination game, a game when the loser goes home to contemplate what might have been and the winner moves on to pursue further glory. In the MLB playoffs, this do-or-die moment happens immediately with a one-game play-in game where the winner moves into the second round of the playoffs. Every baseball fan is glued to their TV sets to see which team will triumph and live another day.

There’s lots for organizations can learn about social media from this winner-take-all format. Primarily, it teaches us all that creating a sense of immediacy builds excitement and engagement in an audience. These kind of one-day, deadline-reaching moments happen in almost all industries, whether it’s a membership dues deadline, the last day to register for a conference, the last day of a big sale or the last day a product is available. It’s your job to capture this down-to-the-wire feeling on social media and have people be invested in the outcome. Make things a race, tell them how high the stakes are and make sure they know that they will share in the glory if things are successful (which they will be if they meet the deadline!).

Always Be Flexible

There was a moment in the seventh inning of Sunday’s Blue Jay-Rangers playoff game when the Blue Jays’ best pitcher was warming up, getting ready to replace the current pitcher if he needed to. This is highly unusual and would make the best pitcher unavailable to start the next game. But, it was a do-or-die situation for the Jays and they needed to throw convention out the window in order to succeed. Flexibility is key to managing a playoff team to victory.

The same thing goes for social media management; flexibility is crucial. It’s always important to have a plan for your social media accounts and stick to it. You need to know what kind of content to post and when and how you are going to respond to people in a variety of circumstances. However, there will come a time when the unexpected happens and you need to change up your social media plans. A natural disaster may affect your audience or your local community or new legislation may pass that changes the way your audience goes about its life or its business. Whatever the scenario, you need to be ready to deviate from your planned course and address the situation at hand. If you don’t already, have a general outline of how to manage your social media accounts in the event of a natural disaster, bad news, heavy criticism, etc.

Create A Sense of Pride

It was an awe-inspiring sight to see 50,000 Blue Jays fans all waving white towels during the team’s first home playoff game in 22 years. They were joined by million of people across the country all cheering on the nation’s only MLB team. An entire nation was on their side and it created a welling of pride from coast to coast that is often reserved for the Olympics. Everyone from pre-school children to 90-year-old great grandparents were engaged and excited to follow along with the team’s triumphs or failures.

The scenario above is what every social media manager dreams of and it would do them good to take a page from the MLB playoffs when trying to make this dream a reality. When managing a social media account, it is necessary to do more than just promote your brand and sell your products; you need to promote your audience’s part in all of that. You need to make your audience feel like they contribute to the success of the organization and have a part in guiding it on its path to triumph. Ask for feedback on social media, profile members or customers, don’t be robotic or scripted with responses; take the time to learn about the engaged members of your community and encourage them to keep participating. And, as always, make sure your audience knows that it will share in any success your organization achieves!