How Social Media Can Help Your Association Attract The Next Generation Of Members

To say that ‘Millennial’ is a buzzword that’s been thrown around a lot in the last couple years is an understatement. It’s a term used so frequently that you may be tired of hearing it over and over again. However, Millennials aren’t just a trendy demographic your association should think about reaching out to, they’re the future. They are the the ones that will make up the bulk of you organization’s membership soon and for a long time after. So paying attention to their wants and needs has to be high on your to-do list.

A recently conducted survey asked Millennials what association benefits they value the most. The number one answer by a large margin was continuing education and training, followed by access to a peer-reviewed journal, expert advice, leadership experience and a magazine.

What’s The Bottom Line?

One thing it clear when looking at the areas that Millennials value most; they are hungry to learn, network and gain access to any sort of professional development. The top five responses in the survey make it clear that information is a highly sought-after commodity by young professionals. If your association does’t provide this information to the younger generation, it’s a sure thing that they’ll search for, and find it, somewhere else.

What’s Social Media’s Place In All This?

Millennials are looking to drink in all the information they can and social media is all about giving and gaining access to information. Your association is a wealth of knowledge. From its veteran members to its educational offerings and the connections to government, your organization has a mansion full of facts, data and lessons that young professionals covet.

Your social media efforts are like the keys you give these young professionals to open the doors of this mansion. Social media gives your association an opportunity to share some of its information stockpile with those searching hardest for this valuable resource, which makes your organization valuable to these people. The more valuable your association becomes, the more likely someone is going to be to invest in it by purchasing a membership and attending events.

How Can Social Media Make Your Association More Valuable To Millennials?

Millennials prize education and training above all else, according to the aforementioned survey. Use your social media platforms to promote your association’s educational offerings as much as possible. Live-tweet events, post blogs about conferences and trade shows, create a video about how best to study for certification exams and make going to educational offerings fun with Facebook contests, Pinterest boards and Instagram photos.

This will help your association strike a balance between offering some great information and encouraging non-members to check out your association for more of the same. It also makes learning easy and accessible to Millennials. These factors combine to make your association more valuable to the younger demographic.

Three of the next four most desirable association offerings for young professionals are based around the output of information. Journals, magazines and expert advice are all sources of learning and professional development. Social media is a great way to expand the reach of the expertise and content your association is already producing. By giving Millennials easy access to this information, your association becomes a valuable source of knowledge for this demographic. Once they realize the value of your organization as a way to gain information, they will be more likely to invest in the association’s other offerings to members, such as events, webinars and mentorship programs, which can be a great way to increase non-dues revenue.

Lastly, Millennials want to gain leadership experience from being a member of an association. Social media platforms are a great way to expose young professionals to the opportunities available at your organization. Blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts about committee activities and lobbying efforts allow members and non-members to see the leadership opportunities that are available as well as the influence members can have on key decisions. By highlighting the achievements of your members, the evolution of your industry and your association’s part in both of these areas through social media, Millennials will be more likely to realize the value of your organization and feel like the return in worth the investment.

Four Types Of Culture Your Association Wants And How Social Media Can Help You Get Them

Merriam-Webster released its 2014 word of the year a couple weeks ago and it’s not what you’d expect. Instead of a buzzword, such as content marketing or slacktivism, the world-renowned organization chose an much more important word; culture.

According to the good people at Merriam-Webster, culture is a term to convey a kind of academic attention to systematic behaviour and allows us to identify and isolate an idea, issue, or group. In other words, culture is the definition of an entity, such as an association, based on the way they act and talk.

Culture is obviously an important term in today’s world and it is an idea that influences how your association operates. Culture dictates how your staff works, what your organization’s goals are and how members interact with the association. A great social media strategy can help your association enhance a culture that entices new members, draws the attention of present members and strengthens the organization in other areas.

Your association certainly has an ideal culture in mind. That philosophical notion is put into concrete terms through things like a mission statement, specific member benefits, the type of education sessions offered at conferences and how staff communicate with members. All these things combine to define what your association represents and what it’s known for.

Good association culture is not a new thing and social media alone doesn’t create a culture of success, but it can highlight it, underline it and put an exclamation at the end of it.

Here are a few examples of what culture your association would want perpetuate and how social media could help

A culture of knowledge

If you want your association to be the go-to resource for industry knowledge, social media can give you a helping hand. Your association’s goal might be to provide the most up-to-date research and relevant content to help members. Online platforms are a hugely effective way to spread information. You can reach hundreds or thousands of people with a link to your latest publication or a research report through Twitter. You can write a blog outlining how to deal with new legislation that affects members. You can post a how-to video on YouTube that helps guide members through difficult times, such as a natural disaster. By getting that information out in large amounts and making it accessible to all strengthens your association’s culture of knowledge.

A culture of customer service

If you want to maintain a culture where members, sponsors and industry professionals feel comfortable communicating with your organization and get great service, social media is a the perfect tool for you. Any online platform cultivates instant two-way communication. For example, Twitter allows a member to ask a question of an association or comment on one of its services and receive a timely, tailored response. Social media allows your organization to be accessible and transparent to its members, which is a great asset for when non-members or potential sponsors want to find out more about your organization, but aren’t ready to take the step of calling, emailing or walking into the office.

A culture of community

Every association wants to create and grow a culture of community and make the organization a place members think of when they want to connect with colleagues. Social media was built to create a tighter community for people with similar interests or career aspirations, which makes it perfect for associations looking to instil this culture. Your association can stimulate conversation between members and those in the industry through social media, as it gives people a platform to connect with people they may never otherwise talk to. Having an association LinkedIn page is a great example. By creating informative posts and putting forward conversation topics, your association can build a sense of belonging and inclusiveness for members.

A culture of excellence

If you want members to think of excellence and accolades when they hear the name of your association, social media may be one of your best friends. One of your association’s main goals is undoubtedly to help advance the careers of its members. One way to do this is through programs that promote striving for success, like awards or professional designations. Marketing these programs can get a huge boost from social media, as it creates a culture of recognition that others want to be part of. Recognizing members and accomplishments is done best when there is a large audience and social media is great in this regard. For example, you can highlight a member who just won an award through Twitter, a blog, a YouTube video, Instagram, Vine or Facebook. The more you get the word out, the more your association’s culture of excellence grows and flourishes.

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.