The Dos and Don’t of Scheduling Social Media Content for the Holidays

The holiday season looms and so too does the annual, end-of-year office shut-down. As the year draws to a close, you’re likely taking a few days off, whether it’s an organization-wide policy or a choice to spend a few days off to be with family and friends.

This rest and relaxation doesn’t usually come without a flurry of activity right around now, especially for marketers and communication personnel. You take time off from work, but your audience rarely takes a day off from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on. This means that you will most likely be scheduling posts to go out on social media ahead of time. If this is your first go-around or even your tenth, here are a few tips to keep in mind when scheduling social media posts during the holidays.

Do use Hootsuite 

Hootsuite is the go-to platform for managing all your social media accounts in one place. It lets you schedule dozens of posts ahead of time on Twitter, Facebook, your blog and Instagram. It’s easy to use and allows you to set specific dates and times of scheduled posts, suggests the best times to post based on your audience’s patterns of use and gives you the option of attaching images and tracking the success of your posts.

Don’t Hawk Your Products or Services

It’s the holiday season so relax a little bit. Your audience has just come off more than a month of intense marketing from all corners of their life leading up to Christmas and is probably looking forward to enjoying some lighter content on social media. It’s not wise to manipulate the message of the holidays in order to draw attention to a money-making opportunity for your organization. Read the room and save the subtle sales posts until after the season.

Do Be Festive and Fun

This is the flip-side to the previous point; everyone is having some fun and taking a day or two to get work out of their mind so you might as well join in. It can be as simple as wishing your audience a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Schedule this message to go out with a cute picture or fun video greeting from your staff. Add some seasonal hashtags to the mix and keep it short and sweet. No one wants to spend all day on their phones during the holidays!

Don’t Talk About the Weather or Anything Subject to Change

It’s very tempting to schedule a post talking about a white Christmas or snow or cold temperatures, but try to hold yourself back. As we all know, the weather is temperamental so making any claims, as whimsical, fun or clever as they might be, will just look downright silly if the climate changes on you down the road. This goes for any element or even that could change. Stick to safe topics and put a creative spin on them if you want to go outside the box.

Do Check Back in Every so Often

We know, we know, it’s the holidays and you don’t want to think about work, which is why you’re scheduling posts in the first place. The reality is, being a social media manager is a 24/7 job. The Twitter account or Facebook page is often the only line of communication a member, client or customer has with your organization during the holidays. Check in with your accounts every so often, even if it’s once a day, to answer any questions and respond to interactions. This small effort will make your scheduling binge worth every bit of extra work.

Don’t Forget to Tell Them Where You Are

Your don’t need to tell your audience that the entire office is leaving to work on their tan in the Caribbean, but it’s always a good idea to let them know your holiday office hours. Schedule regular posts telling your audience when you will be closed, when their will be reduced hours, when you’ll open up again and how to contact someone in an emergency. People will appreciate having this knowledge as it will save them time and plenty of inconvenience.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?: Analyzing a Benchmarking Report About Associations and Social Media

A new report detailing how associations use social media was released last week by Marketing General Inc. and the information was beautifully transformed into an infographic by MemberClicks.

The report gives all kinds of great numbers and is a useful source for associations that are wondering how their online communications game matches up with other member organizations.

There are a few conclusions from the report that strike us as, well, interesting. We took a long, hard look at the report’s findings and went a step further, making some discoveries of our own. Here they are, along with some helpful tips and advice for association marketers looking to fine-tune their social media strategy.

Blogs Are Being Under-Utilized

The reports gives a run-down of the social media platforms that are most frequently-used by associations and it’s no surprise that Facebook and Twitter rank as the two most popular sites. Facebook is used by 91% of respondents while Twitter is used by 87%.

However, it was a surprise to find that only 24% of associations maintain a blog. Yes, the Golden Age of blogs ended a while back, but blogging can still be a massively effective way to accomplish the goals associations usually set for themselves on social media. For example, the report also concluded that social media is most often used for event promotion, organizational awareness and association news. Blogs are an amazing way to do all three!

We could write a dozen blog posts about the value of blogging for associations, but we’ll try to condense our blogging love into one last paragraph. Blogging can come in so many different forms, from infographics, to transcribed interviews with members and just a straightforward editorial-type explainer. They can be used to recognize members, highlight certain aspects of your association or its initiatives/events and keep members knowledgeable about the latest developments in their industry. However, the biggest benefit of blogs for associations might just be their ability to drive traffic to the association’s website by sharing the posts on other social media platforms.

Likes, Followers, Fans, Etc Are Over-Glamorized

One of the most interesting pieces of data from the benchmarking report was that a whopping 79% of associations measure social media impact by number of followers, likes, fans, etc. that their accounts accrue.

This is, quite frankly, an unbelievable number and a troubling trend that will only serve to limit the effectiveness of social media for associations. Yes, followers, page likes, etc. are important, but they only skim the surface. Measuring the impact of social media efforts on this metric alone would be like a doctor looking at a patient’s outward appearance for five seconds before declaring them absolutely healthy, only to realize later that the patient has some terrible disease only visible upon further examination. Associations need to look for at least a dozen other metrics before they can get a sense of how well their social media channels are doing and what can be done to improve them.

Again, we can write thousands of words on which of the dozens of metrics are better than analyzing likes, followers, etc. but we’ll list only a few. Demographics are key. You might have 3,000 followers, but if only 100 of them are part of your target audience, then the large following is just a mirage and your message has much less impact. Reach/impressions are also crucial. Again, you may have 3,000 likes, but if no one is looking at your messages, you aren’t really that popular after all. Finally, engagement is a key stat. You don’t just want your members to give an obligatory ‘like’, you want them to share the status update, comment on the post you created and click on the link to your website.

Too Few Associations Are Effectively Posting On Facebook

Most associations are not really using Facebook effectively. Out of the associations that use Facebook, 35% post once a day and 33% post once a week. It is evident that associations have a Goldilocks Problem; one posting frequency is too often and the other is not often enough with too few organizations (31% or less) implementing a just-right option.

Admittedly, this is the most subjective conclusion we drew from the report. Although specific circumstances play a role in how often organizations should post to Facebook (their staffing levels, size of audience, etc.), we feel that there is a general rule-of-thumb that leads to a better return on resources for associations using the platform. For example, posting once a day requires a lot of time and effort to develop content and create a post while Facebook’s algorithms make it less-than-likely that the content will show up on people’s news feeds. Posting once a week or less just means your audience may tempted to relegate you to irrelevancy, meaning your efforts are for naught.

The ideal scenario would be to post to Facebook two to four times a week. This is generally an effective, efficient schedule that keeps your efforts consistent and produces the best quality of content. Because of these factors, this is also the content that has the greatest capacity to draw views and engagement, making the return on resources higher.

Integrating Elements of Gamification Into Your Association’s Social Media Strategy

“The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression.”

The above quote served as the introduction to a presentation on using the science of play to create better association events by Julie King during the CSAE Trillium Chapter’s Summer Summit. King would go on to talk about how play can engage an association’s members and, in another presentation, how organization’s can use the elements of gamification to create a better member experience.

While gamification (the practice of applying the typical elements of game playing to other activities) is often associated with mobile apps, there’s no rule saying that it has to be restricted to the online world. In fact, during King’s presentation, several discussions among attendees resulted in ideas for how associations can use gamification in all areas of their operation.

Having said that, gamification is a perfect fit for association’s looking to boost their social media efforts. By using some of the elements of game play in social media strategy, associations can engage members, promote their services and increase the value they add to peoples’ lives. Here are a few elements of gamification and some ideas on how to integrate them into your social media efforts.

Mystery

Nothing captures peoples’ attention like a good guessing game. Working towards a big discovery is a key part of game play and gives everyone an opportunity to not only focus on the end result, but on the experience and the process as well. Incorporating mystery into your association’s social media strategy every once in a while will give your members a chance to see what your organization has to offer from a different perspective while also giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Integrating mystery into social media can be as complex or as simple as your association wants to make the task. Achieving an air of mystery can be as simple as asking a trivia question about your organization or industry on Twitter or Facebook. For example, you can tweet the question, “Who was our first president?” or “What is the name of the article on page 12 of the latest issue of our magazine?” Racing to find the answer and be the first one to solve this ‘mystery’ provides an opportunity to engage with members, for members to achieve something and for you to drive traffic to areas of your association you want highlighted.

If you want to go a little more complex, social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are ideal for creating mystery. Providing visual clues for members is a great way to get them engaged and invested in the outcome. For example, post a portion of a picture that defines the location of your next event and have your members guess where the annual conference will be next year. It’s a fun and engaging way to get your members thinking about an upcoming event and give them some stake in the outcome. You can even award a prize to the first person who guesses correctly, which brings us to the next element of gamification…

Reward

Everyone likes getting rewarded for their efforts against fierce competition, whether it’s a trophy for winning the big golf tournament or the accumulation of “money” in a video game. Rewarding your members for a job well-done on social media is a great way to engage members and recognize them for their efforts, which means they are getting more value out of your association.

Again, using a reward system on social media can be as small or as big as your association wants. For example, ask your members to submit ideas for topics they would like to see as a webinar or conference presentation. Collect them and pick a winner who could receive a discounted conference registration or free attendance at the webinar. You can even go a step further and take some of the best ideas and pit them against each other in a bracket-style showdown for the best one. Members can vote each day through Twitter and Facebook (and Instagram and Twitter and LinkedIn, etc.) and the person who submitted the top choice could receive a prize.

If you want to go for something even more creative, try a project like Twitter Bingo. Twitter Bingo works like normal Bingo, but instead of numbers for each of the squares, there are tasks that can only be completed through Twitter, such as retweeting the association, mentioning another member in a tweet and tweeting one fact about the association. You organization can send out the Bingo “card”, members would complete the tasks and send the card back with screen-shot proof and either receive a prize or be entered to win a big reward.

Narrative

Storytelling is one of the best ways to learn. That’s the reason children are taught important life lessons through fairy tales and nursery rhymes and why some of the most popular video games in the world have great story lines. Stories need a good narrative to be successful and there is no better place to get your association’s story out than through social media. By incorporating this element of gamification into your online efforts, your association can connect with members and help educate members about products, services and value in an engaging way.

Integrating a narrative into your association’s social media can be done in a multitude of ways, both big and small and at any point in between. Depending on the platform, the narrative is going to look different. For example, if you association is on YouTube and wants to create a narrative about its conference, you can follow a first-time conference goer around and film his/her experience, edit it together and tell the story of the event through the eyes of a newcomer. This allows you to highlight the event through a unique perspective and one that your members will value. You can also create a recap of your event on YouTube and Instagram or tell the story of an award winner, the organization’s lobbying efforts or its history through a blog or a Facebook post.

If you want to try something a little more complex with a narrative, you can create a Choose Your Adventure blog post to promote your next event. Create multiple scenarios around the story of attending your next event. Members will need to navigate through the scenarios to reach a successful end. This creates a situation in which members will subtly learn about the features of the conference while having fun and being engaged. It also incorporates the concepts of mystery and reward into one project, making this blog post an all-around gamification superstar.

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!