Three More Ways To Engage Conference Attendees Through Social Media

Integrating social media into your association’s conference strategy is something we’ve talked about before and your organization may be old pros by now at using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., while at an event. You might be so used to live-tweeting updates or posting daily recaps of the conference on your blog that it seems tired and your attendees are losing interest. This is why innovation and fresh ideas are the gas that make the engagement train run.

Just like with membership drives, calls to action for lobbying or volunteer recruitment, your association needs to utilize some new approaches to attendee engagement to keep the attention of members. Luckily, we’ve put together three ideas that will give your conference a boost and allow your association to better engage its attendees.

Twitter Monitor

You might have seen this before at a conference or an event of some kind; a monitor showing tweets that use the event hashtag. When one of your attendees, speakers, sponsors or staff tweets out a comment using the hashtag, it appears on the monitor, which is usually set up in a high-traffic area, such as registration or by a networking space.

The Twitter monitor has a few benefits when it comes to attendee engagement. First, it encourages attendees to tweet with comments, pictures or videos of the event because of the 15-minutes-of-fame factor. Attendees can point to their tweet being broadcast to their colleagues and marvel in the novelty factor. Second, the Twitter monitor makes the social media platform even more accessible. Not all your members are on Twitter, so including them in this part of the event through a very public display of tweets can only boost engagement. Lastly, it is a great networking tool you can offer attendees. Their tweets have a better chance of being seen and noticed, which is a great conversation starter between to people who are eager to network.

There are a few different approaches that your association can take with this strategy depending on your budget and technological prowess. You can simply set up a large computer or TV monitor and set it on Twitter to the event hashtag. If you’re looking for a higher-end experience, there are companies that will bring in a screen that looks like a phone and have a program in place to post relevant tweets to the screen throughout the day. Regardless of the method, you must ensure there is a strategy to monitor the tweets coming in; you don’t want any profanity or inappropriate posts making their way onto the big screen.

An Unofficial Association Twitter Account

The attendees of the event who are on Twitter probably know all about your association’s account. They follow the account, know the voice and tone that is used and know what to expect when the account is tweeting at an event. Why not switch things up by keeping the official Twitter account to provide updates, recaps, information and the like, while also creating an “unofficial” association account to inject some fun into the proceedings?

So what exactly is an “unofficial” association account? It is a satirical or parody account that has the benefit of not having to be quite as proper, informative or formal as the official account. For example, there is the Twitter account for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and there is a Twitter account for Ghost of ASAE. Similarly, there is the account for the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open and an account for the RBC Trophy. The former are official accounts and latter are more fun, unofficial accounts.

So what is the benefit of these parody accounts? They let attendees have a bit more fun and cultivates a looser atmosphere for the event. Attendees can interact and follow along with the antics of the unofficial Twitter account while the account subtly promotes the event and the association. This increases engagement and gives attendees two views on the conference; one more education and one more entertaining.

A Digital Idea Wall

When we were at the CSAE’s Summer Summit in July, one of the best experiences we had was creating an idea wall. This activity included groups of 20 writing any idea they could think of to improve the CSAE on post it notes and sticking it to a large sheet of paper taped to the wall. At the end, the eight groups had come up with hundreds of great ideas and were asked to pick their top three, which we then talked about. It was a great exercise and one that can easily be transferred onto social media during your event.

The idea wall activity is one of those exercises that can be work both online and offline at your event. It may be a good idea to capitalize on having so many members in one place at one time by creating a physical idea wall that stands for the duration of the event. Take the momentum that is generated by this actual idea wall and turn it into a digital version that will spur engagement at the event and into the future. At the end of each day of the conference, take the ideas from the physical idea wall and make them into a collage on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and/or your blog. Generate conversation and engagement by asking questions about the collage and soliciting more ideas through social media. Keep it up after the conference by asking for more ideas or having a contest to see which idea members like best by having them vote via social media.

A digital idea wall has a few advantages for your association. It gives credit to those members who participated in the activity during the event, making it even more likely they will participate when it comes time for further opportunities. It was encourages members to interact with your association in a meaningful way, giving members a voice in the direction of the association. Lastly, it creates a talking point for attendees at your conference, which leads to more networking opportunities and more reasons for attendees to approach association representatives with ideas, thoughts and feedback.

Twitter, Hashtags and the Art of Audience Acquisition

The goal of any marketing effort, whether traditional or innovative, is to capture the attention of a target audience. Marketing with Twitter no different, which is why identifying and connecting with your organization’s target demographics is critical.

Your target demographics are the individuals, companies and organizations that are most likely to interact with the company’s social media account, find value in its content and provide increased traffic to your organization’s prime revenue-generating areas, such as its website.

If you are an association, your target audience is likely your members, sponsors, media in your industry and government officials. If you’re a small, local business, the target audience is probably potential customers in your area. Members of the target audience will also help spread the word about the company and its value to those in a similar industry or in need of similar products and services.

The question now becomes, how do you find these key audience members on Twitter and get them to pay attention to you?

Connecting with target demographics on Twitter can be done several ways, but one main source is through the effective use of keywords to find and spread awareness among influential communities.

Twitter is essentially a search-based platform that let users connect with content that they find useful, interesting or can relate to. For example, if you live in Toronto and are interested in finding the latest news on the restaurant scene, you may search the words “new restaurant, Toronto,” which will lead you to all the tweets from foodies and critics in your area. This is why keywords are so important to finding the areas of Twitter where target audience members are connecting and then capitalizing on this activity.

Determining the keywords through which the company can base its audience acquisition strategy on (as well as its content-sharing strategy) can be achieved by examining three factors:

  1. Amount of Activity
  2. Diversity of Audience
  3. Frequency of Engagement.

Amount of Activity

The search for the optimal keywords to base a strategy around is started by sifting through words and phrases attached to the target audience and applying the first of the three aforementioned qualifiers.

For example, if your association represents chefs, you may search for the hashtag #ChefChat. To determine if this is a strategically-beneficial keyword to utilize in order to find connections and base content around, the first step is to evaluate the amount of activity stemming from this keyword/hashtag.

More is always better in this initial area of interest. The more activity there is centred around this phrase, the more likely it is that members of the company’s target audience are finding the content associated with the keyword valuable. For example, if there are 50 tweets per day using this hashtag/keyword, it is most likely advantageous to continue the evaluation of it for its potential use in an audience acquisition strategy.

Diversity of Audience

The next area of evaluation is the diversity of audience attached to a certain keyword. There may be 50 tweets per day using a certain phrase, but if these tweets are only coming from four users, the audience is smaller and therefore the effectiveness of that keyword is diminished.

Analyzing the number of unique users that are tweeting with a certain keyword is crucial to determining if your organization will benefit by monitoring and using that keyword. The more diversity in the conversation using a certain keyword/hashtag, the more chance to have your message seen and shared by a wider audience and the more opportunities the organization has to connect with new members of the target audience. The outcome of this diversity is a better return on investment because of the wider audience.

For example, if one was to compare 50 tweets using the keywords/hashtags #ChefChat and #ChefTalk and see that the former had 40 different users tweeting compared to the latter’s 15 different users, it can surmised that #ChefChat is a better keyword to monitor and use in a content and audience-acquisition strategy.

Frequency of Engagement

Lastly, the frequency of engagement must be analyzed when evaluating the effectiveness of keywords for use in acquiring the attention of a target audience. Knowing which keywords generate the most engagement will allow your organization to maximize its opportunity to interact with its target audience and receive a better return on investment.

To evaluate the frequency of the engagement, one must keep in mind the number of posts that receive an interaction and the number of interactions per post. For example, let us compare 50 tweets from the keywords/hashtags #ChefChat and #ChefTalk once again. The former generated engagement 75% of the time and received 50 interactions in total. The latter generated engagement only 25% of the time and received only 20 interactions in total. Therefore, #ChefChat is the better keyword to use in the company’s audience acquisition strategy.

How To Mark An Association Milestone Or Special Occasion With The Help Of Social Media

Associations are no strangers to special occasions. They put on big events, celebrate the achievements of members and are often in the thick of things when something big happens in their respective industries.

However, while association’s are great at showcasing the greatness of others, they often lack this same zeal in marking their own milestones. Many associations have a rich history of improving their industry, providing services and helping members excel and celebrating this heritage is important to pursuing future success. This is an example of a huge milestone, but associations don’t need a 25th or 50th anniversary to make a hoopla over themselves, they just need a small victory, or even just a memory of one, to highlight its achievements and its value to its members.

Marking an association milestone is important, but your organization can’t organize a big event or call all its members every time it does something interesting or memorable. That’s why social media platforms are the perfect tools to mark these milestone. Here are a few ways you can celebrate some common association achievements using social media:

A Major Anniversary

Whether your association has been around for 10 years, 50 years or 100 years, an anniversary is a cause to celebrate. It’s an occasion not to only to mark the successes and loyalty of your members, but also the accomplishments and lasting value of the organization itself.

The great thing about an anniversary is that you have a fairly large period of time to work with. You can develop a strategy to roll out over a whole year, which means you can incorporate many different ways to mark this milestone. Creating YouTube videos to mark the history of the association is a great place to start. Make a video that interviews influential members from each decade your association has existed or a series of Heritage-Moment-like videos to showcase the history of your association. Profile key members, such as the founders, award winners and trailblazers, and other important moments in your association’s history through a blog, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. At the end of the year, create an online “Hall of Fame” for your association by taking these profiles, videos and posts and putting them all in one place, such as a dedicated Pinterest board or Facebook photo album.

A Great New Partnership

Partnerships are often a huge deal for associations and mark a turning point in an organization’s quest to provide better service, improve credibility, develop a stronger lobbying influence or attain another advantage. Marking this milestone is an important step in letting members know the association is stronger than ever before and consistently looking for ways to help them excel in their careers and in life.

Social media can help you mark a great new partnership in two main ways; by spreading the word and showcasing the advantage of your association teaming up with one or several other organizations. There are three words to help you spread the word of a new alliance through social media; share, share and share! Tweet about it, post it to Facebook, share through Instagram, write about it on your blog and put it up on LinkedIn. Your members don’t just want to know that the partnership is happening, they want to know how it’ll help them. Create an infographic blog post showing the direct value the partnership will have for members and share it to Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Host a Twitter chat and have representatives from the partnering organizations field questions from members or create a YouTube video where a member interviews these representatives and asks questions about the member value of the alliance.

A Government Relations Victory

Associations can lobby the government for years about one issue, so when the organization scores a victory, you’ll probably want to make the most of it, especially because it usually means big things and big changes to the way members go about their work.

Changes in government policy or legislation because of an organization’s lobbying efforts usually affects an association’s members in a quantifiable way. Use social media to highlight these positive effects and underline the association’s milestone. Use an infographic on your blog or create a video to take the milestone and turn the victory rhetoric your association uses into cold, hard numbers and facts that your members can relate to and use in their jobs. Go a bit further and profile a member, charting the ways in which a government relations victory will help him/her in the present and into the future. Share little, shareable facts, quotes and 140-character stories of the victory through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Lastly, don’t worry if you haven’t won a government relations victory in a while; celebrate the achievements of the past by creating a timeline-type blog post about previous lobbying milestones or mark the occasion by using the popular Throwback Thursday hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to share the anniversary of a monumental government relations victory.

Four Ways Your Association Can Better Recognize Members Using Social Media

Everyone likes a pat on the pack for a job well done, which is one of the primary reasons associations have been so successful across the decades.

Let us explain; an association’s mission is to help their members excel in their industry and careers. Being recognized by a legitimate, well-known and well-respected organization is one way people can set themselves apart from the pack, which can lead to a job, a promotion, better salary, improved working conditions or any number of different benefits. This is why association services like award programs, professional designations and committees are popular. They give members a chance to be recognized and gain prestige.

So, if recognition is valuable to your members, and thus for your association, incorporating the concept into other areas of your organization can yield some great results. Fortunately, recognizing members on social media is fairly easy to do. Here are some ideas for how your association can shine the spotlight on members through online platforms, from simple to out-of-the-box.

Give Them A Shout Out

Recognizing members on social media can be as simple as mentioning them and their accomplishments on your association’s platforms. Make sure to keep track of the achievements of members, big or small, and highlight them. For example, if a member has cut their carbon footprint, congratulate them and their success with a tweet. If a member published a book or an article in a professional journal or was invited to talk at the local post-secondary school, include this information in a Facebook post.

Singling these members out for the small achievements they earn will not only make them feel appreciated, but will also go a long way to helping them show the world how accomplished they how much dedication they have for their job, which helps them in their careers. Giving your members a quick shout out on social media allows your association to give them this valuable exposure while saving resources to highlight the major accomplishments members attain.

Publish An Interview With Them

Conducting an in-depth interview with a member and incorporating it into your association’s social media is a great way to draw attention to your organization’s brand ambassador’s and their achievements. Their will always be special members, those ones who have been loyal to the association and have made a name for themselves in the industry. These are the members who win awards or get other major accolades. Recognize them by filming an interview and posting it to your YouTube channel or create a blog post featuring your discussion with this member.

The members who you are likely to focus on with this strategy are those who are either very experienced, are trailblazers or obviously stand out from their peers. Regardless of the reason for their success, they are role models for the rest in the industry. This is why profiling them in such a prominent way will not only make it obvious that your association appreciates them, but will let others in the industry know that part of being successful is being an active member of the association.

Create An Online Hall Of Fame

One of the highest honour athletes can receive is to be inducted into their sport’s hall of fame. Incorporating this concept into your association’s social media strategy can have the same effect on members. Create a “Hall of Fame” board on your association’s Pinterest account and profile a different member weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Use Instagram to accomplish the same thing, profiling a new member every so often and including a photo and description of their accomplishment, such as being one of the organization’s longest-serving members.

Other than having the moniker “Hall of Fame” next to their name, members will appreciate the relative permanence of this strategy. They are in elite company and will be able to enjoy that exclusivity for a while. This is particularly relevant on Pinterest where boards are featured prominently at all times, whereas tweets drift out of the public eye as time goes on.

Let Them Be Social Media Moderator For A Day

With great accomplishments come great power. This is what you’re saying to members who have achieved something great when you make them a social media moderator for a day. They can give their own insights, expertise and perspective when in charge of social media accounts, which boosts awareness of their own personal brand among those in the industry. For example, recruit your major award winner to lead a Twitter chat from your association’s account or take over your association’s Instagram account for the day to document a ‘day in the life’ of an award winner.

Not only does this strategy encourage engagement between members and one of their high-profile colleagues, but it also rewards a member who has done something extraordinary with the power to highlight the things that make them exceptional. In the era of increased personalization, this is a unique way to give members a chance to recognize themselves in their own way. This is truly something they can point to as not only an exciting experience, but one that raised their stock in the eyes of others.

What The 2015 Pan Am Games Can Teach Us About Social Media

The 2015 Pan Am Games officially closed last Sunday in Toronto and although the city still has the Para Pan Am Games to look forward to, this occasion gave the city and the entire country a chance to reflect on the achievement of its athletes and the process of hosting a major multi-sport event.

The lessons were plentiful and the opinions of experts and the general public alike shifted slowly from the opening ceremonies to the closing ceremonies. At the end of the day, the event was deemed a success by a vast majority of the commentators. Here at Incline Marketing, we always like to learn from successful organizations and events, so after examining what the Pan Am Games did right, we came up with four lessons from the event that can be applied to building a successful social media strategy. Here they are:

Plan For The Worst And You’ll Get The Best

Negativity reigned supreme among a majority of the local media and among the public before the Games started. The traffic was going to be absolutely, insanely horrible, no one was going to show up to the events and the newly built venues would be white elephants for decades to come. The Pan Am organizers heard these dire prophecies and worked hard at creating strategies to combat them. In the end, everything worked out as close to perfect as they could have, thanks in large part to the preparation of the organizers and volunteers.

A lot of people like to spout worst-case scenarios about social media too. For example, people fear that it opens them up to too much criticism or that the money/time spent on social media efforts is a giant waste. However, if you can plan effectively, you can take much of the sting out of these nay-sayers. Draw up a plan to deal with negative comments or sudden crisis on your social media platforms. Have guidelines that you and other staff should follow when posting to the organization’s Twitter account, Facebook page, etc. Develop strategies to measure your return on investment and achieve your goals. Having these plans in place will ensure that you’re prepared for the worst, but will most likely achieve the best.

Exclusivity Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Part of the success of the 2015 Pan Am Games was its high level of accessibility. Tickets were relatively cheap and plentiful. Events were spread out across southern Ontario so people from different regions could take part. Open events, such as concerts, were held almost every day of the Games in popular spots. These are just some examples of how the organizers made the event inclusive and drew the attention of thousands of people that critics said would remain apathetic and disengaged.

There are many organizations that tout exclusivity as the ultimate reason for not only their success, but their very existence. In rare circumstances this may be true, but using wide-reaching exclusivity to draw an increased customer/membership base is generally an out-dated concept. When your organization makes content easily accessible through its social media channels, it is being inclusive. This inclusiveness gives people a sense of belonging, increases engagement and builds a community that people want to be part of. This is nothing but a win-win for your organization and its target audience.

Pride Is Powerful

Every single day throughout the course of the 2015 Games, Canadian athletes would say they performed at their very best because of the home crowd. When thousands of people are cheering you one and celebrating your every victory, no matter how big or small, it’s natural to want to work as hard as you can and give back to your supporters. The athletes were greeted by a wave of national pride and they rewarded Canadians with a record number of Pan Am medals.

Shining the spotlight on people’s accomplishments has a hugely positive effect on them outside of athletics too. Social media is a great vehicle for recognizing people in your community or a member/customer who has done something special. Highlighting their achievement in such a public way is an opportunity to show appreciation for the people who help make your organization a possibility. Just like support from fans, recognition in other industries is a two-way street. If your organization recognizes how hard you’ve worked to accomplishment something, you’re going to be more likely to renew membership, volunteer on a committee, subscribe to a newsletter or attend their next event.

Engagement Begets Engagement

By the time of 2015 Pan Am Games were winding down last week, the conversation was not about if the event was a success (there was no doubt it was), but if Toronto should host more international sporting competitions. People wrote about bringing the Track and Field World Championship or the FIBA World Championships to the city. And of course, the biggest clamour was for another bid on the Summer Olympics. This signalled a huge shift from the prevailing notion at the start of Games that Toronto was just too darn apathetic for a major multi-sport event to take off. But because the Pan Am organizers did such a good job at engaging the citizens of the city, Torontonians are wondering where they can get more.

Social media has these same addictive characteristics. The name of the game for a multi-platform strategy is engagement. The purpose of Twitter or Facebook or Instagram is to connect with your organization’s target audience and get them engaged and invested in the organization’s efforts, both online and offline. When engagement is fostered through social media, it becomes easier for your audience to see opportunities to get involved in other areas. That may be volunteering or attending events or simply referring your organization to their friend. The point is, engagement snowballs; when you make it easy to connect with your organization online, you open up your audience’s eyes to possibilities that exist in all areas.

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.

CSAE Trillium Chapter Summer Summit Recap: Finding ROI in Social Media for Associations

Last Thursday, Incline Marketing’s president and founder Marc Cousineau travelled to the Canadian Society of Association Executive’s (Trillium Chapter) Summer Summit in Huntsville, Ontario, where he gave a presentation on calculating the ROI of social media for associations.

The presentation covered various aspects of an association’s social media strategy, from member value to data analysis, determining goals, writing progress reports and making conclusions on return on investment metrics. Although each and every association will have a different take on social media according to their specific strategy, goals and target audience, this presentation seeks to give a template that organizations can use to gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of their online platforms.

A huge thank you goes out to the CSAE Trillium Chapter for giving us the opportunity to share our insights and knowledge on social media and associations. Take a look at the presentation below and feel free to ask any questions or give some feedback in the comment section!