3 Common Social Media Problems And What To Do About Them

Social media as a marketing and communications tool is, on the grand scale of things, a relatively new medium. We often forget that even blogs, probably the oldest form of social media, have only been around in the mainstream for about 20 years, which is makes social media as a whole an infant compared to other platforms, such as TV or print.

Because of it’s youth, contributing a chunk of your organization’s resources, whether you’re an association, non-profit or small business, to social media is still seen by some as a risk. With risk comes reward, but also fear. We’ve tackled three common fears that many people have about using social media for their organization and how you can sweep those worries away.

No One Follows Your Organization’s Account

What To Do: Wait. Yep, it’s sometimes as simple as having a little bit more patience. Building a following takes time and while getting a lot of followers or likes or what have you is an important part of any social media marketing effort, it’s more important to pay attention to how well your content is at engaging your target audience. When you make smart connections and provide quality content, the following will, well, follow.

You should also take some action. Follow people with your organization’s account, but not just anyone; people who are influencers in your community or industry and who are likely to follow you back or at least interact with your content. Next, research what areas of the social media arena you should place your content. Much of this has to do with using one or two major hashtags consistently in conjunction with a variety of other hashtags to broaden your reach and appeal to as many people as you can.

Worst Case Scenario: Let’s say you do everything we mentioned above, waited a few months, connected with key people and put your content in all the right place, but your following still remains much lower than you hoped. This is the worst case.

In this scenario, there are two things you can do. The first is to retool your goals and strategy. If your account doesn’t have a lot of followers, but sees a lot of interaction and engagement, keep it up anyway and focus more on driving traffic to your website and producing really great content. If your account isn’t meeting its goals in any way, shape or form, the other option is to shut it down. Don’t consider it a failure or a sign not to try other types of social media. See it as feedback from your members, customers or target audience that say you should focus on other areas. Take the resources you spent on that one account and throw it behind another social media venture or to enhance another, more successful platform.

A Negative Comment Is Posted and Seen By All

What To Do: This is the one that’s probably been asked of us the most; what happens when a customer, member, client, etc posts a negative comment to your account and is seen by the world? Well, in a perfect world no one would have any criticism about your organization, but this isn’t a perfect world; you can’t please everyone and someone could speak out about their bad experience or perception of your organization.

The key to jumping over this hurdle is to see it as a chance to grow make a good impression on your audience. First, approach the critic politely and professionally. Try as hard as you can to rectify the problem and provide great customer service. Use the criticism as a jumping off point for a discussion. When people see your level of respect, your desire to get things right and the possibility that their voices will be heard and acted upon, it reflects very positively on your organization and improves everyone’s perception of you moving forward.

Worst Case Scenario: The ultimate worst case scenario around this issue would be if a massive backlash happened against your organization online around a decision, initiative, event or comment. To be quite honest, if this happens, you have bigger problems than what it happening with your social media. If this is the scenario, it means your organization has made a massive mistake and must use all platforms available to rectify it and gain back the trust of your audience. This isn’t the time to abandon social media. Use it as a valuable way to reach out to people, target a solution and communicate to your following that the solution or solutions are being enacted and are working to solve the problem.

The Time Put In Doesn’t Match the Return

What To Do: This fear has to do with the ever-elusive return on investment involved in managing social media for your organization. There is little truth in the idea that determining social media ROI is a fool’s errand. We’ve covered this in detail in many blog posts (like this one and this one), but we understand that the bottom line is of the utmost importance for any organization, whether it’s for-profit or non-profit and thus this is a legitimate fear. However, this one way we’ve found most successful in solving the problem of too many resources going out and not enough coming back your way.

The most common work-around for this issue is to reframe your thinking. Again, we’ve covered the ways in which you can view social media ROI in previous blog posts, but the gist of all those posts is this; social media is rarely going to bring money through the door directly. Therefore, you need to see it first a funnel linking your audience to potential revenue streams and then as a way to continually engage those audience members once you’ve caught them once. When this is your goal, you can measure social media ROI much better and will probably see that your resources are being well used.

Worst Case Scenario: If you’ve reframed your thinking/goals and worked on a strategy based on your new targets, but still are seeing an imbalance in the ROI column, you’ve arrived at the worst case scenario. This is a situation in which all the work, money, time and energy you’ve put in is yielding few to no results. There are a couple ways to go about turning the tide of this losing battle.

The first is to be smarter with your resources. Measures like creating an editorial calendar, crowdsourcing content or scheduling posts are all ways to cut back on your resources spent while seeing the same or, in many cases, better results. The second way to take on the challenge is to pair your social media efforts with more traditional methods of marketing. For example, advertise your online efforts on business cards, email signatures, magazine covers, brochures, vehicles and any other place you can think of. Put some time and effort in generating word of mouth around your social media channels. Once you have expanded your reach, the audience and interaction will slowly but surely pick up and your quality content can take it from there.

4 Ways Associations Can Promote Their Magazines On Social Media

Associations and magazines are almost inseparable. The vast majority of membership organizations produce and distribute monthly, quarterly or bi-annual publications with articles, updates, editorials, profiles and other content in order to educate and engage their audience. The history of many magazines stretch back decades and, in some cases, more than a century.

However, the humble, but powerful trade magazine has encountered a huge identity crisis over the last two decades as digital age has evolved. Google, social media and free information has led to less interest and less value in trade magazines, meaning fewer ad sales and messy bottom lines for some organizations.

This is isn’t a eulogy to association magazines, but rather a call to adapt. By harnessing the power of digital instead of fighting against it, these publications can once again stand tall in the eyes of members. Here are four ways associations can promote their magazines on social media to increase reach and viewership in order to prove to advertisers and board members that publications are a valuable tool for success.

Video Follow Up Discussions

An article in your association’s magazine doesn’t need to be the end of the road for that topic. After all, most articles are limited by space and have the views of usually only a handful (or less) of people. Don’t get us wrong, the magazine’s articles are no doubt comprehensive, engaging and well-written, but often times people have questions or there are other views or details that can be added to the issue addressed in the publication.

This is when videos come in very handy. After the magazine has been released, pick one to three articles and do a follow up video as a companion piece to the original article. Do an interview with the author or subject of the article or bring together an expert panel to talk about an issue addressed by the original article and film the discussion. If the article is a profile of a member or a company, visit them and do a day-in-the-life video. Put the videos on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and any other platform your association uses along with links to the article, information about the magazine and a prompt to contribute to the discussion in order to drive traffic and increase the exposure of the magazine.

Polls And Quotes On Twitter

Let’s be honest, when your members are browsing the paper or online version of your magazine, they often look at the headlines and maybe the first couple sentences before deciding if it’s worth a read or not. Most of the time, it’s not worth the read and the reader keeps flipping through the publication, missing engaging content and dealing damage to key performance metrics that advertisers pay attention to.

Twitter is a great way to give your association’s readers a second chance to discover the quality content lurking inside its magazine. The platform is a key way to improve on that misleading and unimpressive first impression your members may have of articles. For example, post a poll on Twitter related to one of the articles in the magazine, along with a link to that article. A poll will generate interest and discussion while giving a brief and interesting synopsis of the article, which increases interest and readership. Another tactic is to post an interesting quote or snippet from the article as a tweet along with a link to the article. Readers may have missed the intriguing bit of the article and be convinced to give it another chance.

Facebook Albums

Many recipients of association magazines open up their publications to see waves and waves of text starring back at them. Although those words are of high quality and often accompanied by pictures, they usually don’t jump off the page and grab the reader and can often overwhelm people. When they become overwhelmed, readers often shut down and give up on an article and the whole magazine.

This is why emphasizing the publication’s images on social media can do wonders to readership levels. As the saying goes, pictures can say 1,000 words. They can also convince your members to read 1,000 words or more. Create a Facebook album on your association’s page for each issue of the magazine that comes out. Represent each article or section of the magazine with a solid, well-planned photo that tells the story in an image. In the description/caption, include a short synopsis, summary, snippet or headline and a link to the article. An image will draw people in and pique their interest much more often then a flashy headline or an insistence to do so. It will also allow readers to browse the contents of the magazine much easier, giving them an incentive to check in and read up.

Instagram Contests and Activities

Associations can sometimes go months without releasing another issue of their magazine, which means that they are out of sight and out of mind for members. This results in a rocky relationship with the publication and creates the risk that its relevance will disappear among members.

That’s where a good Instagram contest or activity can save the day. For example, you can have a contest for each issue asking members to submit a photo. The best one can grace the cover of the next issue of the magazine and can be entered to win a Best Cover prize at the end of the year, as voted on by members (once again, via Instagram). Another idea is to post an industry-focused problem or a photo on Instagram and ask members to submit an answer to the query or a funny caption for the photo. These submissions can then be put in a special Member Section or Social Media Section in the next issue of the magazine. Not only will members race to see if their submission is put in the magazine, but it will also create a chance for fun content and will keep the magazine top of mind during the interim periods between issues.

How Associations Can Make The Social Media Experience More Personalized For Members

This is the second part in a two-part series about personalization and customization in social media

There is no doubt that we are in the age of personalization. Everything from the way our phones are set up to our workout regimens are easily customizable to fit our needs and wants. As we discussed in last week’s post, making the customer experience more personal often leads to huge success (Exhibit A; Netflix), which why the concept is perforating wildly throughout our day to day lives.

The question therefore becomes; how can associations take this model and apply it to the member experience? Here are three ways organizations can make their social media more personalized for members and boost their value in the process:

Categorize Your Blogs

If your association writes a frequent blog or if you’re thinking of creating a space on your website for a blog, this tip is for you. Instead of having one page where your blog resides, split your space into several different categories depending on the broader issues covered by your posts. For example, have one link where members can find all your content about being a young professional, one link for content about senior management and a third link for content about financial management.

This saves members or website visitors from having to use a search function, click on keyword cluster or, even more cumbersome, scrolling through a giant list of blog posts to find one they are interested in. Members will see it as quick, easy and reliable. Once you have this system going for a few months, analyze the traffic going to each blog post and category of content in order to customize your efforts even further. For example, if a lot of people are clicking on the environmental and budgeting categories of your blog content, write more posts that fall into both categories.

Work Various Hashtags

If your association has a decent following on Twitter or Instagram, this suggestion is for you. Hashtags work much the same way splitting your blog posts into categories does; it segments your tweets depending on the subject matter. Start tagging your tweets or Instagram posts with different hashtags according to the material you are tweeting and that is specific to your association. Members will begin to recognize the different hashtags and after a while you have created specific feeds that cater to the interests of certain members.

For example, if your association was the Social Media Association of Canada, you might tweet with three hashtags: #SMACethics, #SMACnews and #SMACmoney. This way, members of the association can log into Twitter, type in one of the hashtags they’ve become accustomed to and find the tweets that are most relevant and most interesting to them. You can even have members recommend or vote on new hashtags to add to your list so that you can personalize the Twitter or Instagram streams even further.

Create Segmented Albums on Facebook  

If you’re part of an association with a lot of content in the form of images, this one is for you. Create separate albums on Facebook, each named after the subject matter in the content. Place the subject matter relevant to each album in the albums and members will be able to pinpoint a specific place to find exactly what they are looking for in the moment. This even works if you make your other content, like short blog posts, news items or tweets, into images with links in the description.

For example, create an album solely for conference-related material, which can include infographs on value, a short blog on getting your employer to let you go, the schedule of the education sessions and a tweet with a link to the conference registration site. Put all these images into the album and even give it a hashtag. This way, members will know exactly where to go to get aggregated content about the conference and only the conference. They can then easily switch between that album and one about environmental sustainability in the industry to learn about that topic.

What Netflix Can Teach Associations About A Successful Social Media Strategy

This is the first part in a two-part series about personalization and customization in social media

Almost every conversation these days includes a mention of Netflix, whether it’s your friend asking if you’ve seen the latest original show or discussing with your partner which movie you’re going to watch on a Thursday night.

There’s no doubt Netflix has been mammothly successful in pervading popular culture and one of the big reasons for that success is the user’s ability to customize. Subscribers have a chance to add shows and movies that they are interested in to their view-later list, rate the offerings how they see fit and search for the media they want to see. Ultimately, Netflix takes this all into account, all the interests and rating and personal preferences, and generates a set of shows and movies that fit best with the individual subscriber’s tastes.

This level of customization and personalization accomplishes several goals. First, it creates ease of use. Subscribers don’t need to go too far to find something they will enjoy. Second, it is extremely helpful. The suggested offerings often uncover shows or movies that fit the subscriber’s preferences, but ones that the user might not come across otherwise. And third, it creates a sense of being valued. Netflix customers feel like their individual needs and wants are being catered to, which creates a better overall experience and makes the user feel special.

Associations can learn a thing or two about social media strategy from Netflix’s popularity and its successful pursuit of customizing the user experience. It starts with the similarities between Netflix and associations. Both operate on the same basic model of membership and both aim to cater to individuals with distinct preferences and aims that reside within a larger group.

Data is the key ingredient that makes Netflix’s famous recipe work. It takes reams of data about how individual users interact with the site’s offerings and tweaks it approach based on the results. For example, if a certain subscriber watches mostly comedies with female leads that are less than two hours long, this is the exact type of movie that will end up in the “Recommended For You” list for that user. More generally, if searches and views show that a large percentage of subscribers are interested in satirical documentaries, it might make sense for Netflix to produce a string of similarly-focused docs.

Associations must learn to use data in much the same way when building and improving a social media strategy. Some of your association’s tweets, Facebook posts, blog topics, Instagram pictures, etc, do better than others. While it may seem random from day to day, week to week or even month to month, it’s important to view patterns of engagement within a large sample size.

For example, view the data around all your association’s tweets in the last three months (Twitter Analytics is a great tool for this, by the way). Determine which ones performed the best in terms of total interactions, traffic to the association website, impressions, etc. Then, analyze all elements of these successful tweets such keywords used, length of tweet, time posted, hashtags used, the presence of media and other such factors. When you begin to chart the commonalities between all the tweets, you will probably begin to see a trend emerging. These trends are what your target audience responds to most frequently and thus finds more valuable. Once you are able to know what your followers find valuable, you can use this to elevate your content.

Let’s take this example further to illustrate the point. After reviewing your association’s tweets for the last quarter, you find 50 with engagement stats that are at least 25% above average. Of these 50 well-performing tweets, a majority of them use the same two or three keywords, contain a link to the organization’s website, use the same hashtag and are posted between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. You can conclude from this that your followers/members will get the most value if your association tweets using these parameters. In this way, you are customizing your offerings based on the preferences of your target audience in order to maximize their experience and draw them back again and again.

As our world moves further toward total customization and personalization every day, associations must mimic this approach in order to hold on to the members they have and entice the ones they don’t. Social media, with its endless stacks of data and everyday use, is the perfect place to start applying the concepts of personalization and customization in order to deliver more value and boost loyalty. By meeting members where they are, you will enhance the user experience and draw more engagement, more traffic and more feedback than ever before.

Stay tuned for the second part of this series next week where we will look at specific ways associations can create a customized and personalized experience for members through social media.

3 Oft-Forgotten Elements That Are Crucial For A Successful Social Media Post

Forgetfulness is a part of life. Just try to count the number of times you’ve misplaced your cell phone or car keys and you’ll probably immediately think of a dozen or more instances.

Social media managers are not spared this blanking. Sometimes you can get into quite the groove with your content creation and forget some of the most integral parts of a successful and effective post. We’re here to help remind you of what made your posts great and how to recapture this magic with these three tips:

A Link

Links drive traffic, traffic drives engagement, engagement drives participation and participation drives revenue. While it may not be this extremely simple, the basic formula still holds true for many associations, small businesses and other organizations; if you can get people from one piece of good content (your social media post) to another piece of good content (your website), they are more likely to read your blog post, hear your message, browse your products/services and use that online registration/purchase tool.

However, many people forget to add a link to the specific content they are referring to on social media. Instead, they will tell their audience that registration is open for the association’s next conference or that there is a deal on the business’s new product, but fail to provide a path for the viewer to explore these offers further in the form of a link. Next time, make it easy for people to invest their time/money/energy in your organization and add a link.

A Call To Action

Most people like to be told what direction they should be going, which is why a call to action is an important part of any successful social media post, especially for associations and other non-profits. Your audience is undoubtedly smart and capable, but it probably made up of busy individuals with other priorities. Because of this, your audience members often won’t go through the extra step of investigating what to do next if you post about an initiative, event, service or other program your organization is promoting.

When you provide a call to action, a specific way for viewers to get involved and participate in your organization’s initiative, through social media, people are much more likely to follow through as their actions are clearly mapped out. Crafting a call to action can be as simple as tweeting about a letter-writing advocacy campaign from your association’s Twitter account and attaching a sample letter as an image. You are asking your members to write a letter (the call) and providing a clear way to achieve this objective (the action).

A Hook

So much content, so little time; it’s a phrase often muttered, in some form or another, by people every day. The social media world is saturated with updates, articles, advice and posts of all kinds. That’s why your organization’s content needs a hook, something that makes clear that your post is uniquely valuable and relevant to the target audience you want to reach. Too many organizations miss this and simply rely on their audience to trust that the content is up to snuff or that it will impact them in one way or another. But this is not enough.

Instead, your social media posts should be constructed with a hook in mind. Think about what your target audience values, what they want, what they need and what will propel them forward in life. Use these ideas to appeal to them and compel them to take action. For example, don’t just tell your association’s members in a Facebook post that your conference provides hours of great education; instead, tell them that the education sessions will give them access to over a dozen of the industry’s top professions with a unique chance to pick their brains. This is a reason to attend the conference that many people won’t be able to pass up!