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.

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.

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!

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

There’s a reason people walk up to the smiling Starbucks barista and ask for their usual; it’s familiar, reliable and gets the job done. Social media content is much the same, especially for associations and their members. Following a consistent format for tweeting, Facebook posting, blog publishing, etc can be a great way to convey important information, build a following and provide value to your organization’s target audience.

However, consistency can become a rut really easily. Sometimes the transition from reliable to boring isn’t even perceptible until it’s too late and your association’s members have tuned out.

Good thing we’re here to help you avoid this trap. We’ve put together three interesting projects that associations can try with their social media to inject some variety into their online strategy and keep members engaged.

Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank

If you’re not familiar with the popular TV series Dragon’s Den (Canada) or Shark Tank (U.S), the concept sees eager entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to wealthy investors in order to gain investment. This stakes are high, which makes for great TV and the reality factor changes peoples’ lives.

Your association can take a page out of the reality show book by doing its own version of Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank. Tell your members to make a short video with their best idea for improving the association or improving the industry and post it to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Pick the top five best ideas and pit them against each other with members voting through social media on which one is the best. At the end of the contest, give the winner a prize and try your best to implement the idea. Not only does this project give you an opportunity to improve the organization, but it generates engagement from all corners of the association and industry. The stakes are high, the reward is promising and the process is engaging.

Association Champion Bingo

We’ve already covered the idea of social media Bingo for association events and conferences. This idea broadens the concept so it can applied to more members across a wider time frame and make a bigger impact.

Formulate a series of tasks members can do on social media that help the association or draw attention to its value, services and programs, such as write a blog post for the organization’s website or tag the association five times in a tweet. Place these tasks into a Bingo board and share it will your followers. Emphasize that completing each task gets the member closer to being classified as an Association Champion. When members submit a full Bingo card, reward them with a prize and profile them on your various social media platforms. This project allows members to engage with your association is a variety of ways while also giving members an opportunity to work towards something as well as participate in micro-volunteering initiatives.

A Crowd Sourced Mini Book

Some of the most valuable and interesting insights come from putting a group of talented, passionate and engaged people in a room and letting them collaborate. This isn’t always possible for associations to do when their members are dispersed across cities and provinces. However, with a little creativity and time, it’s possible to present your members with a book authored by themselves and their colleagues using only social media as a product of their ingenuity and expertise.

This project might take time, but keep in mind the end goal and go slowly. Start with questions for your membership on your association’s various social media platforms, such as, describe why you are passionate about this industry in one sentence or what’s most valuable lesson you’ve learned during your career in the industry? Ask for pictures of the profession on Instagram or Facebook, request blog posts from professionals in your field and conduct open Twitter interviews with members. Take all the images and text and out it together into a small book that can be put online or published and attached your trade magazine, handed out at conferences or made available for order online. Not only is this a great way to generate engagement on social media over time, but it allows members to both share their expertise and gain the insight from dozens or hundreds of other professionals they may not get at networking events or educational get-togethers.

How To Turn A Negative Into A Positive When Someone Bashes A Conference Speaker On Social Media

If you’ve read any of our past posts on integrating social media into events and conferences, you’ll know that we’re big advocates of live tweeting/Facebooking/blogging/etc. Opening the door to different elements of your association’s event can help increase your reach, engagement and value among your target audience. For example, when the keynote speaker is talking to attendees, help those who couldn’t be there in person follow along by throwing out some key facts, stats or quotes on Twitter. It’s a great way to show the social media universe you care about them.

But what happens when you share a thought or two from a speaker and it doesn’t sit well with your online audience? We’ve seen it happen and it’s a reality of the game; when you open yourself up to engagement, feedback and adulation, you also open yourself up to criticism.

Conference speakers are almost always experts in their fields and are well-respected in the industry they are involved with. However not everyone is going to agree all the time and more outspoken users of social media will no doubt voice their opinion loud and clear when they disagree with a viewpoint. This can downgrade your efforts on social media, the event and the speaker and make it an unpleasant experience for all. Don’t let this potential scenario scare you away from using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other platform at your event. In fact, there are a few ways you and your association can turn the tables on harsh critics and make this unfortunate situation a win-win.

The best way to turn a negative comment into a positive is to mould it into a learning experience, one that promotes meaningful conversation and dialogue. Instead of ignoring the comment or shutting down the person who is commenting, start a conversation with them. Thank them for their thoughts and ask them why they feel the way they do or what alternative view they could offer. Be polite and invite the person to express their views in a constructive manner, rather than an outright dismissal of the speaker’s ideas.

Nothing on social media every happens in a vacuum. Other people are likely to see the critical comment and jump in with their own thoughts, perhaps even the speaker themselves. Attempt to be a moderator without taking sides. Instead, attempt to foster positive discussion and help everyone involved realize that differing views can lead to a new perspective or solution on a problem. It’s also ideal to provide people with context to the discussion taking place. Someone who doesn’t have the full story of the discussion can end up saying something volatile because they don’t have all the facts. This can be done especially well on Twitter as the platform allows you to “quote” past tweets and attach them to one of your own, thereby tying the two messages together and providing context.

The process above is an ideal outcome to a negative comment about a presenter or speaker. Unfortunately, there are some who like to take their critiques too far. This happens when the person doing the critiquing makes it personal, uses offensive language, is uninterested in a constructive discussion or veers to another, less salient point in an attempt to keep the conversation negative. In this case, always stay polite and professional if you chose to respond. Your members, attendees, speakers and partners will see your professionalism and attempt to keep the situation civil and productive which will eliminate a negative perception of your organization or the event. Always put your best foot forward and the majority of your audience will respect you for it and realize a good customer service experience when they see it.

What Associations Can Learn About Member Engagement From 3 Popular Facebook Pages

Humans of New York

HONY Blog Post Pic (2)

Why It’s Awesome

The Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page tells the stories of “regular” New Yorkers using photos, quotes and short stories from the lives of the subjects. The page has over 16 million likes and has spawned best-selling books, speaking tours, massive philanthropic projects and more.

Each post tells the story of someone’s life from their perspective. The end product is content that is interesting and easy to relate to. Not only do people engage with the content, they also go a step further, offering words of support or a financial investment in some of the projects HONY is involved in. This is because the stories give the audience a stake in the outcome.

What Associations Can Learn:

The best lesson from the success of HONY’s Facebook page is that stories sell. The next time you want members to have a stake in the outcome, and therefore be more likely to engage and invest emotionally, financially or otherwise, tell a story. Profile a member, do an interview with a staff member, create a video about the associations history or create any other content that shows the value of your organization from an intimate, human perspective. Make numbers into a story or weave a tale around an announcement or press release. Words are transformed into emotion when they come from someone members can relate to.

Downtown Yonge BIA

DTY BIA Blog Post Pic (2)

Why It’s Awesome:

The Downtown Yonge BIA Facebook page promotes businesses in one of the busiest sections of Toronto. The page has over 3,500 likes, allows its audience to rate it (the current rating is 4.6 out of 5) and is constantly updated with content, photos, videos and more. It is the most successful Toronto BIA on Facebook in terms of engagement and page likes. The popularity of the Facebook page can be attributed, in large part, to its successful attempt to cater to both its members and the general public. The page posts about the successes of its members while managing to make it relevant and valuable to the general public. This strategy captures both target demographics and helps the organization thrive

What Associations Can Learn:

The most significant lesson associations can learn from the success of the Downtown Yonge BIA’s Facebook page is that highlighting members while providing practical, career-enhancing information is an effective strategy. As we mentioned in the HONY example, telling your members’ stories is always a great way to go and if they’ve accomplished something awesome, don’t hold back in telling their story and patting them on the back. It is also important to add some practical advice into your recognition of members. Find out how other members can achieve this same level of success or if there is a lesson that can be learned and implemented across the industry. This way, you are not only giving one member an added benefit, but also proving your value to many other important members of your target audience.

Major League Soccer (MLS)

MLS Blog Post Pic (2)

Why It’s Awesome:

The MLS is trying to promote soccer in a country where baseball, basketball, football and hockey are well-established an immensely popular sports. It’s been, for the most part, very successful in growing the game’s profile and the Facebook page is a big reason why. The page has over 1.9 million likes and routinely receives thousands of interactions on each post. The page does a fantastic job of using pictures and video to keep fans up to date and involved in the league’s activities. It posts interviews with players, recaps of games, great photo albums and short updates on games in progress. This all combines to provide a great experience for the audience and keeps them coming back again and again.

What Associations Can Learn:

The best takeaway for associations from MLS’s Facebook success is to create a great experience for its members. Dig under the surface of each piece of content you are posting and give members a VIP look at it. If you are posting an update on lobbying efforts, government relations or a new piece of legislation, create a video, make your trip to the government meetings into an album and post frequent updates. Capture your events on Facebook by posting short videos, daily recap posts and small ‘extras’ like a speaker answering additional questions a prize to the attendee who contributed the most on social media. This experience-driven content will keep members coming back and eager to see what’s next.

How Social Media Can Make Membership In An Association Into A Lifestyle

When someone becomes a member of an association, it almost always means they are serious about their career and contributing to their industry. But let’s face it, membership can often seem like a feast-or-famine scenario where there is lots of action from the association in a small time frame and then nothing for months. For example, there’s always lots of hype around an association’s annual conference; the lead-up the event itself and the aftermath, but that generally accounts for about three weeks of the year, after which members are left to look far into the distance for the next chance to network, learn and have some fun.

This hurry-up-and-wait mentality can have a negative effect on members of any association. Long stretches without any meaningful involvement in the association can lead to frustration, resentment or, worst of all, apathy. All these reactions result in lower member engagement, lower participation in association services and fewer renewals when it comes time to pay the annual dues.

One of the solutions to this problem of vast peaks and valleys of association activity can be found in social media. By using multiple online platforms, associations can turn membership from a once-every-other-month practice into an everyday habit. When this happens, joining an association becomes a lifestyle, one that members are likely to keep up with for a long, long time. Here are a few ways that your association can turn membership into a lifestyle:

Talk About Your Members’ Interests

Your members don’t live inside a bubble; they have other interests besides talking about their job and their industry. Take an interest in the hobbies and pastimes of your members and talk about it on social media. This doesn’t mean that you need to stray from your association’s main message or mission by talking about the latest hit reality show. Instead, find a way to relate your members’ interests to the services your association provides or the overarching industry your association represents. This will keep your members coming back to your social media accounts and highlight your organization as well-rounded and consistently relevant to the lives of its members.

Finding out what your members are interested in is as easy as accessing Twitter Analytics. The “Followers” tab on Twitter Analytics allows you to examine which general areas your audience (hopefully made up of your members) are interested in. For example, the results may show that your members are really into technology or sports. Tweet a news article that ties one of these areas into your association or post an update on Facebook sharing content that connects your audience with information they might be looking for because of their interests.

Give Practical Advice

It’s human nature to keep coming back to something that gives value. People will always go back to a restaurant that has good food and good service. Individuals will always tune into the radio station that has the best handle on traffic and suggests the most useful alternate routes. And members will always want to engage with your association if it offers the most practical advice they can use in their everyday lives. Providing great tips, advice and how-tos is critical to keeping your members’ attention and ensuring a daily or weekly visit from them. When your association is being useful, your members will make a habit og coming back time and again.

Practical advice from your association can come in two forms: advice about accessing your association’s value and advice that helps your members’ professional development. Providing tips on how to extract the most value from an association’s programs is a great way to tie the everyday concerns of your members into your organization. You can create a fun YouTube tutorial on navigating your association’s website or using the members-only job board more effectively. You can also put together content that touches on your members and how they can do their jobs better. Lists are the best way to do this (people love lists!) and a blog is a perfect platform. For example, you can write about the top five ways to manage stress at your members’ workplaces or the top three institutions for continuing education for your members.

Have Some Fun

Everyone likes a little fun. That’s why we have weekends and holidays and at least two weeks of vacation every year. Just because your association often deals with the professional side of your members doesn’t mean it can’t get in on some of the fun too! Taking a break from serious topics, blatant promotional material and standard-but-important association updates is a key factor in drawing your members to your organization on any day and for any occasion. Incorporating some fun into your activities will means members don’t just see you as a business investment, but a life investment.

The most obvious point to start integrating some fun into your association’s marketing efforts is with social media and gamification. We’ve covered how association’s can use gamification in social media to engage members in a prior blog post, but the message boils down to being creative and focusing on achieving elements of play, such as rewards or mystery, while relating it to your association. Another way to help your members have fun on social media is to post an interesting, funny or motivational quote from someone in the industry on Twitter or Facebook. Additionally, you can write a blog post that combines the aforementioned practical advice with fun elements, such as a list of the top 10 songs your members can work to or the top five movies that depict members of your association’s industry.

Encourage Discussion

Most people life having a say in their lives, which means your association can’t create a lifestyle by never asking for the input of its members. Getting your members engaged and contributing to your association’s activities gives them a stake in the outcome of decisions. Your members will be more likely to attend events or use a service when they feel like they have had a hand in shaping these elements of your association. When members are a part of the process, it becomes more than faceless communiques and throwing money at membership; it becomes part of their life and everyday thoughts.

Social media is the perfect forum for getting your members engaged and contributing to an ongoing discussion about the efforts of your association. Have a Twitter chat about an issue in your industry or association, live-blog/tweet your annual conference, interview members on YouTube and ask for comments on the video or create a “Digital Idea Wall” on Pinterest of Facebook. All of these social media efforts will give a voice to your members and keep them engaged and loyal to your association.