Here’s How We Think Associations Are Going To Use Social Media In 2016

We counted down our top 10 posts of 2015 last week, so it’s only fitting that this week we look to the future and make some predictions about what the major trends in social media are going to be for associations in 2016. So sit back and relax while we try to push you ahead of the curve.

Social Will Be A Bigger Part Of Events

Events are becoming a larger portion of revenue for many associations as due structures change and the role of organizations evolve. However, members and people in just about every industry are craving something more than the regular, old annual convention. They want new formats, engaging sessions and increased value in every area of conferences. There is a definite demand for something fresh and social media is the most likely tool to supply attendees.

More associations will put a greater emphasis on their social media strategy when planning events in 2016. Not only will they up their efforts in tweeting, posting to Facebook and creating other online content, they will come up with new ways to utilize the quick, accessible and inexpensive platforms. Social media walls, gamification, contests and sessions conducted over social media (Twitter chats, periscope-streamed conferences, etc) will all be part of this revolution. Lastly, associations will pay more attention to measuring the effect of social media on registration and attendance at events in 2016. Not only will this include tracking the traffic to conference websites and the conversions that follow, but it will also constitute a huge shift in the way associations pitch the value of sponsorship to prospective supporters.

Video Will Continue To Gain Momentum

Whether it was the addition of longer video to Twitter or video-streaming platform like Periscope and Meerkat bursting onto the scene, 2015 saw a boost in video’s potential on social media. In 2016, this potential will be fully recognized. Video can now be done cheap, easy and is very inviting to not just the younger generation, but every demographic. Video will become more popular with associations, especially as they attempt to be more engaging and become more accessible and open with their content.

Videos will become the new blog for associations in the next 12 months. Instead of, or supplemental to, blogs, organizations will create videos that address the issues that matter most to members and use this content to promote their value. Associations will utilize YouTube channels much more to discuss new legislation, best practices, how to maximize membership, quarterly updates and other subjects with members. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook will all have use for associations as platforms to share smaller videos with the aim of driving traffic to the organizations’ websites. Periscope and Meerkat will also be integral parts of conferences, webinars, chats, and smaller educational and networking events as associations reconcile increased openness with the long-term benefits of growing their exposure.

Promoted/Sponsored Content Will Become Big

Promoted and sponsored content on social media is nothing new to most marketers and companies. The act of paying to increase the reach of their message or getting paid to post about content created by a third-party is one of the new norms in the business world. Not only do promoted posts get your organization front and centre in a day and age where algorithms are making it more difficult to get noticed on social media otherwise, but sponsored content provides a boost in revenue that makes paying for ads possible.

Associations will finally jump on the promoted/sponsored content bandwagon in 2016. Paid social media campaigns are easily out together and are scalable to the amount of money organizations want to spend, making it perfect for associations who have small budgets but want to dip their toe in the water of maximizing their marketing dollars. Sponsored content is the next no-brainer for associations. They are already relying on sponsors for event money and magazine and website ads; it makes complete sense to give companies a platform to create content and pay to have that content, such as a blog post or video, posted to the association’s communications outlets. Although organizations have to be very careful about how much they do this, it can offer sponsors added value and bring in much needed non-dues revenue for the association.

Year in Review: Our Top Social Media Posts for Association Professionals in 2015

Year-in-review lists are pop up all over the place at this time of year and we thought we’d jump in on the fun. Here are our top 10 posts about social media, associations and big data.

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

The Post In One Minute: Creating the right culture at and around your association is important to growing membership, retaining the members you have, fostering trust and encouraging innovation. Social media can help your organization create a culture of knowledge by connecting people in the industry with information from the association or other sources. It can also create a culture of customer service and community by connecting members with quick answers to questions and by sparking conversation between colleagues. Finally, it creates a culture of excellence by making it easier to recognize members for their accomplishments and highlight the association’s role in their success.

The Post In One Sentence: “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.”

5 Ways to Integrate Social Media into your Association’s Next Membership Drive

The Post In One Minute: Membership drives are important as this is the time when most associations put the bulk of their resources into recruiting and retaining members for the upcoming year. Integrating social media into this process requires associations to break down their target audience by need/want and tailor their social media content to those necessities. The article outlines five different member segments; the long-time member, the lapsed member, the never-been-a-member member, the new-to-the-industry member and the business member. The piece explored the different perspective of each group and how to use social media content to connect with them on their level to highlight the association’s value.

The Post In One Sentence: “It’s vital that organizations think about their different audiences when it comes time for a membership drive and tailor their communications to each segment.”

Grading Your Organization’s Social Media Efforts: The 5 Cs of Success

The Post In One Minute: Analysis is a constant in life. Just like you have to frequently check your mirrors and blind spot while driving, it’s crucial to keep yourself updated on the success (or lack thereof) of your association’s social media accounts. This article outlined the five Cs by which you can start to grade your social media efforts. Consistency (how often you post) was first, followed by creativity (how original and engaging is your content). Completeness (the degree of detail in your account’s design and layout) came next and then calculation (how often you measure your goals and progress towards them). The last C we covered was crowd (who your audience is made of and how many are in your target demographics).

The Post In One Sentence: “Whether you’re a veteran or a relative newcomer to any (social media) platform, grading yourself on strategy and results is crucial to growing, improving and benefiting your organization as a whole.”

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

The Post In One Minute: Yes, we know, you’ve heard the term ‘Millennial’ so many times, it’s starting to lose meaning. But recruiting this younger demographic is important to the sustainability of your association. Surveys say that Millennials value education, networking and access to professional articles, publications and best practices above all else. The bottom line is, Millennials love information. Social media is a great way to connect this younger generation with the information they crave. When your association is doing the connecting, it becomes valuable to these young potential members, making it likely that they see long-term value in your organization.

The Post In One Sentence: “Once (Millennials) 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.”

5 Places To Find The Best Content For Your Social Media Accounts

The Post In One Minute: Rooting around on the internet for social media content can be quite a chore for the busy association professional. We tried to help a little by uncovering five places where great content might be hiding. The first resource was hashtags, which help you connect to the content your audience finds most valuable. The next was the other offline communication channels your association puts out, like magazine and newsletters. The article also pointed out that your association can take trending topics or the latest news story and find an angle that is relevant to its members. Your association can also ask its staff or board members for any interesting tidbits they might know about. Lastly, the article says to not be afraid to create your own content. Make a video, write a blog or create an infographic and then share it all over the place.

The Post In One Sentence: “There’s a common phrase used to explain a basic principle of social media that says content is king; however, the platitude doesn’t mean a whole lot if the throne is empty.”

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

The Post In One Minute: Gamification is an oft-used buzzword these days, but the concept of using games to engage people in an initiative is a long standing one. Including elements of gamification your association’s social media efforts can have a profound affect on the involvement of your target audience. The first element you can include is mystery which can be achieved by asking an association-oriented trivia question or initiating an online scavenger hunt. The second element is reward, which can be achieved by starting a social media content (such as nominating topics for a webinar and voting for the best idea) and giving a prize to the winner. The last element was storytelling which can be achieved by following around a first-time attendee at your conference and dedicating Instagram to their experience or even just live-tweeting an event.

The Post In One Sentence: “The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression.”

Four Micro-volunteering Opportunities For Association Members On Social Media

The Post In One Minute: Micro-volunteering is all the rage among associations and their members, especially the younger ones. As work life becomes busier, members aren’t so keen to put more on their plate by volunteering for time-consuming committees or long-term projects. Social media offers a chance to give members an opportunity to do small, manageable tasks that help their professional development and the association at the same time. Members can moderate a Twitter roundtable or Twitter chat, be a “guest-manager” on one of your social media accounts for a day, cover an event through your association’s platforms (live-tweet, live-blog, Instagram, etc) or take part in “social media tag” which means giving a shout out to your association and passing it on.

The Post In One Sentence: “Moderating a Twitter round table is a perfect way to include a senior member in a micro-volunteer position, capitalize on his/her clout among other professionals and add value for members by sharing the expertise of the moderator.”

Three Ways Associations Can Increase Value for Sponsors Through Social Media

The Post In One Minute: Sponsors and the money they bring in are an integral part of an association’s short-term and long-term success. Social media can be a key cog in boosting value for sponsors, making it more attractive for these contributors to keep giving and for new ones to start a partnership with your organization. Your association can highlight the benefits of a sponsored program in a quantifiable way with an infographic, thus attracting more attention to the sponsor. Creating a unique hashtag for a sponsored event or initiative that mentions the sponsor is another great way to continually boost the profile of a sponsor. Lastly, teaming up with a sponsor to do a social media contest is a great way for everyone to win and to broaden the reach of the sponsor’s brand.

The Post In One Sentence: “By telling stories on social media about a sponsor’s contribution, you are giving them more exposure to your association’s members, industry stakeholders and the public, broadening their reach and encouraging others to interact with their brand.”

The 80/20 Rule And Why It’s Crucial For Social Media Success

The Post In One Minute: Here’s how the 80/20 rule on social media goes; 80 per cent of the content you post should not be a direct sales pitch and the other 20 per cent should be a direct pitch. No one wants to hear about how awesome your association is all the time, they want to see why you’re so awesome. The best way to show this value is by providing valuable, engaging content that your target audience is going to want to see every time they come online. Find the content that your members are wanting to see and post it. Once you have their attention, feel free to sneak in a little promotional material from time to time. People will respond better when they know that your organization is not only focused on extracting money out of them, but also providing an great experience they can engage with.

The Post In One Sentence: ” People are more willing to visit your Facebook page, share your tweet or like your Instagram post (thus increasing exposure) if the bulk of content is something that engages them and doesn’t attempt to embark on a one-sided sales pitch.”

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

The Post In One Minute: Marketing General Inc. released a benchmarking report in November detailing the social media efforts of associations. Among the interesting takeaways we pulled from the report were that blogs were being underutilized by organizations (only 26% maintained a blog). Furthermore, associations were relying too heavily on the number of likes, follows, etc., to tell them if they were having online success when they should be looking at other, more significant data, like interactions and impressions. Lastly, we concluded that too few associations were posting properly on Facebook with almost less than a third of organizations posting between one a day and one a week; otherwise known as the Goldilocks Zone (because it’s just the right amount).

The Post In One Sentence: “Measuring the impact of your social media efforts on (likes, follows, etc) 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.”

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 Associations Can Learn About Member Engagement From 3 Popular Facebook Pages

Humans of New York

HONY Blog Post Pic (2)

Why It’s Awesome

The Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page tells the stories of “regular” New Yorkers using photos, quotes and short stories from the lives of the subjects. The page has over 16 million likes and has spawned best-selling books, speaking tours, massive philanthropic projects and more.

Each post tells the story of someone’s life from their perspective. The end product is content that is interesting and easy to relate to. Not only do people engage with the content, they also go a step further, offering words of support or a financial investment in some of the projects HONY is involved in. This is because the stories give the audience a stake in the outcome.

What Associations Can Learn:

The best lesson from the success of HONY’s Facebook page is that stories sell. The next time you want members to have a stake in the outcome, and therefore be more likely to engage and invest emotionally, financially or otherwise, tell a story. Profile a member, do an interview with a staff member, create a video about the associations history or create any other content that shows the value of your organization from an intimate, human perspective. Make numbers into a story or weave a tale around an announcement or press release. Words are transformed into emotion when they come from someone members can relate to.

Downtown Yonge BIA

DTY BIA Blog Post Pic (2)

Why It’s Awesome:

The Downtown Yonge BIA Facebook page promotes businesses in one of the busiest sections of Toronto. The page has over 3,500 likes, allows its audience to rate it (the current rating is 4.6 out of 5) and is constantly updated with content, photos, videos and more. It is the most successful Toronto BIA on Facebook in terms of engagement and page likes. The popularity of the Facebook page can be attributed, in large part, to its successful attempt to cater to both its members and the general public. The page posts about the successes of its members while managing to make it relevant and valuable to the general public. This strategy captures both target demographics and helps the organization thrive

What Associations Can Learn:

The most significant lesson associations can learn from the success of the Downtown Yonge BIA’s Facebook page is that highlighting members while providing practical, career-enhancing information is an effective strategy. As we mentioned in the HONY example, telling your members’ stories is always a great way to go and if they’ve accomplished something awesome, don’t hold back in telling their story and patting them on the back. It is also important to add some practical advice into your recognition of members. Find out how other members can achieve this same level of success or if there is a lesson that can be learned and implemented across the industry. This way, you are not only giving one member an added benefit, but also proving your value to many other important members of your target audience.

Major League Soccer (MLS)

MLS Blog Post Pic (2)

Why It’s Awesome:

The MLS is trying to promote soccer in a country where baseball, basketball, football and hockey are well-established an immensely popular sports. It’s been, for the most part, very successful in growing the game’s profile and the Facebook page is a big reason why. The page has over 1.9 million likes and routinely receives thousands of interactions on each post. The page does a fantastic job of using pictures and video to keep fans up to date and involved in the league’s activities. It posts interviews with players, recaps of games, great photo albums and short updates on games in progress. This all combines to provide a great experience for the audience and keeps them coming back again and again.

What Associations Can Learn:

The best takeaway for associations from MLS’s Facebook success is to create a great experience for its members. Dig under the surface of each piece of content you are posting and give members a VIP look at it. If you are posting an update on lobbying efforts, government relations or a new piece of legislation, create a video, make your trip to the government meetings into an album and post frequent updates. Capture your events on Facebook by posting short videos, daily recap posts and small ‘extras’ like a speaker answering additional questions a prize to the attendee who contributed the most on social media. This experience-driven content will keep members coming back and eager to see what’s next.