6 Ways Social Media Can Help You Promote Your Association’s Conference

There’s no two ways about it, conferences are a vital part of most associations. They generate a large chunk of the organization’s non-dues revenue and they provide attendees with a collection of services that make the association valuable and worth investing in, like education and networking.

The difficulty lies in signing people up to go to a conference. Annual association get-togethers usually cost a decent sum of money and often include traveling, which means time away from work and family. Therefore, it is essential to have the best product in order to entice people and make it worth their while. Promoting the excellence of your association’s conference can be done with the traditional means; direct mail, phone calls, magazine ads and the like. But it can also be done effectively and less expensive with social media. Here’s how:

Infographics

Infographics are a great way to take cold, hard numbers and turn them into engaging visual displays that highlight the value of attending your association’s conference. You can have all the statistics you want on comparative pricing, hours of education, number of trade show sales and other figures, but if no one is paying attention, it’s useless. Infographics draw the attention of potential attendees, extract the useful facts and figures from a range of numbers and illustrate the value of the conference in plain language. As a bonus, infographics can be shared on almost every online platform, from Twitter to a blog to your website.

Video Tour

A lot of potential attendees need to see it to believe it. What this means is that the conference is an abstract idea with little concrete value until they have visual evidence to make it a reality. Video tours can help make your conference a reality and assure members that your organization is doing things with quality on its mind. Making a YouTube video of the venue and the city where the conference will take place puts an image into the minds of potential attendees and encourages them to confront the possibility that going to the conference might just be a great experience. As a bonus, these video tours may help potential exhibitors and sponsors envision a role for them at the event.

Interview

Posting an audio, video or written interview on your social media platforms sends a message along the lines of, “Don’t just take our word for it, check out what attendees like you have to say about the conference.” Conducting an interview with an attendee of a previous conference provides potential attendees with the perspective of someone who in in their shoes and who they may trust a little more. Choosing to interview someone who is well-known in the industry will also provide more legitimacy to the strategy and will probably lend itself to being shared more online as this individual most likely has a larger than average network.

Pinning Conference/Travel Tips

We already touched on the potential benefits of infographics to your conference promotion strategy and pins have much the same effect, but in a slightly different way. Pins provide the visual representation of useful information to potential attendees, just like infographics, but because pins are often smaller, stand-alone pieces of information, it’s gives your association the ability to let attendees personalize the content they store. For example, you can pin family-focused travel tips for the city where the conference is being held. An attendee who might bring their family will find this valuable. You can also post various schedules of education sessions that might appeal to certain segments of your membership and potential attendees can pin the ones they find most useful.

Giving Attendees a Voice in Program Planning

Social media has the power to give potential attendees more say in some of the aspects of the conference programming. Posing questions on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter about session topics, round table discussion issues or even food choices gives your association a chance to start a discussion about the event, encourages engagement among members and boosts awareness of the conference’s quality and value. It also provides potential attendees with an emotional investment in the process and final outcome, which makes it more likely that they will make a financial/time commitment. As a bonus, this will help you create programming that fulfills the goals of the conference.

Social Media Contests

Social media contests create a win-win situation and everyone loves a win-win. Contests can help your association promote its conference in two main ways; by directly increasing registration and by increasing awareness of the event. For example, if you promote a contest through social media where every registrant is entered to win a free trip to the conference, it encourages people to sign up. Similarly, if you create a contest where every retweet, like, share, comment, re-pin, etc is rewarded with an entry for free registration, it manufactors a situation where the reach and effectiveness of your promotion is continually growing.

Looking Back At the Year That Was: Trends and Topics for Non-profits and Social Media

We past a pretty cool milestone last week; our blog celebrated its 50th-post birthday!

If our blog was a person, it might entering into a mid-life crisis. Fortunately, we don’t think our much-loved platform will suddenly start buying sports cars or quit its job and move off the grid.

But we did think it would be a perfect opportunity to take some time and reflect on the last 50 weeks. We put together five lessons we’ve learned from 350 days of writing on non-profits, associations and a little thing we like to all social media.

1. Social Media is the Next Step in Education

Education is a vital part of any professional association’s mandate. A large part of the allure for members is getting access to cutting edge lessons from experts in the field so they can grow in their careers and collectively thrive as an industry.

Social media is a new frontier in education that can help your organization’s members to learn every single day and connect them to the information that matters to them. Setting up a live blog at your next conference will allow your attendees to get the most out of the event. Twitter chats give your members a chance to learn from each other in a very engaging way, while other social media tools make these lessons accessible to all members, regardless of tech abilities.

Social media and educational events go together like peanut butter and jelly and can even encourage face-to-face networking at conferences. But social platforms open up whole new opportunities for your members to learn their way; when they want and how they want.

2. Urban Legends Don’t Hold Any Weight

There’s no doubt about it; social media can look scary from the outside. There are plenty of reasons to convince yourself that social media isn’t right for your non-profit, but many of them just aren’t valid in a world that is constantly becoming more and more connected online.

Criticism can be handled in a way that actually turns a frown into a smile. Social media ROI is a slippery animal to snare, but it’s not impossible, nor is it all about the numbers. You also shouldn’t count out a social media platform just because it’s changed, just as no one should bet against your organization‘s ability to do good (and use social media to achieve it). And forget what people are saying about non-profit’s these days; your unique and your social media accounts should be too!

3. A Little Recognition Goes A Long Way

Everyone likes a little time in the spotlight once in a while, especially those members of your non-profit community who work tirelessly to strengthen the organization. Social media has proven again and again that it is the tool for the job.

Sponsors are key to any non-profit’s operation so a Big Ask is important. But a Big Thanks, facilitated by social media, is also a critical step to continued support.

Recognizing each and every member of your community is important as well and that’s why giving them access to the latest news and trends that fit each person’s interest is important. And then there are those who many disregard as posers in the non-profit world, but with a little patience, a bit of care and a pinch of social media love, they can be some of the most active members of your organization.

Giving a face to the Twitter name can help connect members of your community and rewarding great ideas through social media can be the start of a long and happy relationship between members and your non-profit.

4. Consistency is Key

You know consistency is key in everything your organization does; from event planning to processing member dues to the services you provide. Well, same goes for social media.

Social media is a conversation that requires frequent follow-up. Creating a buzz is great, but you need to sustain it. A great conversation generates a great brand, which comes from connecting with the right people on a regular basis. Maintaining consistency doesn’t always follow a stable schedule and things may happen that are out of your control. This is when social media can really help with a solid plan B. And always remember, you may be using technology, but you’re engaging with humans, so a consistent, human voice helps a lot.

If you want some examples of how putting in daily effort can take your organization to a whole new level, take a lesson from the Sochi Olympics or the social media giant Facebook.

5. Images Are Powerful

A picture is worth 1000 words; the saying that has spawned a million spin-offs, puns and quotable lines. But in the midst of all the cliches and corniness there lies a load of truth. Images can be an amazing way to connect with an audience and encourage them to invest in your non-profit or association. Social media makes this easier than ever.

The photo is a critical ingredient to any part of success on social media. We even made it a New Year’s Resolution for non-profits looking to grow and succeed in the online world.

Facebook, for instance, gives you a platform to share photos and harness the power of images. Pinterest is not only the fastest growing social media site, but is full of potential for non-profits to show off their services and success. And last, but not least, YouTube allows your organization to show its human side, to capture the passion of staff and connect the world to your amazing members

 

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It’s been a great year of innovation, insight and ideas. Thank you to everyone who joined us on that journey and we are looking forward to continuing it, starting next week with another great post!

Let us know what you though the social media highlights were of the past year in the comments. And remember, stay social!

What Non-Profits Can Learn About Using Social Media From The Olympics

The 2014 Winter Olympics brought with them two things, a collection of medals and a collection of lessons.

No matter what country you call home, how much you know about sports like curling and the biathlon, or what you do for the living, the Sochi Games could teach all a thing or two.

As the athletes leave Russia and the flame begins its four-year journey to Pyeongchang, we believe there is lots to learn from the Olympics that can help non-profits on social media. We decided to look at three of these lessons a little more.

Being a Part of a Community Feels Good

Canadians from coast to coast packed pubs and bars as early as 4 a.m. to watch the nation’s men’s hockey team play for gold. Why did they do such a thing? While the one-day loosening of liquor laws was a factor, the main reason was that Canadians felt like they belonged to something bigger than themselves. They felt like they belonged to a community.

Creating a similar community online for your organization and its members will help yield similar results. Giving your staff, volunteers, members, donors, etc., an opportunity to get involved and be part of an experience will help generate pride, passion and ultimately a loyal and engaged community. Conducting a Twitter chat about a recent event, offering a chance to contribute an article for your blog or giving an opportunity to share a song on your organization’s Spotify playlist are all ways to use social media include your customers and build a community.

Handle Mistakes With Care

The first images of Sochi were not of picturesque mountains or triumphant athletes, but rather horrible hotel rooms and undrinkable water. These pictures, made famous by reporters, spread through social media. Instead of addressing these problems, Games’ Organizer Dmitry Chernyshenko responded by telling journalists to “turn back and look at the mountains.”

Social media comes with greater interactions and greater transparency, but this also opens your organization up to greater scrutiny and potentially greater criticism. The best way to handle this criticism is to face it head on. Have a plan in place to address mistakes made or complaints received. Don’t be confrontational or flippant. Find a solution quickly and use social media to improve your organization, turning a displeased customer into a loyal community member.

Gold Medals Don’t Always Define Greatness

Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris won bronze in the slopestyle competition, but in a post-event interview he had this to say about the third-place finish, “It feels like a gold medal to me.” Considering McMorris had broken his ribs just a month before Sochi, a bronze medal was a tremendous achievement for him.

Many organizations, not just non-profits and associations, can get caught up in getting a ‘gold medal’ in social media, i.e. a large number of followers/fans/etc., and lose focus on other important indicators of success. Measuring social media ROI success is based on many factors and indicators, including how big your organization is, how new the organization is to social media and how many interactions the account is receiving. The most important thing to keep in mind is to build on recent successes to increase not just the quantity of engagement, but the quality as well.

The Olympics have come and gone for another year. The lessons that the world-class athletes have taught us can be applied to our everyday lives. What transpired in Sochi can especially be applied to non-profits and associations on social media. Remembering that community, transparency and patience can often be the best tools for success is important.  All are characteristics that will take your organization to the next level.

What do you think organizations can learn from the Olympics? Let us know in the comments! And remember, stay social!

Is the Blog Dead?

We heard the whisperings of some tragic claim the other day, a claim that blogs are dead.

Yes, we were told (true story) that blogging was dead, buried and gone forever. Different media and different tastes had made the platform obsolete and as good as extinct, said this person.

Well, we’re here to tell you the rumors of the blog’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, to borrow a line from Mark Twain.

No the blog isn’t dead. Or rather it is not dead anymore.

Let us explain. Blogging has evolved since its inception in the 1990s and while its original form has declined to the point of extinction, it has been reincarnated several times and it will continue to do so in 2014 and beyond.

What hasn’t changed about blogging is its core purpose. Blogs, since their start in the basements of the earliest adopters of the internet, were a way to share opinion, information and content with those who were interested in the same things. This is still the same.

Blogs, however, look different and are read differently than before, but they can still be a huge boost to organizations seeking to make an impact in their industry or community.

The modern blog ties together multiple platforms and seeks a variety of ways to communicate content. Gone are the days when a blog was simply a journal in digital form. Blogs are, often times, attached to a website or are a website in their own right. They now have social media streams attached to it like Twitter or YouTube. Some come in short and frequent bursts and use pictures to tell a story rather than words. Others have not one, but dozens of contributors and still others crowd-source content from the community.

While the look of blogs has changed, so too has the way audiences read them.

While it was common five to 10 years ago to have a list of 15 to 20 blogs to read weekly, that is no longer the case. More and more people have one or two they read regularly. Rather, reading blogs has become an ever-changing adventure to discover information. A Google search for information on a topic will definitely turn up at least a couple hundred blogs on the subject. Instead of getting 1000 loyal readers browsing your material every week, your blog may receive 1000 readers one week and a completely different 1000 readers the next.

This is where your organization can step in and use a blog to flourish and help others flourish.

Let’s start at the beginning. Your organization and its members/staff/volunteers are experts in something. Whether it is health care, finance, pastry making or something else, your association or non-profit has worked tirelessly to promote and improve your industry.

Writing a blog is a way to share your expertise with the world. Blogs afford you the flexibility and creativity to tell your story and share your knowledge in a variety of ways. From humorous to matter-of-fact, from pictures to words or from short to long, blogs have very few limits if you are willing to spend the time to create great content and are ready leap outside the box.

Sooner or later there will be someone who comes looking for information on the subject your organization is an expert in. It might be a member, someone from the community or even a student looking for information for a project. This is when they will find your blog.

At that moment, when someone looking for information finds your blog, the possibilities are endless. They may read it, say “That’s interesting,” and move on. But they may also learn from it. They may see your passion, creativity and knowledge and realize that the content and the organization are worth investing in. They may take the information and spread it around. They may change the way people see you, your members and your organization.

Blogs aren’t dead. In fact, we at Incline think blogs can breathe new life into non-profits and associations. Although they have evolved from years past, the new species of blogs that has risen up has only improved. Harnessing the power of blogging can take your organization to new heights.

We don’t think it’s time to say bye to the blog, but we want to know what you think. Is the blog dead or alive and kicking? Let us know in the comments!

Five Ways Your Organization’s Committee and Board Members Can Get Involved On Social Media

Word of mouth is crucial to spreading the reach and effectiveness of your association or non-profit. People are a lot more likely to become a member or give to a cause, and realize the potential benefits, when someone they trust tells them about the positive experience they’ve had with organization X, Y or Z.

If your organization has a board of directors and/or committees made up of members, they are probably your biggest supporters and the best source for word of mouth marketing. These are some of the most involved people in your organization who want to see its goals and mission achieved. Many are also well-respected and well-known in their industries; people that others will listen to and trust when they say that investing in an association or a non-profit is worthwhile.

Social media can help your committee and board members spread the word. Social media is word of mouth made easy. Your members, sponsors, volunteers and donors can tell hundreds of their colleagues and friends something great about your organization with one minute and one click. Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Instagram; you name any platform and your members are on it.

Here are five platforms your board and committee members can be included in when planning your social media strategy and letting others know about the good your organization is doing.

Twitter

Twitter is a great platform for committee or board members to get involved with when trying to engage others. By sharing the news, achievements, goals, benefits and the personal side of your organization with their networks, your content could reach thousands more people that may have an interest in joining the association or non-profit.

One way to get the best out of this scenario is to engage the committee or board members directly. Ask them questions, retweet their content and get them involved in twitter chats, which are open and ongoing conversations on twitter about certain topics, usually grouped by a hashtag (ex. #assnchat = association chat).

Twitter chats are a great way for your committee or board members to invite others into the conversation, introduce them to the world of your organization and provide them with information about the organization. Twitter chats open the door to conversations that, before, would only happen at industry events, small gatherings or meetings. Chats get those who might not be aware of your organization involved.

Instagram

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; photos are one of the most powerful forms of communication. They convey messages that words sometimes cannot. That is why Instagram is a great tool in a board or committee member’s kit.

Instagram comes in handy at conferences, seminars, initiatives and other events. You can’t be everywhere at once and it is likely that you will miss an inspiring moment or an instant that captures the character of your organization. So it is great when your organization’s members are there to help out. Taking pictures of their experiences gives a unique perspective and tells a story, whether it be funny, moving or informative, that shows their network that the event, and the organization, is worth investing part in.

LinkedIn

Odds are your organization’s committee and board members have at least some experience in the industry. This means that they know others in the industry. LinkedIn is the perfect place for professions in the same industry to connect and share ideas, advice and thoughts. Creating LinkedIn groups, posting discussions and having your committee or board members invite others and moderate the discussion alongside yourself is a great way of showing others how beneficial it would be to join your organization in some capacity.

YouTube

The most direct way for your organization’s committee or board members to spread the word about your non-profit or association is to tell others what they like best about the organization and why they are a part of it. YouTube is a great way for them to tell this to not just one person, but to hundreds or thousands.

A simple video that has committee or board members saying, in their own words, why the organization is great and why they are involved does a few crucial things. It puts a human face to an organization, it puts a more personal spin on the goals and benefits of the organization (rather than an oft-repeated and formal mission statement) and it comes from a well-respected member with intimate knowledge of the organization. People will appreciate this information and feel connected with your non-profit or association right away.

Blogs

Blogs allow your organization to go more in-depth on issues and tell colourful and interesting stories. Just like YouTube, it can be a great platform for your committee or board members to tell their stories and explain their reasons for getting involved in the organization. Some amazing tales can come out this opportunity, tales that could inspire others to get involved as well.

Blogs can also generate discussion and feedback, something the board or committee members can engage with and take back to meetings to help the organization grow.

Your board and committee members are integral parts of your organization. They devote time, money and ideas to your non-profit and association and they do it because they believe in what it is working for or towards. Let this belief shine through to others with social media and the results could be astoundingly positive.

The Big Thanks: Recognizing Sponsors and Donors on Social Media

There comes a time in every organization’s life where they go for the Big Ask; when an organization seeks out sponsors or donors for events or initiatives.

The importance of the Big Ask cannot be understated, because, well, most non-profits and associations just wouldn’t have the budget for all the things they do for consumers and members and so they need some help from outside sources.

But as much as enlisting the help of individuals or companies is crucial, recognizing these benefactors is just as significant. This showing of gratitude is what we like to call the Big Thanks and a Big Thanks needs a big stage, something social media provides.

On Twitter

Interacting with sponsors or donors on Twitter is one of the easiest ways to recognize their contribution. Mentioning them in a tweet not only lets sponsors and donors know you appreciate them and their giving, but it does it on a massive, public scale. You are letting the donors know that you appreciate their contribution enough to tell the world about them.

A mention in a tweet also includes sponsors and donors into your community by inviting them into the conversations you have with consumers, members, volunteers, other contributors, etc., and gives them a chance to share in this dialogue.

In short, thanking sponsors and donors on Twitter is like giving them a giant, warm welcome into your organization’s home.

On Facebook 

Put a face to sponsors’ or donors’ names by utilizing Facebook. You can, of course, list the people and companies who contribute to your cause or initiative, but Facebook allows you to get creative by adding photos, videos or customized tabs that showcase sponsors or donors.

Your organization is all about the people who make up the membership or consumer base and each one of those people are unique individuals. The same goes for sponsors or donors. Most of them want to be recognized as unique and caring, not just faceless logos or names.

On Blogs

Blogs are great because they allow many different voices to be heard through one medium. Give your sponsors and donors a chance to write a post or include some of their thoughts and comments into a post. The reason people and organizations give is they are passionate about the cause of an organization. It just makes sense to give contributors a forum to get this passion across to potential members, consumers, volunteers or future contributors. It’s always helpful to give readers a different perspective on what is special about your organization.

These are just a few ways social media can and will help your organization recognize those that are vital to its efforts and encourage more sponsors and donors to work with your organization in the future. When it comes to the Big Thanks, Incline Marketing can help your organization rise to the occasion.

All Together Now: Blogging at Industry Conferences

Your members have seen it all before.

They’ve seen the convention center rooms packed with chairs.

They’ve experienced the PowerPoint presentations and the orientation packages.

They’ve witnessed the pomp and procedure and the dreary hotel breakfasts.

Yes, they’ve seen everything an industry-wide conference has to offer.

Or so they think.

No, conferences are certainly not the newest trend for professional associations, but by incorporating social media into the event, specifically a blog, an organization can add much needed perspective and engagement that can benefit members and bolster any large professional get-together.

A conference-oriented blog should be established before the conference begins for three reasons: so attendees are aware of its existence and purpose before the event, to promote the conference and its benefits and to prepare members so they can get the most out of their time.

A blog is a great way to introduce members to all things, big and small, the conference has to offer. This allows members to not only plan their days according to what catches their eye on your blog, but gets them looking forward to the event.

During the conference, a blog can be used to effectively summarize days that always seem to pass by in a flash. With so many activities, seminars, networking opportunities and meetings jammed into a few days, it’s easy to miss something or lose track of the benefits of a conference. A blog allows attendees to catch up at the end of a long day and provides a fresh perspective on the day that was.

A blog also allows members to engage with planners and organizations during a conference, providing yet another arena to network with peers. Many times blogs can turn into channels for crucial feedback from attendees as well. Encouraging this feedback can be helpful in ensuring conferences, present and future, run smoothly and members get the most out of them.

The flexibility of a blog is yet another advantage for organizations during a conference. Blogs can be posted to and shared on most social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and mobile apps as well as through email. This allows members to access the blog whenever and wherever, whether it is in their hotel rooms at night or in between meetings. Viewing a public blog also does not require signing up for an account, meaning all members can easily access posts regardless of their level of tech usage and savvy.

The benefits of professional conferences can sometimes be hidden behind a fog of rushed meetings and dull routine. Blogs can help clear this fog by engaging and empowering members that attend these conferences. Blogs offer preparedness, fresh insight and a sense of togetherness that few other platforms offer. Realize the potential of your organization and its members by utilizing a blog at your next conference.