Almost every association that exists prides itself on its ability to provide quality networking opportunities to members. They trumpet this benefit whenever they can and use this line about networking to recruit members, boost event registration and get buy-in from young professionals.
This focus on networking is done for very good reasons. According to a 2014 report by Wild Apricot, networking was the number one reason members joined associations. For their part, associations seem to be listening to the needs of their members because that same report indicated that “networking events” were the second most prevalent program/service that associations provide (a close second to member education and professional development).
With all this hullabaloo about networking, the association industry’s excellence at it and members’ insistence it be a main benefit of joining an organization, it seems like associations would have definitive and in-depth proof that being a member actually leads to more networking opportunities and that these opportunities lead to a better career.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that associations dole out vague claims about their networking superiority such as “This networking event gives you the chance to connect with over 500 industry professionals!” or “Our association coordinates more than eight networking nights a years for members!”
It’s time associations work to back up these networking claims so when a potential member says “Oh ya, prove it!” to your claims, you really can prove it. Here’s how social media can help you on this quest.
Tell A Story
There is no better way to illustrate the impact of your association’s networking efforts than to personalize it and make it relatable. The way to accomplish this is to tell a story and social media is the perfect medium to do so.
One way to tell a story about a networking success is to find two members who met during a networking opportunity hosted by the association and who became friends, partners or mentor/mentee. Interview these two members and write a blog post about it or create a YouTube video. You can even make it a running series that showcases several sets of members who have benefited from your association’s networking prowess. These stories take your claims from vague possibilities to concrete realities and are more engaging than brochure-like slogans.
Craft An Experience
It’s a constant refrain on business blogs and at association conferences; quality service is not enough anymore, you need to give people an experience. Association’s work hard to make networking opportunities an experience, but it’s time to go a step further and make promoting these opportunities an experience in itself.
Give members a taste of what an association networking event is life by entrusting your social media to a responsible member so they can embark on a live play-by-play of their networking experience. They can take pictures of the environment, the number of people who have gathered and who they met and talked to throughout the event and. They can even share some quotes or nuggets of wisdom from their conversations with the people they networked with. They can post all of this on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or write a blog about it later. This strategy shows people, in real time, what is not only possible, but is actually happening at a networking event and benefits of your association’s efforts.
Make It a Challenge
Everyone likes a little friendly competition, so why not make networking a game of sorts for your members. Gamification is a huge buzzword and its concept is not a passing fad because it’s hardwired into our human brains. Take advantage of this strategy and apply it to social media to illustrate to those watching that your association can lead to a networking win.
One way to gamify networking on social media is to create a contest wherein members post who they met or talked to at an event on social media. For each post about a new person they networked with, they get a chance to win a prize. Keep track of the posts and make it more engaging/fun by coming up with a hashtag for the event, such as #OneFriendIMet. After the competition is all said and done, use these content from the contest to create even more promotional material for your association’s networking benefits. This can include concrete stats about how many people an average person networks with at your events or can even be the foundation for creating a Humans-of-New-York-type Facebook album. The possibilities for extending this content is endless!