How Running An Association’s Social Media Is Like Playing Golf

If you’re like us here at Incline Marketing, spending an afternoon playing a round of golf sounds as ideal as it gets. Not only is fun, challenging and active, but golf can also teach all of us a thing or two about social media marketing, which is always a lesson we’re interesting in hearing. As autumn hits, colder temperatures prevail and golf season comes to end, we’re here to give the game its proper due by drawing some parallels between the sport and an association’s successful social media strategy.

It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint

A round of golf is 18 holes, takes around four hours to play and is made up of an average of 80-100 shots. A golfer’s score is the culmination of each and every shot; your first shot and last shot, your longest and shortest, all count as one on the scorecard. A round of golf is a marathon, where every shot matters and much be carefully studied before taking a swing.

Similarly, social media is more of a metaphorical marathon than a sprint. Consistency counts more than many other factors in creating a successful brand online. It may seem like certain posts are more important than others, but each one adds up over time to create a full picture of who your association is and what it means to its audience. Every piece of content must be studied and constructed just right, with a clear message and with the association’s goals in mind, in order to be successful and lead to an overall great return on investment at the end of the day.

Precision AND Power Count

Drive for show, putt for dough, as the saying goes. While this is a delightful way to illustrate two facets of the game of golf, it’s actually quite true that the best players in the game, amateur or pro, can combine power off the tee and a steady, accurate hand on the putting green. Golf can be a game of long distances and the smallest fraction of an inch, all in a matter of minutes and mastering those dual considerations is key to victory.

Social media is also often about precision and power all at once. Associations need to pack a punch any time they communicate with members with the goal of engaging them, especially on social media. Sending a powerful message can mean the difference between a successful event and a boring one, a great membership drive or a merely good one. At the same time, the way your association creates its content involves some precise data. Analyzing numbers and examining the best way to word a tweet or the best time to post on Facebook or any other consideration is extremely important to catering to a niche audience which has a big impact on your organization’s online success.

Etiquette Is Super Important

There are a lot of rules, both written and unwritten, in golf. This etiquette, which includes everything from what you wear to which order you shoot, is a crucial part of the tradition of the game and a big reason why so many people love to play golf. Sometimes this etiquette can put people off and can hamper the growth of the game, and it is important to know when to be a stickler and when to loosen the rules, but keep the spirit of the game alive.

Etiquette is also an extremely important, if somewhat undervalued, part of an association’s social media efforts. There are certain unwritten rules of engagement that your audience expects to come as part of the experience of interacting with your association on social media. You also must have guidelines for your staff and volunteers and a plan for moments of crisis or when someone goes against etiquette. Understanding the rules of social media, both written and unwritten, as well as the rules for creating engaging content and the rules of your organization is crucial to having a well-thought-out and stable social media strategy that provides results.

Studying The Landscape Comes In Handy

Golf can actually be considered a team sport. Every professional golfer has a caddy who is instrumental to helping them play their best. Caddies often study the golf course for days and days before a tournament, determining distances, reading the slope of greens and examining the best and worst areas of play. The caddy’s knowledge is invaluable when a player needs to know exactly what kind of shot to make in a certain situation and can be the difference between first place and middle of the pack.

A good association social media manager is just like a good caddy in that they study the landscape of the industry, their social media results and their audience on a regular basis. Determining the pulse of your target demographics, what they’re talking about, what’s important to them, what they’re reading, how they’re talking and how they’re using social media to engage, is a crucial part of maximizing your efforts, content and return on investment. Study the landscape of social media, what’s successful, what’s not and plan your next moves accordingly in order to be successful.

5 Ways For Associations To Tell Engaging And Effective Stories On Instagram

When it comes to social media and marketing, stories will trump press releases any day.

Telling a story will capture the attention of an association’s membership and is more likely to create an emotional reaction which can then turn into multi-level engagement. A story is much more effective at conveying value and moving people to action.

As the saying goes, show, don’t tell, when presenting a story. Instagram is the perfect medium for associations looking to dispense with long-winded explanations or stuffy text blocks and convey a message to its members using visuals.

Here are five essential elements for associations to use when constructing a story through a picture on Instagram that will captivate members and make them want to learn more.

Capture Emotion

If you want your members to feel some emotion when looking at your Instagram post, you need to present them with emotion. While a posed picture with smiling faces is a great way to show someone having a great time at an event, it is even better to capture a speaker in mid-talk, looking passionate about their topic or an attendee at that same event laughing naturally as they network. Capturing these spontaneous shots that show off real emotion feels natural and tells a tale about how people are feeling at that moment about an initiative, event, etc.

Highlight The Setting

Every good story gives some context. Your association’s Instagram posts should too. Showing your audience the setting of the photo and the story you want to tell grounds them in a certain place and time and makes it easier for them to relate to what you are promoting. Frame photos around a setting that people can recognize or have some importance to your story/message. For example, if you are recognizing a member and their accomplishments, use a picture that shows them at their place of work surrounded by items that define their professional triumphs.

Show Action

Similar to emotion, showing action is a crucial element to telling a great story, especially on Instagram. Think of your favourite novel or movie. There were certainly actions taken by the characters that made the book or film interesting and engaging. The same concept goes for Instagram photos. Capturing an action shot explains to the reader what is happening without having to trudge through text, which evokes emotion and keeps their attention. For example, if your association is meeting with politicians to lobby for the industry, capture the organization’s executive director, CEO or President shaking hands with the politician.

Cater To The Mood

There is a certain feeling that you would like your association’s Instagram audience to feel after seeing your post and ‘reading’ its ¬†Whether it’s a feeling of excitement for an impending event or optimism towards the work being done by staff, it’s important to capture this mood in every element of the photo. Everything from a person’s face to the lighting of the photo and the filter used will emphasize the mood you are trying to convey and enhance the experience that your audience goes through when viewing the post.

Know When To Craft A Long Or Short Caption

The picture’s caption is an integral part of any Instagram post and the story your association is trying to tell. There’s a time to be brief with this caption and let the photo take centre stage in telling the story and there’s also a time to be longer with the written side of the story. Knowing which situation calls for which method is not an exact science. However, generally if the context, facts and call to action require a longer explanation, the caption should be longer. If the picture speaks for itself and the content is lighter, keep the caption brief and fun. For example, if you are showing the leadership team preparing for a lobby meeting or the executive director/president/CEO reading over a speech that they are giving, the explanation behind this picture might require you to give some context. When this happens, weave the caption into a story where the person in the picture is the main character. Don’t use bureaucratic language, but get personal and relatable, just like the picture itself.

Three Perks Of Twitter’s New Character Count Guidelines For Associations

Twitter’s latest change is a game-changer.

For more than 10 years, the social media platform has limited its messages to 140 characters and while that’s not exactly going to change, the way Twitter counts its characters is undergoing a huge shift.

At the time of this writing, every piece of text or media is included in Twitter’s 140 character count, which means that you can only squeeze in so many pictures, links, videos, hashtags and words. Often, some of these elements are sacrificed in order to fit inside the 140 character limit and the quality of the message can suffer along with this sacrifice.

Twitter is finally changing this model and exempting links and media from the 140 character limit. This long-rumoured change throws open the doors to all sorts of possibilities, especially for association marketers.

Perk #1

The first and most obvious benefit of this modification for associations is that they will have the ability to add more pictures and videos into their content. Gone are the days of forgoing a picture or video because a link to a website means there’s not enough room in a tweet.

Pictures and videos, as we’ve mentioned before, have been shown in numerous studies to generate more engagement and increase the reach of an organization’s message more than simple text. When you combine the engagement-boosting power of a video or picture with a link to the association’s website, it means more traffic and a better likelihood of results.

For example, let’s say you want to promote your association’s certification or designation program. Now, it’s much easier to state your tweet’s context, add a link to the part of the website with details on the program and include a short testimonial video with members who have been through the program. Now, you’re doing three things at once, instead of just one or two, and increasing the possibility of traffic to your website and more participation in a given service.

Perk #2

An event is one of the most effective ways to connect with members, provide them with added value for their investment and make them want to come back for more. Social media plays an important part in making this all happen as being online adds another layer to the attendee experience and multiplies the feeling of community that is present at a big association event. Twitter’s new character count guidelines means that you can make this experience even more valuable and memorable for attendees.

Part of the allure of live-tweeting an event is sharing every experience with attendees from multiple angles and perspectives so as to enhance the general value and atmosphere of attending. Fitting more media and more text into a tweet allows you to add something new to the attendee’s experience.

For example, when highlighting a trade show, you can fit the whole trade show experience into one or two tweets much easier than before. Instead of posting one tweet with text, one tweet with a picture or two and one tweet with a video, you can post one with all three and give attendees instant access to multiple views, perspectives and experiences of the trade show. This builds excitement and makes attendees feel as if they are stepping into a whole new experience that will add another layer to something they might have seen last year and the year after and so on.

Perk #3

A call to action is an integral part of any association’s advocacy program, which can be one of the most valuable aspects of membership. You may call your members to action with a letter writing campaign to politicians or call on members to contact local media and write for the association magazine with their stories about how the industry is making the community a better place. Whatever the cause or objective, you have to rally members and persuade them to take action en masse, which can be extremely difficult to achieve.

Again, Twitter’s new character count formula allows your organization to craft better calls to action that will be more easily spread and make it easier for members to participate. Ease of process is a integral part of a successful call to action. If members have to do many steps to answer the call, many of the less engaged members will drop the process half way through. Twitter’s enhanced character count allows your association to adapt its call to action to the social media platform and do so in a way that cuts out any ambiguity or extra steps to make it easy for members, thereby increasing the odds that more members will participate.

Here’s one scenario where this strategy comes into play. Let’s say you want your members to participate in a letter writing campaign to politicians in order to lobby against a piece of legislation. You can send out a tweet with a form letter attached, a video from an executive about why this issue matters and a link to the association website for more information, all while still using a hashtag that captures the spirit and community of the call to action.

If Social Media Strategies Were Superheroes

We believe that social media lets associations harness all sorts of super powers, which is why we wrote this blog post imagining what it would be like if social media platforms were super heroes. We’re back it again, but this time, we’re showing you what it might be like if specific social media strategies were turned into their fictionalized doppelg√§ngers to highlight how successful these methods could be to your membership organization.

Member Interviews On YouTube

Alter-Ego:

Wonder Woman

Powers:

Super-strength, speed, durability, and longevity

How They Use Their Power For Good:

Wonder Woman is the perfect embodiment of this member engagement strategy. Take some time and film interviews with various members. You can target members who have accomplished something big recently, a long-time member or a member with some unique insight into a certain element of the profession. Putting together these interviews and posting them to YouTube has the ability to strengthen the bond between success, quality information, your members and your association. The videos are sure to be shared amongst your members at super speed and the content can be shared multiple times across multiple channels, making for a durable use of your resources.

Video on Instagram

Alter-Ego:

Wasp

Powers:

The ability to shrink to minuscule size and grow wings

How They Use Their Power For Good:

Video is one of the best ways to capture engagement and expand the reach of your association’s content and with Instagram, it’s even better. Instagram videos are designed to be small and compact (just like Wasp!) while also being versatile and strong. A well-made video on Instagram has the power to grow wings and take flight among your association’s target audience. You can create content about anything from a quick glance at a conference’s trade show floor to teaser trailer for your organization’s event to short videos of members explaining why they love the association in 10 seconds or less.

Infographics On Blogs

Alter-Ego:

Captain America

Powers:

Enhanced strength, endurance, agility, speed, reflexes, durability, and healing

How They Use Their Power For Good:

Captain America is loveable not just for his greater-than-normal abilities, but also for having all the values that society knows, trusts and holds dear, especially in times of crisis. Infographic blog posts have that same effect on people. They are trustworthy, reliable and can even help heal broken relationships with members. The agility and flexibility of infographs (traits they share with Cap) lie in their ability to take boring, old numbers and transform them into a story that shed light on the value an association can give members. Infographs can also give a new, engaging perspective on old issues that might persuade lapsed or unhappy members to come back into the fold of your association.

Proud Stats On Twitter

Alter-Ego:

Captain Marvel

Powers:

Flight, enhanced strength, durability and the ability to shoot concussive energy bursts from her hands.

How They Use Their Power For Good:

For those of you who are confused, so-called ‘proud stats’ consist of taking facts and figures about your organization and its industry and transforming them into a concise, fun, engaging and shareable point of pride for members. If you’re coming up empty on what that may be for your association, consider asking yourself, “Why does (insert industry here) matter to my city/province/country/world?” Once you’ve answered that question, find some numbers to back it up and put it out there for the world to see. Similar to Captain Marvel, these optimistic tweets can take off on Twitter as members see it and share it. They also have the ability to send a burst of energy and pride among members (Captain Marvel, anyone?) and have those members tie this great feeling to your organization.