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.

3 Easy Ways For Associations To Connect With Their Target Audience On Social Media

Whether you’re just starting a social media account for your association or your organization is an old pro at the medium, connecting with your target audience is a never-ending process that is crucial to the success of your online marketing efforts. Building an audience, increasing reach, boosting engagement and finding quality content are just four reasons out of dozens that you will want to be connecting with more and more people and organizations on a continual basis.

This goal is easier said than done. When you are starting a new account, connecting with the plethora of prospects can seem like an overwhelming task and when you’ve been doing it for a while, it’s understandable to think you’ve tapped out your audience and accept the plateau.

These struggles are real, but we have a few strategies you can try to increase your audience and connect with your association’s target demographic.

Make It Part Of Any Registration Process

In any given year, your association’s members have to fill out a handful of forms. Whether it’s event registration, membership renewal, volunteer applications, award nominations or magazine, newsletter or blog articles, your members send personal information to your organization all the time. Asking for someone’s social media handles, just like you ask for their email address or phone number, on any forms or communication is a very simple way to scout for online connections.

Your association may have connected with many of these people before taking this step, but there are always people who slipped through the cracks or who are new to the industry or social media that you can find out about this way. It also saves you the time of going on a hunt for hidden social media connections and gets your members thinking of connecting with your association themselves.

Comb Through The Friends Of Your Friends

If your association has been on any social media platform for even a couple months, there are surely accounts that post regularly and that you go to first when searching for the latest and most relevant news and content. Use these dependable friends of yours to connect with your target audience by mining their list of connections.

Pick five of the most relevant and active users that you follow or that follow you and take a look at who follows them and who they are following. This list will give you some great insight and will most likely yield a lot of social media users that you have not included in your list of connections. Because you have chosen a social media account with goals and content that are most like your own, these new connections are more likely to reciprocate this connection, engage with you, provide great content and become part of your community.

Seek Out Those People Who Talk Like You

One of the ways for associations to be successful on social media, amongst the millions of accounts and multitude of posts, is to find their niche and relay specialized, high-quality content on a consistent basis. Within this strategy is another method of making connections with your organization’s target audience. Find out what topics you specialize in, talk about the most and that generate the most engagement and then find the people who are also talking a lot about these topics.

Take a look at a large sampling of your most recent posts and analyze which hashtags, words, type of media and topics you post about and that get the most engagement. Once you have discovered these popular clusters, search for people using this same collection of language and content on any given social media platform. You will probably end up finding a few people who are interested in these niche issues and who your association can connect with. This process may be a little more time consuming than the previous two strategies, but it will be most likely to guide you to a small number of highly active and relevant social media users ready to embrace your community and make an impact on your efforts.

The Role Of Nostalgia And Innovation In Social Media And Member Engagement

There are two types of members that associations should be paying attention to the most right now; those from the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations.

Yes, every member counts, no matter their age or occupation, but it’s time to face facts; these two groups make up the largest working demographics in the world and often carry the most clout. Veterans of the industry are influential, know a lot of people and hold powerful titles, while young professionals are the ones ushering in the latest and greatest ideas and changes to the industry while having the potential to be a part of your association for decades to come, if you play your cards right.

Engaging these two groups and highlighting the value of your association to them is a crucial part of remaining a strong and sustainable organization. The success of your engagement strategy has the ability to influence everything from your association’s board leadership and event attendance to its advocacy strategy.

There are many ways that social media can provide one platform to convey an association’s virtues to Boomer and Millennials alike, but one key strategy is to employ nostalgia and innovation. Having an understanding of how to use these two elements to engage industry vets and newcomers, as well as how to tie them together, is crucial to standing out and proving your association’s worth above others. The following paragraphs provide some quick tips for integrating nostalgia and innovation into your social media strategy and taking one more step towards a stronger relationship with Baby Boomer and Millennial members.

Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a wistful affection for the past, that feeling that makes you long for the ‘good old days.’ Older members of your association have been part of the organization for a long time and there’s a reason for that; they’ve associated their time as a member with success and prosperity in their personal and professional lives.

However, the cause of nostalgia is often a feeling that the present is not as desirable as the past, which inevitably means that older members may not feel like the association is as useful to them as it once was and may be diverging from the path they have known and respected for decades. When this happens, it leaves your association open to not only a few lapsed members, but the potential for these influential and respected veterans of the industry to voice their displeasure for the organization for all to hear.

In this situation, social media can be a powerful tool to help older members remember what makes the association great and how membership is still a valuable tool for them. Photos are stories are two of the best nostalgia-inducing mechanisms and social media just happens to be the perfect place for those two elements.

Dig back into your archives of photos and pick a few from a past conference or event that feature members. In the lead up to the present incarnation of the event, post these pictures on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. This will remind older members of the impact these events had on their careers, the networking, the friendships, the lessons learned, and will help them realize that a continued presence there will be beneficial. Bonus points for engaging members by tagging them or playing a fun trivia game with the picture by asking what year it’s from.

Recruit a veteran member to tell the story of their first big moment in the association, such as the first time they put it on their resume, attended an event or received the magazine. Have them also relate this experience to their present day experience with the association. Put the story up on your blog or YouTube channel and post portions of it to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. These stories tell a first-hand account of the association’s excellence in the past and present, stirring up memories of the first encounter with the association in all members and generating positivity in the present.

Innovation

Innovation is the direct opposite of nostalgia. It is the constant striving for a better tomorrow and a belief that the future will be more efficient and more valuable than what was done in the past. Innovation is what young members, those who are just starting their careers, are looking for in an association; what can the organization offer them that is new, exciting and can give them an edge?

One of the prime reasons that Millennials stay away from joining associations is the belief that such organizations take an old school approach and are happy going about business as usual, catering only to the veteran members and how they like structuring benefits, events and more. This ideology can put young professionals off your organization for years and years and maybe forever.

Social media is a great way to show young professionals that your association is interested in providing cutting edge solutions to relevant challenges and can be the step up they need in their careers.

If your association has a trade show, take that opportunity to highlight the organization’s dedication to exposing members to innovative products and services. Arrange to go on a “shopping trip” with an industry veteran on the trade show floor and document his or her’s best finds live on Twitter or in a blog post or YouTube video later on. Put an emphasis on the the newest technology or cutting edge companies.

Another way to underscore innovation at your association through social media is to create an innovation podcast or YouTube channel. This weekly or bi-weekly piece of content would seek to find people in the industry that are using new ideas or methods in the industry or who are blazing a new trail. Ideally, these people would be association members. Interviewing them and using these discussions to highlight ways in which the industry is evolving will link your association with innovation and solutions and will draw in young professionals who are seeking these elements.

3 Examples Of How Associations Can Tap Into Popular Topics On Social Media

Hashtags are path to social media’s heart and soul. The popularity of a hashtag allows you to observe the topics, issues and areas that most heavily viewed and talked about by the general public. Certain hashtags can be used by millions of users on Instagram and Twitter and can be used by your association to connect with its members on a culturally relevant and relatable level.

Tapping into hashtags that are mega-popular can induce the fear of getting lost in a crowd or stepping too far from your organization’s mission and audience, but believe us when we say that your members are using these hashtags and when you speak their language, you earn their engagement.

The question now becomes, how do you make a generally popular topic relevant to your niche audience? Here are three popular hashtags and a few ideas on how to convert the broad use of the topics to relevant content for your association. The key to applying these three examples to timely trending topics is to be creative and to look at the issue from all angles to find the one that resonates the most with your members while also providing them value for their attention.

OOTD- Outfit Of The Day

The OOTD hashtag is super popular, especially on Instagram where users can show off their latest fashion choices for the world to see. Have some fun with this one and use it to promote certain pieces of important information or promotion to your members in an engaging way.

If your association is hosting a seminar or networking event, having a board meeting or participating in some sort of initiative, showcase the team spirit of your employees, volunteers or members by coordinating outfits and posting a picture with the OOTD hashtag. Not only is this a fun way to show off the event or project your association is putting together, but it also illustrates a culture of cohesion and community that is important for members to see. Other ways to use this hashtag are to snap a picture of the front cover of your magazine (what your magazine is wearing this month!) or to post an archived shot of members from years ago with a little story about the association’s history. This last suggestion brings us to…

TBT- Throwback Thursday

The TBT hashtag is one of the most veteran of the well-used hashtags and is often inserted into Instagram posts and tweets to highlight a memory and rustle up some nostalgic feelings. Using this popular hashtag is a great way for your association to recognize member accomplishments, draw attention to articles and news and to highlight the association’s past.

Everyone likes a little bit of recognition for doing something good and when a member achieves something significant is also looks good on your association. Create a TBT post that highlights a member’s accomplishments of the past and mention what they’re doing now to continue this success. You can also use the TBT hashtag to bring back a certain piece of association news back to the forefront, such as a new initiative that was create several months before or an article from a past issue of the organization’s magazine that is still relevant to today’s professionals. Lastly, take some time to dig up some archived association pictures and post them to your accounts. This is a fun way to look back at industry history and can even be a segue for your association to say how far its come and how much value it offers members in the current day.

Motivation Monday/Wednesday Wisdom

These two hashtags are used to provide some motivation and wisdom in equal parts to a user’s community and often come in the form of a tip or a quote that looks to get people inspired. Your association can use these common hashtags to inspire its members to take action or take advantage of their membership and provide very relevant value.

Use the Motivation Monday hashtag as a leap into a call-to-action among your members. Challenge them to write a letter to their local government representative about a legislative issue affecting the industry or tell them about the long-term benefits of attending a certain workshop at the association’s conference. You can even highlight a member’s success in a certain area or on a certain project and challenge other members to do the same. You can also take the Wednesday Wisdom hashtag and use it to unveil the benefits of membership to your audience. Ask those members who are most engaged and enthusiastic to tell you one piece of advice for new members and post about it using the hashtag. You can also draw young members to engage by posting a piece of wisdom from a veteran member and professional about how to make it in the industry.

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!

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.