3 Ways To Use Social Media To Prove Networking Really Is A Benefit At Your Association

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!

We Broke The 80/20 Rule On Twitter And Here’s What Happened

A few months ago, we posted a blog about the 80/20 rule on social media. While we won’t go into depth explaining the philosophy again, here’s a little summary; the 80/20 rule of social media stipulates that 80% of the time, brands should share content from other sources in their posts and the other 20% of the time, brands should create and share original content.

This rule is an effective way for most organizations, from associations to small businesses, to plan their content, engage audiences, connect with key influencers, build their following and drive traffic to their accounts and website.

While this method has been proven successful many times over, it’s difficult to highlight the contrast in results between one thing and another without giving equal looks at each side of the argument. So, we did a little experiment.

Breaking The Rules

We decided to go the opposite direction of the 80/20 rule and tweet Incline Marketing content almost exclusively for two weeks. To be exact, out of 22 tweets between May 9 and May 23, 14 of them were contained content created by and branded for Incline Marketing. This resulted in a 65/35 ratio between Incline content and shared content.

We analyzed the engagement data from this period and compared it to the data from the two weeks previous to the test weeks. The previous two weeks, wherein we conformed to a slightly modified 80/20 rule, yielded 31 tweets, where 40% of tweets contained Incline created and/or branded content and 60% did not. After analyzing the data and comparing the two weeks, here is what we found.

The Results

The first statistic we examined was impressions or the total reach of our tweets. The pre-experiment tweets (hereafter referred to as the Normal Results or Normal Tweets) generated 237 impressions per tweet (7,360 in total), while the experiment tweets (hereafter referred to as the Experiment Results or Experiment Tweets) generated only 178 impressions per tweet (3,832 in total). This is a 25% drop in reach, which is fairly steep and can affect your organizations marketing efforts and bottom line. To look into why exactly this happened, the next thing we did was analyze the engagement results.

When we put the engagement results under the microscope, specifically the number of likes, retweets and mentions, we found that the Experiment Tweets outperformed the Normal Tweets by 34%. However, upon a closer review, the Normal Tweets outpaced the Experiment Tweets by 24% when it came to the number of times someone shared our tweets/content through a retweet or a link in a post.

The discrepancy in these results can be explained by the large number of favourites received by the Experiment Tweets compared to the Normal Tweets (the Experiment Tweets were liked at a rate if 128% higher than the Normal Tweets). While the Incline content provided during the experiment was valued by Twitter users, as evidenced by the likes, it was not shared and thus, its reach remained limited. Because the Incline Twitter account shared a larger quantity of other accounts’ content during the pre-experiment period, these tweets were shared by the original creators of the content. Furthermore, these original creators were more likely to share Incline content to return the favour. All this resulted in a higher reach and more quality engagement during the pre-experiment phase.

Another stark difference between the Normal Results and the Experiment Results was seen in the account’s audience acquisition statistics. During the period of Normal Tweets, the Incline account gained 8 followers. During the period of Experiment Tweets, the account actually lost 3 followers. The 11 follower swing could not only help account for the slide in account’s reach, but is also a dangerous indicator of the account’s value in the eyes of valuable demographics and key influencers. The reason for this drop; no one likes to talk to someone who only talks about themselves, which is exactly what we were doing during the Experiment period. People most likely got fed up with the constant self promotion and left.

It wasn’t all bad news for the Experiment Results. When we looked at website traffic for the Normal and Experiment period, we found that more people visited the Incline Marketing website during the Experiment period than the Normal period, both in terms of total visits (186 vs. 166 visits) and visits via Twitter (0.68 visits/tweet vs. 0.65 visits/tweet). Furthermore, the conversion rate between impression and website visits was significantly higher for the Experiment Tweets than the Normal Tweets (3.9% vs. 2.7%). The shear amount of avenues we were providing between Twitter and our website worked to increase the flow of traffic to the site and open the door for key influencers to explore what we have to offer.

Key Takeaways

  • Breaking the 80/20 rule resulted in a smaller reach, a reduction in the account’s audience and fewer high-quality engagements
  • However, breaking the 80/20 also led to more engagement in general and more traffic to the website.
  • In conclusion, if web traffic is your main goal, try living on the dangerous side and flip that 80/20 rule on its head. If you want to build an audience, have high-quality engagement while still driving some traffic to your site, stick with the 80/20 rule or some version of that method.

4 Reasons Blogging Is Still Something Associations Should Do

The golden age of blogging has long-since passed, but doesn’t mean blogs have totally lost their usefulness. Content is still what drives everything from social media engagement to education and purchasing decision in the online world. Blogs not only give associations a chance to create this content, but to produce quality content that helps achieve an organization’s goals. Here are four reasons why associations, as well as other organizations like small businesses, should maintain a blog in this day and age.

SEO

Search engine optimization allows your organization to be found easily on Google searches, which means more people see your website, your brand and your value. This is one of the first steps in gaining more members/customers. One of the main ways that Google decides who gets top billing on its searches is the amount of fresh, keyword-focused content that appears on the site (along with factors like mobile compatibility and Google AdWords). A blog is a fantastic way to frequently create new content/links for your site while incorporating more and more keywords. Pairing a well-maintained blog with other SEO strategies will, over time, prove very valuable to your organization or company and give you a leg-up over the competition or the alternative.

Specialized Information

One survey of thousands of association members from 2014 found that access to specialized information ranked second (after networking opportunities) as the most valuable element associations provide to members. Associations are in a unique position to be aware of the latest industry news, trends, experts, issues and developments. Most associations are excellent at providing this specialized information through publications, but blogs are a great way to go that extra mile and provide even more information for an increased value proposition for members. Writing blog posts about the issues that matter to your association’s members and industry will capture the attention, the engagement and the investment of its target market and will strengthen your organization’s overall performance and image.

Traffic

Take a moment and think of all the elements of your website that your want members and potential members to see. There are probably pages detailing member benefits, member registration, event registration, event descriptions, contact information, strategic plans and several other areas that are helpful to both the member and your association’s bottom line. However, if people never visit your site, there’s little value in these pages, which makes website traffic immensely valuable. Blogs can generate a substantial increase in website traffic. Creating a blog with content that’s relevant to your audience and spreading it to Twitter, Facebook and other platforms gives your audience a reason and a pathway to visit your site. Once there, they can explore (or be subtly directed elsewhere by you) and find value in your website, which is a win/win for your organization and its members.

The Freemium Model

The Freemium model is based on a two-tiered approach to selling content, products and services. The first tier consists of free items, such as a free one-hour webinar, that aim to introduce your target audience to your organization and its value. The second tier consists of more comprehensive, valuable and exclusive content, products or services, such as a full-day workshop, that can only be accessed with payment. The logic is that once your association proves its value, people will be more likely to invest in membership, or at least some of the products and services it provides, such as a conference.

Blogs can be a big part of an association’s successful adoption of a Freemium model. Writing blogs that connect to various association products, services and member benefits can give industry professionals a chance to connect with the association, take some value and see what is possible with full membership. For example, write a blog about resume-building and interview tips for people in your industry and then link to a page about member benefits that have to do with professional development and job cultivation. People get some tips for free and then are more likely to recognize and invest in other benefits.

6 Ways For Association Chapters To Engage Their Members On Social Media

Local chapters of a national association often feel either like second fiddle or an arch-nemesis to their bigger sibling that manages from coast-to-coast. After-all the national entity is the one that gets the biggest budget, the largest headlines and the glitziest events, and thus more attention from members. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

With social media, your local chapter can tap into its membership in a variety of ways. Here are six ways local association chapters can ace their social media game and create a loyal, engaged and active membership in the process.

Talk About Local Members

Association chapters will do well to pay homage to local members who have accomplished great things, are changing the industry in some way or have an interesting story to tell. Not only does this help members stand out easier than it would be on a national stage, it is interesting for chapter members to see what the latest and greatest best practices are in the industry on a more relatable and practice level. Profile members with a blog Q+A, a Facebook post, a Pinterest Hall of Fame board or an Instagram post describing their achievements or noteworthy actions.

Post About Local Issues and News

The members of association chapters will thank them for focusing their social media efforts on conveying news and discussing issues that directly affect a certain geographic area. National associations often focus on national issues, and for good reason, but oftentimes, certain issues, such as new legislation or weather, affects only a certain segment of people, including a chapter’s members. Highlight your chapter’s value to members by being a reliable and insight source for local news that will affect them. Write blog posts about issues, tweet links to news articles and editorials and create YouTube how-to videos to explain the effects and how to manage local situations, such as a new law, that impact members.

Turn National Topics Into Local Ones

Your chapter’s members will definitely be interested in national issues that affect your industry, but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t appreciate that same news with a local flavour. Put national topics, issues and discussions into context for members by explaining their significance and impact on a local level. Create an infographic that can be shared on Twitter and Facebook explaining the local impact of the association’s newest initiative or create a YouTube video of a chapter member experiencing a change and managing that change in their workplace.

Cover Local Events And Initiatives

It’s difficult for national associations to attend and cover events all over the country on social media, but doing so in your local chapter of the association is much easier due to close geographical proximity. Cover local events, such as events hosted by members, conferences, workshops and networking days, keeps your members in the know about the opportunities that exist, add variety to your content and lets your members know you will always be there to support them and promote their efforts. Live-tweet an event, cover it live on Instagram, make a highlights video on YouTube or create Facebook albums.

Go Local With Your Gamification

Gamification is a great way to engage your chapter’s members on social media and it will be an even valuable tool when you incorporate some local flavour into the mix. Gamification encourages members to not only view your content, but to also interact with the content in a meaningful way. For example, pick a page of your website to highlight (such as an event page or member benefits page), break the page into little sections or ‘puzzle pieces’ and post pictures of these puzzle pieces on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram. The first member who guesses the correct page gets a prize. This drives traffic to your chapter’s site, familiarizes your members with your value and gets members thinking about the impact of their local chapter.

Start Conversations With Other Chapters

Everything is a lot easier when you’re working together with others, which is why it’s critical for local chapters to start conversations with other chapters on social media. When your chapter does this, it will have a built-in start to that much-desires path from content creation to an engaged audience. The other chapter(s) can discuss a certain piece of content or you can share the content back and forth or even collaborate on content in order to reach a broader audience, generate engagement and highlight value to your members. Have a joint Twitter chat, share articles and blog posts between each other on Facebook or start a friendly competition on Instagram or any other platform.