Nine Lessons That Doors Open Can Teach Organizations About Social Media

Over 150 businesses and buildings in Toronto threw their doors wide open and invited the public to explore as part of the annual Doors Open event this past weekend.

Curious residents were able to learn what it was like behind the scenes at historic venues, exclusive social clubs, sporting venues and other interesting sites around the city. The event has been growing for years and it’s not uncommon to experience hour-long wait times just to step foot in some of the locations.

Needless to say, if your organization’s events were as popular as Doors Open Toronto, it would be a dream come true. There are certain elements of the initiative that your organization can learn a thing or two (or nine) from, especially when it comes to your social media strategy. Here are a few of the lessons we picked up from a weekend of adventuring:

People Want To Hear From The Expert

Doors Open gives people the opportunity to explore some of the buildings on your own, which can be fun, but some of the best locations offered guided tours by someone with knowledge of the site. These guides know all the interesting history, the building’s bizarre quirks, stories about each room and how the whole operation works. The do-it-yourself exploration lacks the guided tours expert knowledge.

Integrating some expert knowledge into your social media strategy is always a good way to go. For example, if you want to write a blog about a fashion trend for your retail store or a new law that effects your association’s members, try reaching out to a fashion blogger or specialized lawyer to contribute a guest post. Your audience will appreciate both the fresh voice and the expert perspective that you may not be able to provide.

Going Behind The Scenes Is Cool

There are many Torontonians who have attended an MLS soccer game at BMO Field without knowing what it takes to put on such a sporting event. Doors Open allows people to explore what its like behind the scenes at some of their favourite places, which adds knowledge, excitement and value to their next trip.

Similarly, your audience may be familiar with your operation, but unsure about the inner workings and day-to-day activities that make the organization run. Social media gives you the chance to change all this. Creating a video that shows the day in the life of the business highlights your staff, your initiatives and all the interesting activities your do on a daily basis, but behind the scenes. Your audience will have more knowledge of how your operation works and will feel more engaged with the organization.

A Little Content Goes A Long Way

Doors Open Toronto is a one-day event and that means residents flock to the locations in big crowds. Crowds mean lines and lines mean waiting around. The best sites are the ones that offer a little something while you wait, like a video explaining the origin of the building or signs at various point along the line with snippets of historical facts. They are engaging and help pass the time.

There will always come a time when you have a “social media lineup” of sorts. Your video still needs editing or your big blog post needs polishing off or your Twitter contest is still in the planning stages. In these situations, a little can go a long way for your audience. Post a short blog post or video and make sure to tweet on a regular basis, even if it deviates from your plan. It will keep your audience engaged. Note: always make sure the content is relevant and high-quality even if it’s short!

Shareable Moments Are The Best Moments

There were no shortage of cameras flashing and selfie-takers at any Doors Open venue. The lure of sharing your experience was too powerful and the opportunities were too hard to pass up. The smartest guides would point out an interesting feature of the site and a crowd of photographers would scramble to take a picture with it to share online.

The lesson here is, people want to share experiences, but not just any experience, an interesting and engaging one. Make sure that you provide these moments on your organization’s social media accounts. Encourage people to share their experience with your product with a hashtag or create moments at your event when attendees are encouraged to share their experience.

Learning Is Never Overrated

One of the pillars of Doors Open is access to information. Crowds turn out to dozens of buildings because they want to know more about them, from the way they operate to how they reflect the city’s culture and identity. People are hungry for information and Doors Open serves it up on a silver platter.

Give the people what they want by creating learning opportunities on social media. Make your Pinterest posts infographics that make learning visual, fun and shareable. Create how-to videos and blog posts. Tweet content that provides value to your audience through the sharing of relevant information. Stay up to date on the latest news and relate the relevant pieces to your audience in a way that provides value to their lives or careers.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

The variety during Doors Open Toronto is one of its biggest draws. Visitors can explore everything from historical sites to sporting arenas to government buildings. The venues stretch from one side of the city to the other and all points in between. There are guided tours and explore-it-yourself sites. The point is, there is something for everyone, which is why everyone shows up!

It’s always wise to integrate this approach in social media as well. Don’t just stick to a single platform; experiment with multiple platforms and sources of content. They might not all work out perfectly, but it’s the only way to realize which ones will. Provide a multitude of different style of content to keep things fresh. For example, blogs can come in all shapes and sizes, including lists, infographics, editorials, videos, chronologies and interviews. Utilize them all!

Provide People With A Road Map

Having lots of options during Doors Open is great, but it can get a little confusing if the organizers didn’t provide one key component; a map. There are several maps on the official website and maps on independent blogs that list the best places to go in each area of the city. This makes it easier for people to plan their day and take part in the best activity for them.

Your organization can provide its own road maps using social media. If your company is doing a big sale or your association is putting on a big conference, write a blog post about the best products/seminars to pay attention to if you’re looking for X, Y or Z. Tweet or post on Facebook with details for events or initiatives. Show people how to best utilize your organization’s services by drawing it on a ‘road map’ and pinning it to your Pinterest board or posting it on Instagram.

Interest Follows The Crowd

When standing in line at a Doors Open event this past weekend, there was one persistent question being asked by people passing by; “What is this for?” These people saw the line, figured it must be for something good and asked about it. Not only do these people know about the event for next time, they might have even gotten in line themselves.

If you want people to talk about your organization online, you need to assemble a crowd first. The key is providing a platform to draw this crowd and, in turn, increased interest. If you’re putting on an event, create a hashtag, live-tweet the event and use the hashtag. By providing the platform for the crowd (a hashtag), people will be more willing to engage and when Twitter users see their friends engaging, they’ll ask, “What is this for?” and we all know where that leads.

Unmask Value Without The Hard Sell

We’ve already talked about the guided tour during Doors Open and their high engagement factor, but what we didn’t say was that some of the guides had a vested interest in the venues. For example, the GM of the National Club led the tour of the site. He could have used the opportunity to hawk membership, but he simply put on an engaging, interesting tour. At the end of the presentation, there were at least two or three people out of a group of 30 who asked about membership.

Marketing your organization on social media operates much the same way as the guided tour of the National Club; highlight the value without coming right out and trying to sell the product or service. Educate your audience, engage them with interesting content, provide a chance to network and share exciting pieces of information or experiences. All these things will uncover the value of your organization to the lives of your audience and will sell your organization to them without the risk of alienating people with a hard sell.

Four Quick Ways Your Organization Can Boost Engagement on Social Media

It’s one of the worst feeling in the world; you go to start your car one morning and the engine just won’t turn over. The only solution is to get a boost from another car, a jolt of electricity that sparks the engine and brings it out of dormancy.

Managing an organization’s social media account works much the same way. One day you’re motoring along, blogging up a storm, tweeting your original content, creating helpful and fun videos, and the next day you look and the engagement has dried up. This is what is commonly referred to as a rut and it is not good.¬†What you need when you’re in a social media rut is a boost. It’s just like what a dead car battery needs, but instead of electricity, you need a boost in engagement.

Here are four ways your organization can give its social media strategy a boost in engagement without spending a lot of time, money or energy.

Share a Quote

Incline Blog Photo 1 (2)

People are looking for humour. People are looking for inspiration. People are looking for wisdom. Quotes can give your social media audience all three.

Posting a quote on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram is a fun way to mix it up and boost engagement. Studies have shown that sharing a quote on Twitter results, on average, in a 19% increase in retweets. Quotes are also very popular on visually-oriented platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Quotes are relateable, interesting, easily shared and quick to read, which is probably the reason why they are so popular.

There is no shortage of occasions when a quote can become content for your organization. Someone, somewhere, has said something about your industry, product, service or area of expertise. If it’s a special awareness day (ie. Earth Day) find a fun quote about it and relate it back to your organization. Interview a member, volunteer, staff member or customer and quote them. If your organization is centred around a particular location, city or community, find a quote about that place and post it. The point is, you don’t have to look far to find a great quote.

If you really want to go the extra mile, add a photo to your quote. Images do well on social media, so why not combine quotes and visuals for ultimate engagement potential? This makes the quote shareable across a multitude of platforms, especially the visually-inclined ones like Pinterest or Instagram.

Share Someone Else’s Content

We’re all for publishing original content here at Incline Marketing; it drives traffic to your sites, it increases brand awareness and makes your organization the go-to resource for information on any given topic. However, there comes a time when the phrase “sharing is caring” becomes very useful on social media.

Sharing other people’s blogs, articles, stats, quotes, photos or other content on your social media channels will help get your organization some more engagement. People appreciate it when their work is highlighted and a good deed rarely goes unnoticed. If your organization shares someone’s content, they will be more likely to become part of your audience, share and like the post, thank you for it and connect with you in the future.

Find some relevant content from someone with a decent-sized following, a good track record of social media activity and some credibility in the industry. Share their content on Twitter, Facebook or any other platform. Just make sure to do two things; give them credit by tagging/mentioning them and summarize the content in your own words. Perhaps re-jig the headline to give a different and fresh take on the content. This keep the content fresh and more shareable from the other person’s point of view. If you really want to go the extra mile, throw in a compliment when giving credit. Saying something like, “… by the always-interesting @JohnSmith,” is definitely a piece of shameless flattery, but this good social media karma might come back to you in droves.

Make a Trending Topic Relevant

Riding a wave is always the easiest way to get from the deep water back to the beach. On social media, the wave is a trending topic and the beach is a place that’s full of people you want to talk to. The conversation is already started for you, all you have to do is get talking. Once you have inserted yourself into all the talk surrounding an already-popular topic, increased engagement is sure to follow.

Social media is a great tool for two things humans are obsessed with; information and opinion. An interesting piece of news travels fast online and your audience is probably inclined to find out more about it or share their opinion about it or both. Adding your organization’s voice to the equation makes you seem knowledgeable, up-to-date and important. It also gets your brand out to an audience you know is large and engaged.

To capitalize on a popular subject, browse the trending topics on Twitter and Facebook. Find a topic that is relevant to your organization and craft a tweet around it. Make sure the connection between your organization and its content is at least a little strong. The weaker the link, the less interest it will have for people paying attention to the trending topic. Use hashtags to insert yourself into the conversation. Although Instagram, Pinterest and other platforms don’t have a trending topic section, it’s safe to say that a popular subject on Twitter and Facebook will probably be popular on these platforms too. If you really want to impress, write a blog post that tackles a particularly trendy topic or piece of news from your organization’s point of view and share it all over.

Ask a Question From a Specific Group

If you want some more engagement, just ask for it. That’s the gist of this next piece of advice, which is to ask a question from your audience or a specific demographic that your organization wants to engage with. A question begs for an answer and when this answer comes from your social media audience, it leads to engagement, relationships and future interactions.

There will always be people out there that want to share their opinion and their expertise. Whether its for exposure, networking or simply to join in a conversation on a topic they’re passionate about, these individuals will take the time to answer a question you pose. Social media is based around participation in and access to conversation with like-minded groups. Your organization can capitalize on this by asking a question. A response means one more piece of engagement, but also exposure to an important demographic and relationship with a key audience member that could mean big benefits.

Find the places on social media that your community is hanging out in. On Twitter, this might mean finding the hashtags where your members or customers go to find information and share content. On LinkedIn, this might be the groups that your target audience joins. Develop a well-thought-out question, one that’s relevant, promotes different opinions and is clear without being dumbed down. Pose it to the community in which you want to engage with. If no one is answering your questions, try tagging certain influential members of the community. Also, answer other people’s questions and comment on their posts. This will make it more likely that they will engage with your queries down the road.

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.

How Managing An Organization’s Social Media Account Is Like Growing A Garden

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the grass is a healthy shade of bright green. Spring is in the air.

It’s the time of year when we throw off the shackles of our oppressive winter coats and don t-shirts and sunglasses. The warm weather also means that backyard gardens will be sprouting up all over the place in the coming weeks. This spring-time hobby is not only healthy and environmentally friendly, but it offers us a handy metaphor with which to talk about our favourite topic here; social media management.

Growing a garden is a lot like managing a Twitter account, a Facebook page or any other type of social media platform for an association or small business. So get your green thumbs ready because we’re about to dig up the similarities between the two activities.

Preparing Your Garden

Every good gardener knows that you can’t just throw a few seeds into a pile of soil and hope for the best. You must plan your garden and build it so that your seeds flourish. You have to find a spot with access to sunlight and good soil. You have to research the kind of vegetables or flowers you are going to grow in order to determine if they are suited to the climate and also how much care they need. You need to add fertilizer and perhaps fences. We can go on and on, but you get the idea.

Managing a social media account also starts with some good planning. You need to find the right platform to be on. Just as plants need sunlight to grow, your social media content needs an audience to grow. Pick the platform where your members/customers are, or, in other words, make sure the climate is suited to the type of goals you want to accomplish online. You need to plan what content you’re going to post and how often. You need to plan the layout of the account and who your target audience is. Needless to say, there is a lot of groundwork to do before you even start on social media.

Planting the Seeds

The next step in a successful garden is planting the seeds. Without dropping those tiny pieces of plant into the ground, your planning is all for naught. Again, you can’t just drop the seeds willy-nilly into the ground. Many plants have a specific depth you need to plant them at and the package of seeds often tells you how much space to leave in between seeds. Following these guidelines is important to growing a successful garden.

The seeds of social media strategy is the content you publish and you have to treat it much the same way you treat the beginnings of your garden. People interact differently on every platform, which means the way you create and publish your content has to be different as well. Tailor your style and voice to different platforms and research the frequency with which to post content. Remember, without posting good, quality content, your social media strategy cannot grow and produce results. Make sure you don’t “plant” your content haphazardly.

Watering Your Garden

Everyone knows that plants need water to survive. A plant without water wilts and droops and has a sickly grey colour to its leaves. We all know this, we all know the importance of water to gardening, but sometimes we get caught up in a busy schedule or simply get lazy and don’t water the garden, hoping instead that Mother Nature does the chore for us with rainstorms. This is a recipe for disaster.

Social media accounts need their own version of frequent watering. Not only do you need to be posting fresh content on a regular basis, but you also have to continually be looking for new ways to engage your audience and grow your following. Cover new topics or try new ways to tackle old topics. Add visuals and create contests. Always be on the look out for individuals you should be connecting with or communities you could be interacting with. This way, you will always be providing something refreshing to your audience, like a nice, big glass of water on a hot day.

Picking the Weeds

No one likes picking weeds. It’s back-breaking work and it’s time-consuming. But it’s absolutely necessary to have a great garden. Weeds steal the nutrients from the plants you actually want to have in your garden, stunting the growth of your vegetables or flowers. They also don’t look like the most aesthetically pleasing part of your garden, so you grit your teeth and get to work picking them out, which is why you’re such a great gardener.

Your social media accounts can also have undesirable elements ready to sprout up and threaten to dismantle your hard-won progress. Negative comments and criticism is inevitable on social media. You can’t please every body and some of those unhappy people will make their opinion known online. You need to deal with these situations immediately and in the right way. Picking out the “weeds” from your social media account is crucial because, if left unattended, the negative feelings and your practice of ignoring those feelings could have a big impact on your most loyal of followers. So pay attention to any negative comments and don’t let them attack your goals.

Staying Patient

Gardens don’t grow overnight. As much as we all want to put the seeds in the ground, sprinkle a little water on top, go to bed and wake up to find a field of ripe tomatoes waiting for us, it just doesn’t happen that way. All gardeners have to stay patient and put in the time and effort over several months to see the results.

Patience is also a virtue in the world of social media management. You (or your boss) might expect to see immediate results after starting up a social media account for your organization. You might want to tweet a few times, go to bed and wake up to find 1,000 people have followed your account. Sadly, it doesn’t work this way, unless you’re a multi-million dollar company or a movie star. You have to put the time and effort into your social media strategy to offer consistently valuable content to your audience. Trust us, if you mix hard work, creativity and time together, you will see results somewhere down the road.

Harvesting Your Crops

Here’s everyone’s favourite part of gardening; harvesting your crops. Whether it’s picking tomatoes you’ve grown yourself for a salad or arranging some flowers from your backyard for a friend, it’s a rewarding experience. Everything looks or tastes better when it’s the result of your own hard work and time. Harvesting your crops also offers a few lessons for the future. You can determine if you should have let your plants grow more or even if you should grow cucumbers instead of tomatoes next year.

Harvesting the results of your social media efforts can also be rewarding and a good way to plan the future of your organization’s online strategy. The first step is to collect the data. Reading and understanding the results of your efforts on any platform is the first step in knowing if you have been successful in achieving your goals. The next step in “harvesting” your social media results is analyzing what worked and what didn’t work throughout the process. For example, if the data tells you that your tweets before 10 am on a weekday received 34% fewer interactions than tweets after 10 am on a weekday, you can adjust your strategy to post more content at a time when it will bring a bigger return on investment.