What Four Christmas Traditions Can Teach Organizations About Social Media

In case you needed a not-so-subtle reminder to do some last minute shopping or stock up on eggnog, Christmas is on the horizon. There are only three more sleeps until the big day when presents, food and family abound.

Everyone has their own Christmas traditions during the holiday season, many of them serving as a reminder about the importance of sharing, kindness and hope. However, these traditions can also teach you a lot about social media management.

Yes, leave it up to us here at Incline Marketing to link jolly old Saint Nick to Twitter, Facebook and all those other online platforms. Here’s a thing or two about how Christmas traditions can teach organizations about social media management:

Milk and Cookies For Santa

Leaving milk and cookies to sustain Santa Claus on his gift-giving journey is a fun and long-standing tradition for many families around the globe. Doing your own online version of milk and cookies can help give your association, non-profit or small business a boost.

In the social media world, cookies and milk are the content that sustains your audience. The truth is, people connect with you online because they find value in what you have to say. When they no longer find value in your content, they don’t stick around long. Make sure your content is equal parts exciting (cookies) and practical (milk). Offer a variety of content and see which posts are gobbled up quickly and which ones are left half-eaten. By taking stock of how your content is received, you can cater to the needs and interests of your audience in a more efficient, effective way while maximizing your return on investment.

Decorating the Tree

Decorating the tree is a valued holiday tradition for one key reason; it allows you to gather your family together and have fun working as a unit to achieve a goal. When you’re finished, you can stand there with your loved ones and admire the work you’ve done together.

The lesson that comes out of decorating the Christmas tree is that everything is better with company and that includes improving your organization. Social media gives you the opportunity to engage your audience, ask questions and use crowdsourcing to bolster programs and initiatives. Don’t turn down this chance to include your members, donors or customers. Ask members what educational topics they want covered at your association’s next conference. Have your customers vote on which product they want kept on the shelves. Give your donors a chance to tell their story on a blog, Facebook or a video. When all is said and done, your community will look back and feel like they are truly a part of your organization’s progress, which only strengthens your following.

Putting up the Lights

Installing Christmas lights on the outside of your house is an annual lesson in patience and creativity. The same can be said for designing and maintaining your social media accounts.

First impressions are critical on social media and when someone visits your organization’s profile, they’re going to notice and respond to what it looks like. There are a few crucial elements of designing and updating your social media accounts. Just like with Christmas lights, where one broken bulb effects the whole string, one neglected space on your profile will ruin the entire experience for potential connections. Make sure your photos are filled out, updated regularly and are sized right (which is often where patience comes into play). Ensure your About and Contact sections are clear, concise, accurate and free of spelling and grammatical errors. Pay attention to the details. Different platforms have specific elements that require attention. For example, make sure your blog posts are tagged with relevant words, your pinned tweet is updated and the profile pictures on your Pinterest boards are relevant.

Singing Carols

Getting into the Christmas spirit is often as easy as going door to door singing your favourite seasonal songs or starting a sing-along at family get-togethers. The most important thing about carolling is that everyone is on board with the activity. If one or two people are not into it or are off key, it can throw a wet towel over the whole thing. Getting total buy-in is also important with your organization’s social media efforts.

Your staff, colleagues, board of directors and volunteers all need to understand and contribute to the effectiveness of your social media strategy for it to be successful. Start by explaining how social media can help achieve your organization’s mission and goals. Use examples and numbers and relate it to everyone’s specific job or area of expertise. Keep great records and provide ROI analysis to prove the value of everyone’s efforts on the online platforms. Offer to give tutorials to those who want to get a hang of social media and give your colleagues a chance to contribute to your efforts in a meaningful way. This can be done by crowdsourcing content, asking them to write guest blogs or including them in videos, photo albums or other visuals.

Advice for Three Common Challenges that Social Media Managers Face

Social media is a pretty great marketing tool for associations, non-profits and small businesses, but it’s not perfect and it comes with its own set of challenges. Challenges can be a good thing when they push you and your organization to confront flaws or pursue creative options to get around them, but when all they do is waste time and resources, no one has fun.

We’ve put together a list of three challenges that online marketers inevitably face when striving for success and added some advice for overcoming these obstacles.

Challenge: Finding Content

Advice: Social media is a constantly hungry beast, and by that we mean your audience is always going to be looking to digest new content from your accounts. If your organization is not posting consistently, it will quickly fall from relevance and crucial audience members will lose interest in your message. The one problem with this is finding enough content to serve on a daily or weekly basis (depending on the platform).

But do not fear, there’s lots of content to be had, you just need to know where to find it. Lists can be a social media marketer’s best friend and they come in handy with solving this challenge. Make lists of where you have received content before and check them regularly. If you’re just starting out, here are some places you can mine for content gold: Your followers (they’re a wealth of knowledge in your field/industry/cause), LinkedIn groups (where people are passionate and vocal), media outlets (newspaper are always churning out hard and soft news that’s relevant), comment sections (good source of new perspectives for blog posts) and the people you see every day (whether it’s members, volunteers, staff or customers, ask them what’s new; you’d be surprised about all the interesting tidbits you can get out of it). Last, but not least, take some time, brainstorm ideas and create content yourself! That’s always the best kind!

Challenge: Gaining Followers/Likes/Views/Etc.

Advice: This is a major source of stress for many a social media manager the world over. If no one is listening, it doesn’t matter if you’re saying the coolest thing in the best way. The keys here are to focus on quality before quantity, be a social butterfly and stay patient.

When you are connecting with people on social media, make sure they are members of your target audience. For example, if you decide to follow 300 people on Twitter, but 250 of them have a vague or non-existent tie to your organization’s mission, you’re not getting value from your efforts or loyal followers for the future. Craft a description of the perfect member of your target audience and find them on your chosen platform. They will be more likely to follow back, engage with you and encourage others to do likewise.

The second piece of advice is to be a social butterfly, which means to engage, engage, engage! Talk on Twitter chats and LinkedIn groups, mention people and other organizations and share the content of other accounts (while attributing it to them, of course). The more you become familiar to people, the more likely they are to see you as both friendly and useful. In many cases, this will lead them to connect with you as well.

Lastly, attempt to be as patient as possible. Great social media accounts aren’t built in a day, unless of course you’re a multi-national super company like McDonald’s or Coca Cola. It’s going to take time to attract followers, but the pay off is great in the long run. Keep being consistent, relevant and engaging and connections will follow. Do not abandon your efforts after a few short months of discouraging months because that decision is often short-sighted and damaging for future marketing initiatives, both online and off.

Challenge: Battling the Time Crunch

Advice: Some days are busier than others; those are usually the days when social media gets left by the wayside. Blogs are left stagnant, Twitter feeds remains dormant and Facebook posts begins to go stale. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; consistency is an ever-crucial element of social media success and even one or two forgotten days can set you back weeks. However, there are time-saving methods that can help you be more efficient and effective.

First and foremost, always make a content calendar. Content calendars help you organize your thoughts at the beginning of a week or month so you’re not scrambling around every day trying to find content or things to post. It may take an hour or two to build, but a well-done content calendar will save you at least double that during a busy period at the office.

Set up a Hootsuite account. Hootsuite you to schedule Twitter and Facebook posts ahead of time, which helps you prepare for a busy week. For example, if you are heading to a conference or stuck in meetings all day for the next three days, schedule your daily tweets with Hootsuite. This help you accomplish social media consistency while not having to stay at the office late to achieve it.

Social media is one place where hoarding is good, especially when you’re looking at a packed schedule. Capitalize on down time or a light work load by writing blog posts, finding shareable content or putting together interesting visuals and storing them away for busy times. This will help you quickly post things for when the unexpected comes your way.

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.

How Social Media Can Help Your Organization Prove Its Value

Bang for buck, return on investment, your money’s worth; it doesn’t matter what you call it, the importance of value to your clientele cannot be overstated.

Whether it’s members, donors or customers, it’s crucial for your organization to highlight its value to them. After all, they’re investing their hard-earned cash on your products and services.

Most organizations do provide as much value as they can, but it’s figuring out how to show this value that can be difficult. Words can make believers of some, but sometimes that doesn’t cut it. Visuals can be a powerful source of proof, but even those fall short sometimes. Videos can oftentimes act as the looking glass onto value. The great thing about social media is, you don’t have to pick just one of these mediums, you can combine all three!

Words

The written word is a powerful tool for your organization to underline the value it provides to its community. Fortunately, there is no shortage of opportunities on social media to use words creatively and effectively for this purpose.

Twitter may only allow you to write 140 characters per post, but even though each tweet is one drop in the bucket, it fills it up fast. Live-tweeting an event or initiative is one way words can have an impact on your community’s perception of your value. For example, if your association is advocating by conducting a lobby day, live-tweeting the process puts all the work the organization is doing into perspective. When, at first, a member may see a advocacy as a vague term holding little value, clear, brief and specific details, as they happen, will give members something more tangible. It also allows members to have more say in the process, adding value to their membership.

What Twitter does in 140 characters, blogs can do more in-depth. Having a blog section on your organization’s website allows for stories to be told about the work your organization is doing and how it is adding value to peoples’ lives. For example, conducting an interview with a customer, member or donor about their experiences with an event, benefit or product doesn’t just tell the rest of your community how valuable you are, but shows them with the words of someone who is relateable and has the same goals and needs as them.

Visuals

Visuals, like photos or infographics, can drive the value point home to many members of your community. Visuals are engaging and help put meaning to the words and phrases people hear over and over again.

Infographics are great tools to use when you have a lot of nifty data that proves your value, but you don’t exactly know how to present it to your community. Data is powerful, as many of your members, customers or donors want to quantify how your organization is of value to them. Instead of running through a list of numbers, infographics make these figures visual and engaging. For example, if you want to show how much a professional will save as a member as opposed to a non-member, charting it out with an infographic will draw the attention of individuals and make it easier for them to see your organization’s value without having to wade through long lines of text or large strings of calculations.

Photos can also act a way to highlight how your community’s contributions have resulted in something concrete and valuable. Posting albums to Facebook, images to Pinterest or snapshots on Instagram allows people to see what they getting for their money or time. For example, posting photos of your organization’s trip to build a school in a foreign country or deliver products to a local hospital gives donors a clear vision of how they are helping and where their investment is going. It also allows them to comment on and share in the experience even when they are not physically there, which also provides value.

Videos

Videos are to pictures what blogs are to words; they offer organization’s a platform to deliver more in-depth explanations and bring smaller chunks of information to life. This allows you to tell the story of your organization’s value in a more useful and engaging way.

We have explained in-depth about the advantages that how-to videos can give your organization when providing and explaining value for your community. Along with how-tos, short video interviews with members or staff showcase your organization in action, gives a look at the effectiveness of your products/services and highlights the work being done by staff or volunteers to make your organization the best it can be. For example, making a short video of a “day in the life” of a staff member shows your community how your organization is striving every day to make their lives better. The personal angle, along with engaging visuals and relevant detail helps your community get a better perspective on the value your organization provides.

Shorter snippets, such as the 6-second Vine videos, can also be used by association, non-profits and small businesses to show value. While these videos don’t necessarily give your community a lot of detail and information, they act as a teaser and provide your audience a sense of potential for value. For example, if your small business is having a sale, a Vine or Instagram video of some of the merchandise on sale will pique the interest of your audience and show them the potential value of their visit.