A Year-In-Review: Looking Back At Our Top Posts On Social Media Marketing In 2016

We did a year-in-review list last year and it was awesome, so we decided to do it again. Here are our top 10 posts about social media, associations, communications and marketing from 2016.

How To Get Members To Engage With Your Association’s Social Media Account More Than Once

The Post In One Minute: Creating a loyal and consistently engaged following on social media is crucial for associations in their quest to make their digital marketing strategy a success, which is why you need more than one-and-done interaction with your target audience. To keep your members and other stakeholders continually interested and coming back to your online domains again and again, it’s a good idea to foster conversations, add some fun into the interaction, know the topics your audience talks about most and go out of your way to mention people in your posts.

The Post In One Sentence: “The best way to reward members who engage with your association is to spread the interaction past the single point of engagement, such as highlighting the member who engages with your association the most every week, having a space on your website, newsletter and magazine where you republish the best interactions with your members or simply sharing members’ comments.” 

Why You’re Looking At Social Media ROI All Wrong

The Post In One Minute: Return on investment is often viewed as a revenue or profit-driven stat, but when it comes to social media, this perception is dangerous. When determining the ROI of social media, it’s important to create engagement-based benchmarks (such as website traffic, reach or engagement rate) for your association instead of financial ones and gauge your return based on the efforts you put in (such as time, amount of content, etc.). Once you track the data, you can then create ways to maximize engagement and therefore boost your ROI based on audience behaviours, which will ultimately benefit your association in other areas, such as event attendance. 

The Post In One Sentence: “Instead of measuring financial gains or losses from its financial investment in social media…, your organization should look to measure the impact of their online efforts compared to its content input.”

3 Out-of-the-Box Social Media Ideas For Associations

The Post In One Minute: Consistency is great when managing social media, but boring is not. When your digital marketing falls into a rut (and even when it doesn’t!), it’s important to mix it up to keep your audience engaged and finding value in your organization. Implementing some out-of-the-box ideas into your social media strategy can help rejuvenate your association’s presence online. Three ideas for achieving this include a Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank-type contest, challenging members to a round of “Association Champion Bingo” and creating a crowd-sourced mini book by and for members.

The Post In One Sentence: “Sometimes the transition from reliable to boring isn’t even perceptible until it’s too late and your association’s members have tuned out.”

Should Your Association Produce A Podcast?

The Post In One Minute: Podcasts are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for companies, organizations and brands to connect with a broader and more engaged audiences. Associations would be wise to at least consider producing a podcast and integrating it into their value propositions and communications efforts. Some of the benefits include using podcasts to increase education and professional development offerings, the ease of creating a podcast and their accessibility to members (which makes it a win-win) and their revenue-generating potential podcasts have for associations. 

The Post In One Sentence: “Podcasts are perfect way to share knowledge, which make them a great tool for associations looking to offer professional development, first-class information and even certification.” 

Three Twitter Analytics Tools You Should Be Using, But Probably Aren’t

The Post In One Minute: Twitter Analytics is one of the myriad of tools available to association marketers who want to use data and analytics to improve their overall social media and digital communications efforts. Using Twitter Analytics effectively is crucial to parsing the mountain of numbers available at your fingertips and using to build a successful strategy to engage an association’s target audience. Three tools that marketers may have overlooks within Twitter Analytics include Audience Insights (a view of your follower demographics), Events (the big happenings that people will be talking about in the near future) and Top Tweets (what content of yours has appealed to your following the most in the last little while). 

The Post In One Sentence: “The Audience Insights section of Twitter Analytics offers a valuable peak at the demographics you are reaching with your efforts and just how effective your content is at targeting those people who are most likely to signal a return on your investment.”

Four Ways Associations Can Maximize Time And Resources When It Comes To Social Media

The Post In One Minute: Time and resources are at a premium for all associations, so any strategy that can help you maintain a high-quality social media presence while being more efficient is a winning strategy. Scheduling posts in advance is one way to make better use of your time, as is creating an open idea bank where you, staff, volunteers, committee members and the board of directors can add content for you to use later. You can also maximize resources by reusing and repurposing older content by making it relevant to current issues members face. Lastly, set aside a few minutes at the end of the day to work on content for the future and after a couple months, you’ll be surprised at the stockpile of great content you can use when in a time-crunch or when writer’s block hits. 

The Post In One Sentence: “Reusing and repurposing content doesn’t mean you need to reduce quality; rather, it means building on the work you have already done to conserve time and resources.”

What Netflix Can Teach Associations About A Successful Social Media Strategy

The Post In One Minute: Netflix is the top dog when it comes to customizing and personalizing the user/member experience, which is one of the biggest reasons why the platform is so successful. Associations must look to follow Netflix’s lead in an era when people crave personalization, especially when it comes to communications and digital marketing efforts. One way to tailor an association’s content to the interests and values of its membership is to take a deep dive into the performance of past content and see what the numbers say. When you discover what a group of well-performing content has in common, seek to replicate it and provide members with more of what they want.

The Post In One Sentence: “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 its approach based on the results.”

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

The Post In One Minute: Association chapters often fail to develop either a large following or a consistent identity on social media, but it should not and does not have to be that way. Content that association chapters push out on social media should talk about local members and their accomplishments and local issues and how it affects the chapter’s members. Furthermore, association chapters can keep it regional by playing up their events and initiatives, or taking National issues/projects/etc., and putting them into a local perspective. Lastly, association chapters can use gamification on the local level to engage their members as well as starting conversations with other chapters.

The Post In One Sentence: “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.”

What Young Professionals Really Want From Your Association And How To Give It To Them On Social Media

The Post In One Minute: Young professionals are the future of any association. They are the ones that will be contributing their dues and event registrations and engagement for decades to come, if you play your cards right. Young professionals want a lot of things from a professional development organization, but some of the most important are to be recognized as individuals (not a Millennial horde!), to be recognized for their accomplishments, to have opportunities to make an impact and to be informed and entertained. There are several ways to achieve these goals on social media and draw more young professionals to your association’s services.

The Post In One Sentence: “Most industries are large and young professionals will no doubt face heavy competition for promotions, so give your members a leg up by recognizing their achievements and helping them to stand out.”

Is Facebook Live The Future Of Events? Why It Probably Is And What It Means For Associations

The Post In One Minute: Facebook Live is not the first largely accessible and free live-streaming tool, but it sure is the most exciting in recent years. Facebook Live has the potential to change the association event scene in a big way. This post explored why Facebook Live would be so enticing to associations and what could change for event planners if the platform took over. Some consequences include a different perspective on revenue generation, a different approach to hosting non-members during events, the evolving role of event planners in a Facebook Live era and the rise of the Freemium Model to an even loftier position in associations’ marketing strategy.

The Post In One Sentence: “It’s obvious that we might just be on the brink of a total shift in the way association’s engage their members online and plan their events, especially as Facebook Live reaches its potential.”

How To De-clutter Your Association’s Social Media Portfolio

It’s a situation that’s all too common; several months or years ago, someone at your association wanted to get the organization on social media and as well-intentioned as they were, they created a Facebook and Twitter account without a proper planning phase. Between then and now, a couple other accounts for your association were created while older versions were abandoned or were rarely touched without being shut down.

Now your association has two Twitter accounts, a few Facebook pages, a couple LinkedIn groups and a random Instagram or YouTube account that is barely ever updated, if ever. That’s not to mention the numerous untended accounts created by chapters, boards, well-meaning volunteers, committees, events or any other leftover or spontaneous-and-now-defunct movements from within your association.

This social media clutter is a real brand-killer. It makes your association look an amateur, it drains resources and takes eyes, traffic, engagement and credibility away from the quality content your association is trying to put out on social media.

If this sounds like your organization, it’s time to do some cleaning. Rolling up your sleeves and determining what accounts can be thrown out and which ones should be polished up is a big undertaking. Here are a few tips for making the process of de-cluttering your association’s social media portfolio easier and much more effective.

Check The Stats

The first step in separating the contenders from the pretenders in your social media portfolio is to examine which accounts are healthy and which ones have withered on the vine by analyzing the data. It’s important to look a few key elements of how each account has performed for the association in order to chose which ones make the grade and advance to the next stage of the process.

First of all, you need to check and see which accounts have the biggest audience (whether that’s followers on Twitter/Instagram, likes on Facebook, subscribers on YouTube, etc). The bigger the audience, the more potential the account has to your association. Next, you need to measure engagement. Which accounts are receiving more frequent engagement and higher quality engagement (shares and traffic as opposed to a simple ‘like’). The higher the engagement level, the more likely that account is to thrive moving forward. Lastly, gauge each account’s posting frequency. The more often an account is used, the more likely the audience is going to be engaged and the less work you need to do to cultivate audience loyalty and attention in the future.

Put Your Content To The Test

The part on posting frequency in the section above is especially important to the next step of this social media de-cluttering project; putting your content to the test. By now, you have most likely cut out a few accounts in your portfolio and need to thin the herd a little more. If it seems like your association needs more than one account on each platform (for example, a main account, an account for events, an account for chapters, etc.), it’s crucial that you have enough content for each account to keep your audiences engaged and thus make it worth your while to invest resources in each account.

Some of the accounts you have already looked at may have posted content very rarely and sporadically (for example, once every three weeks, except for that time four months ago when someone posted 10 times in a week). This may be because of inattentive, overwhelmed or under-qualified staff or it could be because there just wasn’t enough content to justify a separate account. To determine if you will have enough content to validate an account, create a rough content calendar for that account that covers the next one to three months. If you can fill the calendar with frequent posts and if the content contains a fair amount of information only pertaining to that account, then it’s justified. If not, it’s probably not worth your resources.

For example, you may think you need a separate Twitter account for your big conference or for each chapter of your association, but if there isn’t enough content to post about only the event or the chapter consistently, you may be better served to incorporate information about these facets of your organization into your main Twitter account.

Have A Transition Plan

The final step of your de-cluttering project requires you to turn your eyes from the past to the present and the future by crafting a transition plan. At this point, you have probably decided which accounts you’d like to cast off and the ones you want to keep around. The final step is making it official, but it’s very important not to go too fast or you may end up negating all the work you have done and making your future efforts even harder. Before you delete any accounts, create new ones or start to build on existing ones, it’s important to have a plan in place in order to retain as many audience members as possible and make the transition a smooth one to hit the ground running, maximize engagement and make efficient use of resources.

The most important part of this transition plan is to figure out how you will bring as many members of your audience as possible from the doomed accounts to the chosen accounts. Make use of as many communication avenues as possible to get the word out and help with this migration, such as newsletters and other publications, emails, email signatures, word of mouth, committees, your board of directors and, most importantly, posts on your soon-to-be-deleted accounts notifying followers of your impending move (this is where pinned posts come in handy).

Next, you should develop strategies to make your chosen accounts more robust and engaging, which can include refreshing its design, building a diverse and valuable lineup of content, creating a schedule for the use of resources and a plan to integrate several aspects of older accounts into one, new account. Give yourself and your followers some time to transition and once you are happy with the process, make it final by deleting the old accounts. The breathe a breath of fresh air!

Is Facebook Live The Future Of Events? Why It Probably Is And What It Means For Associations

In November, we attended an education session put on by the Trillium Chapter of the Canadian Society of Association Executives. The structure of the session saw groups of seven to nine attendees rotate between five tables. At each table, there was an expert in a different area (such as technology or communication) who would facilitate a half hour discussion around relevant issues before attendees would rotate once again.

While discussing association events and conferences at one table, the talk centred around webcasting. Someone asked the facilitator, an expert in event planning, webinar development and video conferencing, this question, “Have you ever used Facebook Live as a way to reach an association’s offsite members during a conference?” Her answer was brief, but very telling, “I haven’t yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that becomes a huge factor in the next year and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m out of business in three years because of it.”

It’s never good to hear that technology might put someone out of a job, but here was an expert in her field, a top-flight event planner with decades of experience in the association industry, predicting the rise of Facebook Live’s influence on conferences and with such certainly.

It’s obvious that we might just be on the brink of a total shift in the way association’s engage their members online and plan their events. Facebook Live, the free streaming tool offered by the social media platform that allows organizations to set up live video feeds that can be watched on the Social Network, is only growing in popularity as people realize its potential.

With that lead in, here are five ways Facebook Live could change the way associations conduct their events and what impact this could have.

Economies Of Scale Kick In

Facebook is free and therefore, Facebook Live is free. If an association uses Facebook Live, an open, accessible and free tool, to allow people to take in its events, it could have a huge domino effect on the way the organization views the financial investments and returns from the event.

If more people take in the event online, less people go to the event in person. This means less registration dollars flowing in, but also, less money spent on food, space, decor, swag and almost everything else. Yes, the association doesn’t make as much money on one, big event, but it could open the door to the association conducting multiple events across the city, province or country that rake in even more revenue and allow for even more creativity, meaningful networking and exclusive benefits for in person attendees.

Non-member Attendees Take Over

Again, Facebook Live is so widely accessible that it turns the usual attendee demographics on its head. While at a traditional association event, the room would contain 75%-85% members, an event streamed on Facebook Live may have an even 50-50 split or perhaps more non-member attendees.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean associations will need to get creative with the presentation of the event, the extras it offers members and the follow up it conducts after the event. If a larger number of non-members are watching your event on Facebook Live, it makes in-person networking even more of a priority and will force associations to think more about how they present the association’s brand and its benefits during the event and how it follows up with non-members in an effort to convert them to members. If done right, this could have a huge effect on member recruitment.

Head Event Planners Become Head Moderators 

While Facebook Live offers a chance for off-site attendees to experience an event, it also gives them an opportunity to connect with other off-site attendees, in person attendees and presenters like never before because of its commenting and chat feature. While this has many different consequences, potentially positive and negative, one of them is the role of an association’s staff.

Event planners and other association staff may be required to transform into expert moderators due to Facebook Live’s robust and established live chat feature. Sorting through comments and questions and presenting them to the in person audience and the speaker has the potential to become both an art and a crucial skill. With such a large audience watching and engaging online and another expectant audience in person, it will become essential to bridge the two worlds through a moderator and associations better have a strategy to cope with this reality.

The Freemium Model Becomes More Popular

One of the key words we use over and over again in regards to Facebook Live is “free” and that’s because using it for an association event shatters the business-as-usual game plan of association conferences where everything is paid for, but everything is top quality. Navigating this new normal will require some fancy footwork and a focus on mastering the Freemium model.

The Freemium model, if you’re not familiar with it, is a strategy wherein an association provides multiple levels of benefits and engagement with multiple price points to access them. The most widely available benefits are free and often basic and as each benefit increases in value and exclusivity, its price rises as well. This model must be adapted to fit into the Facebook Live event experience in order for associations to be sustainable and generate sufficient non-dues revenue. This may require associations to provide extra benefits to in person attendees like extraordinary networking opportunities, special access to event speakers, discounts on other association services, access to replays of the event sessions or other perks that make the cost of admission viable, valuable and attractive.

Associations, Social Media And The Fail Fast, Fail Often Philosophy

The mantra, “Fail fast, fail often” has become the rallying cry for many a successful startup in recent years, especially in the tech-Mecca of Silicon Valley.

The concept urges everyone to experiment as often as possible while realizing when to continue with an idea or let it fall by the wayside as a failure. The goal is to pursue innovation which such fervent zeal, but without an absolute commitment to any one idea, so as to hit upon ‘The Next Big Thing’ as fast as possible.

Successful companies, like Facebook and Google, have built the philosophy into their workplace culture and swear by its potential to increase productivity and return on investment.

While the fail fast, fail often (FFFO) model has its flaws, associations would do well to imitate their for-profit counterparts and dip their toes in the many ponds of innovation in order to find the one warm enough to jump into.

Social media is one of the vehicles to help associations test the FFFO model, get used to it and figure out how to integrate the approach into the culture of the association.

First, some caveats. Fail fast, fail often is a catchy phrase, but it leaves out some important elements all organizations need to remember, especially when it comes to social media.

Failing fast and often doesn’t mean you need to fail big or fail without thinking. Instead, it’s crucial in the FFFO model to gauge exactly where you can fail, what failure is acceptable and manageable, how to gauge your failure and what the goal is going into the attempt that may end in failure.

Failing doesn’t mean rushing into new endeavours without a second thought as to the goals, consequences, outcomes, stakeholders and next steps. Before you initiate any actions based on an FFFO model, put the mechanisms in place so that you, staff, members and whoever else can feel safe and productive.

Make sure you create boundaries and guidelines for experimenting, failing and following up. Have clear goals in mind and tests to gauge the effectiveness of each new attempt. After all, the goal is to succeed at some point amidst all those failures. Have a ‘Code Red’ plan in case something goes wrong and know how to encourage staff and help them manage failure. It’s not an easy thing to fail, nor has it been commonly acceptable in the workplace until recently, so it may take some getting used to and a solid plan.

Using social media as an example of how to produce an FFFO framework, it’s important to ask yourself and others questions like: What level of experimentation and failure is manageable? Is changing the association’s brand and voice every few weeks acceptable (hint: it shouldn’t be)? Do we measure success and failure through a platform’s reach, engagement, audience growth or association resources used, or a combination of a few factors? Does the failure of a social media strategy have a bigger and negative impact on any other part of your organization?

You need to take all this and more into account when create a FFFO model for social media at your association.

Now, enough with the doom and gloom and boring procedural details and onto the actual innovating!

One of the best ways associations can experiment and fail fast and often with social media is to try new strategies with either the back end of the process or using established practices.

For example, try new ways to maximize resources, such as new strategies for sourcing content from colleagues and volunteers or new ways of curating and creating content for the association’s online platforms. Does having a 10-minute team meeting twice a week yield better results or does having a shared Google Doc where staff can drop their ideas and requests cut down on time spent and increase the quality of content? Try both and see which works best or if neither do. Keep good records of the response and do it over a short time span so you can invest your time in the method that works best or move onto a new strategy.

As another example, take a look at your association’s social media analytics and determine some conclusions about how your audience interacts with your organization’s content. Once you have done that, experiment with following audience trends to increase the return on your efforts. For instance, if the data says your audience likes talking about politics or responds better when you mention the city/province/country you operate in, try adding more of these topics or keywords in your content. It might not work, but then again, it could generate much more reach and engagement for your associations and without the risk of changing your brand, focus or voice. Try as many of these as you deem necessary to arrive at an optimal level of engagement.

The fail fast, fail often model does indeed have its flaws and is not as plain, simple and easy as it sounds, but with good planning, a good framework and some creativity, it could set your association up to be a leader in the industry for a long time while also yielding some great results.