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

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

It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint

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

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

Precision AND Power Count

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

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

Etiquette Is Super Important

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

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

Studying The Landscape Comes In Handy

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

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

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

Let’s be honest, your association is often overwhelmed with work and is probably being asked to do more with less as often as you tie your shoes. And then you need to find a place on your already-crowded plate to fit social media.

Trying to wedge social media as another task into your busy day and with limited resources often leads to burnout for you and low-quality content for your members. However, we have four strategies that can help you and your association maximize the time you do have for social media while using the available resources in the best way possible. Here they are:

Schedule Posts

As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail and it definitely rings true when it comes to social media. Sit down at the beginning of the week and chart out what sort of content you are going to post on social media. Creating this content calendar may take an hour or so out of your day, but it will help you save time in the long-term. By building this broad outline of content, it will be easier to create and post content quickly instead of spending time thinking of what to focus on every day.

It’s also a good idea to reserve a block of time every day or every couple days to create a batch of content and then schedule it to automatically post at certain times. This will help you stay focused on the task at hand rather than breaking up your day to create content, however small, at various points of the day. Hootsuite is a great platform to schedule social media posts.

Create An Idea Bank

Inspiration doesn’t strike often, so make sure to capture it when it does. Not only will it help you create great content, but it will save you time in the long run. Create a file on your computer and phone and a section of your notebook that is reserved for jotting down ideas for content as they come to you. They don’t have to be amazing ideas or need to be created right away, but having this idea bank is a real time saver when you sit down to build content and run up against writer’s block.

Having a personal idea bank is great, but two heads are better than one and so are three heads, four heads and a hundred heads! Create an office-wide idea bank, a shared document online for board or committee members to share an idea or even have a section of your website dedicated to allowing members to share an idea for a blog post or YouTube video. Crowsdsourcing ideas will allow you to maximize the resources you do have available and will save you time while allowing you to get a broader perspective on the issues that are important to members. You can even incentivize the project by giving staff or members a little prize if you use their idea.

Repurpose Content

Don’t let your previous content off the hook so easily. It doesn’t get to just sit there and collect dust after you spent so much time creating it. Instead, make it go to work in a variety of ways to maximize its value and save some time. It’s okay to repost a blog, video or the same content on Twitter as long as it is still timely, relevant and valuable to your members. Don’t be afraid to thrust some previously successful content back into the spotlight, even with a few tweaks to update it.

Similarly, take content you have already created and reinvent it to cover another angle of the issue or to fit on another platform. For example, take a blog post and create a YouTube post around the topic you covered. Or, take some stats from a blog post, article, video and post them as a series of tweets to highlight interesting facts. Lastly, take one point made in a blog post and break it down even further into its own blog post. 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.

Do A Little Bit Extra

Every step counts when you climb a mountain just as every piece of writing or design matters when you are creating content. Take 10 minutes at the end of every day or 15 minutes at the end of every week, separate from the designated time to work on social media, to write a paragraph of a blog, take some pictures for Facebook, capture video or sort through useful sites for useful content for Twitter. This process isn’t about finishing a piece of content, but rather assembling content piece by piece until, at the end of a week or month, you are left with an extra finished product.┬áThis extra piece of content can be slotted into your content plan and save you time the next day, week or month to work on other projects.

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

To Not Be Called Millennials

Young professionals are so much more than just some generalized group with a catchy generational moniker. They are students, aspiring executives, current executives, fresh faces with a unique perspective and so much more. So stop calling them Millennials, on social media and everywhere else. Your association doesn’t refer to its older members by calling them Boomers or its other members as Generation X, Y or Z, so don’t make an exception for young professionals and lump them all together.

Instead, address them by catering to the needs and wants that this young demographic seeks from your association. For example, create and post content about transitioning from being a student to working in your association’s industry or how an aspiring executive can find a mentor in the business. These words and content will be much more likely to attract the attention and engagement of young professionals than slapping “Millennials” on everything.

To Be Recognized

Think for a second about what most young professionals want at this point in their career. The first answer that probably came to mind was that they want a way to move their careers forward and a big factor in achieving that goal is to connect with the right people in the industry. 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.

There are so many ways for associations to use their pre-existing, captive audience on social media to recognize young professionals. Use the various social media platforms to show off your young members. Write blog posts about recent achievements, ask young professionals on Facebook about their most innovative idea for the industry or just give someone a shout out on Twitter or Instagram. Ask an influential member and association champion to share these messages and increase the impact they have.

To Have A Seat At The Table

Young professionals are often forgotten when it comes to making an impact with associations and therefore the industry as a whole. Yes, many organizations offer opportunities to get involved by joining committees and other such volunteer initiatives, but these commitments can be intimidating or too time-consuming for young professionals and will therefore not be utilized or valued by this demographic. It may be up to your association itself to create better opportunities and invite young professionals.

Social media offers a surefire way to create these opportunities that give young professionals a say and thrust them into leadership roles. For example, have a brief roundtable discussion on ideas to improve the industry, either through a Twitter chat, a YouTube video or a live feed on Facebook, and invite one or several young professionals to join. You can also create a LinkedIn group, Facebook page or Twitter account specifically for young professionals at your association and pose questions and seek feedback from this specific demographic while posting ways in which your association is acting on these responses.

To Be Informed And Entertained

Let’s face it, it’s not enough to do one for the other in this day and age. Information is crucial for young professionals trying to build a successful career and access professional development opportunities, but with the depth and variety of sources out there, they also want to be entertained with this information. Finding new and innovative ways to capture the attention of young professionals while remaining informative and relevant is one critical way for associations to boost their value in the eyes of younger members and potential members.

With that being said, it might be time for your association to look at some out-of-the-box ideas to enliven the member experience on social media. Think about how you can combine visuals, information and interactive elements when creating content to make it more engaging and appealing to young professionals. For example, create your association’s version of Carpool Karaoke where you’re driving around with a member, board member or staff member talking about the value of the association while also jamming out to some tunes.

3 Easy Ways To Give Your Social Media Account A Refresh

There’s a reason people become addicted to cleaning and organizing their homes and home makeover shows on television; it’s refreshing. Housework can give a cluttered space a new look and make everyone want to bask in the glow of a room that’s been changed for the better.

We applied this same thinking to social media accounts and came up with three easy ways any organization can give their platforms a refresh to attract eyes and win over the hearts of their audience.

Add A New Profile Picture

There’s no doubt that images catch the attention of social media users more than any other element. Your organization’s profile pictures are the most constant and recognizable images associated with your operation online and can help do everything from attract profile views to likes to website traffic. Creating a fresh profile picture is one way to give your social media account a vibrant, new look and get users, both old and new, engaging with your organization again. Try using different colours, showing off a different setting or, in regards to Twitter or Facebook, complimenting your profile picture with your display picture with a creative and fun play on space like these examples.

Put More Faces Front And Centre

This piece of advice also utilizes pictures and images to give your organization’s social media account a jolt of freshness. Faces perform very well in studies linking social media posts to engagement and can serve as a way for your organization to put its members, customers, staff or volunteers front and centre. Creating content that utilizes faces will also help you think of new ways to promote your organization and its efforts by framing them in a different perspective, one that seems more relatable to your target audience. Post testimonials, interviews, event pictures and other posts that have the potential to show faces.

Ditch The Dry, Rambling Description

You know that little box you filled out when you started your organization’s social media account that asked for a description of your organization and then you immediately forgot about it? Ya, you need to redo that description. The description, which is often a dry, rambling, short version of your organization’s mission, won’t catch too many eyes when they scroll through a list of potential connections. A streamlined version that hits all the right notes is way more likely to achieve your goals and will liven up a tired social media account. Look for singular words or very short phrases that explain your organization. Check out popular hashtags and ask your most loyal and active members, customers or volunteers to describe your organization in one, short sentence and use their feedback.

What Krispy Kreme and Target Can Teach Associations About Social Media

Some of the best ideas come from studying successful organizations and adapting their effective strategies, projects and culture for use in your own organization. But while success can often beget success, studying the failure of another company also has merit.

Analyzing where strategies went wrong and the root causes of unsuccessful initiatives can help associations learn how to avoid the same fate of another organization that had to be taught the hard way. It can also make the path to success much more clear.

Take for example two American companies and their not-too-distant attempts to corner the Canadian market that sputtered and faded away; Krispy Kreme Donuts and Target. Studying where these two behemoths went wrong can help associations tap into the realities of human behaviour and grasp what it takes to create a successful, engaging and sustainable social media plan.

Krispy Kreme

The Context

Krispy Kreme, the favourite donut shop of millions of American, entered onto the Canadian stage with much fanfare in the early 2000s. While Krispy Kreme was initially successful and mounted plans for expansion, the love affair between it and the Great White North cooled off enough for the company to nix these plans. While the company’s plans for expansion have recently been renewed, they face a challenge in capturing the hearts and minds (and stomachs) of Canadians once again as smaller, gourmet donut shops have exploded in popularity over the last decade. While Krispy Kreme’s venture into Canada may not be deemed a total failure, its inability to realize its grand plans while vastly smaller competition prospered are a little embarrassing for an international chain with a big budget.

The Lesson

The social media lesson that can be learned by associations from Krispy Kreme’s floundering expansion in Canada is that quality matters a lot more than quantity.

Krispy Kreme produces millions of donuts a year and while many like how they taste, there is rarely any innovation or variation, which leads to a been-there-done-that attitude from consumers. On the other hand, smaller, gourmet donut shops use fresh ingredients to create unique pastries that pique the imagination of their customers, creating a brand and a product that can’t be found anywhere else. While their volume is less, their quality is higher and their return in greater.

Associations should create a social media strategy that seeks to produce content that is innovative, unique, engaging and valuable, even if they don’t have the resources to produce lots of it. Instead of daily tweets or Facebook posts that regurgitate press releases or quote magazine articles verbatim, create posts that use numbers, videos, visuals and testimonials to give members an experience they’ll want to be a part of and truly paints a picture of your association’s efforts to improve their lives. Make a movie trailer for the annual conference or put out a call on social media for a scavenger hunt within your association’s magazine. Whatever it is, be creative, be different, be focused on high quality content and be tuned into what members really want.

Target

The Context

Target’s foray into Canada was one big mess, from beginning to end. The company opened too many stores, too fast and customers were greeted by empty shelves, poor deals and an underwhelming experience. While Target’s opening in Canada was much anticipated, the company fell short and Canadian shoppers went back to buying from their usual spots. The monster-sized chain lost money rapidly while the stores continued to decline and less than two years after the first Canadian Target opened, the company pulled out completely. Needless to say, it was a massive failure for Target.

The Lesson

Target bit off way more than they could chew with the Canadian expansion and the product suffered because of it. Associations would do well to remember this example and not repeat this mistake on social media.

While keeping up with the latest trends in technology and social networking is important for any organization, it is never a good idea to branch out onto new platforms too fast. For example, if your association has a successful Twitter account, you may be tempted to start an account on Facebook, create an Instagram account and develop a bi-weekly blog to capitalize on the engagement your efforts are generating. However, if this expansion is done too quickly and without a proper analysis of demographics, strategy, expectations, guidelines and available resources, you can end up watering down the quality of your content and driving away your target audience. Start slowly by creating a new blog and as that develops and as resources dictate, add another platform to your strategy.

Associations need to remember to resist the urge to jump on the social media bandwagon of a new platform because of its trendiness in the news. Stick with what made your digital media strategy work and look for incremental ways to branch out and develop relationships with your target audience in that way.

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!

4 Ways Associations Can Promote Their Magazines On Social Media

Associations and magazines are almost inseparable. The vast majority of membership organizations produce and distribute monthly, quarterly or bi-annual publications with articles, updates, editorials, profiles and other content in order to educate and engage their audience. The history of many magazines stretch back decades and, in some cases, more than a century.

However, the humble, but powerful trade magazine has encountered a huge identity crisis over the last two decades as digital age has evolved. Google, social media and free information has led to less interest and less value in trade magazines, meaning fewer ad sales and messy bottom lines for some organizations.

This is isn’t a eulogy to association magazines, but rather a call to adapt. By harnessing the power of digital instead of fighting against it, these publications can once again stand tall in the eyes of members. Here are four ways associations can promote their magazines on social media to increase reach and viewership in order to prove to advertisers and board members that publications are a valuable tool for success.

Video Follow Up Discussions

An article in your association’s magazine doesn’t need to be the end of the road for that topic. After all, most articles are limited by space and have the views of usually only a handful (or less) of people. Don’t get us wrong, the magazine’s articles are no doubt comprehensive, engaging and well-written, but often times people have questions or there are other views or details that can be added to the issue addressed in the publication.

This is when videos come in very handy. After the magazine has been released, pick one to three articles and do a follow up video as a companion piece to the original article. Do an interview with the author or subject of the article or bring together an expert panel to talk about an issue addressed by the original article and film the discussion. If the article is a profile of a member or a company, visit them and do a day-in-the-life video. Put the videos on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and any other platform your association uses along with links to the article, information about the magazine and a prompt to contribute to the discussion in order to drive traffic and increase the exposure of the magazine.

Polls And Quotes On Twitter

Let’s be honest, when your members are browsing the paper or online version of your magazine, they often look at the headlines and maybe the first couple sentences before deciding if it’s worth a read or not. Most of the time, it’s not worth the read and the reader keeps flipping through the publication, missing engaging content and dealing damage to key performance metrics that advertisers pay attention to.

Twitter is a great way to give your association’s readers a second chance to discover the quality content lurking inside its magazine. The platform is a key way to improve on that misleading and unimpressive first impression your members may have of articles. For example, post a poll on Twitter related to one of the articles in the magazine, along with a link to that article. A poll will generate interest and discussion while giving a brief and interesting synopsis of the article, which increases interest and readership. Another tactic is to post an interesting quote or snippet from the article as a tweet along with a link to the article. Readers may have missed the intriguing bit of the article and be convinced to give it another chance.

Facebook Albums

Many recipients of association magazines open up their publications to see waves and waves of text starring back at them. Although those words are of high quality and often accompanied by pictures, they usually don’t jump off the page and grab the reader and can often overwhelm people. When they become overwhelmed, readers often shut down and give up on an article and the whole magazine.

This is why emphasizing the publication’s images on social media can do wonders to readership levels. As the saying goes, pictures can say 1,000 words. They can also convince your members to read 1,000 words or more. Create a Facebook album on your association’s page for each issue of the magazine that comes out. Represent each article or section of the magazine with a solid, well-planned photo that tells the story in an image. In the description/caption, include a short synopsis, summary, snippet or headline and a link to the article. An image will draw people in and pique their interest much more often then a flashy headline or an insistence to do so. It will also allow readers to browse the contents of the magazine much easier, giving them an incentive to check in and read up.

Instagram Contests and Activities

Associations can sometimes go months without releasing another issue of their magazine, which means that they are out of sight and out of mind for members. This results in a rocky relationship with the publication and creates the risk that its relevance will disappear among members.

That’s where a good Instagram contest or activity can save the day. For example, you can have a contest for each issue asking members to submit a photo. The best one can grace the cover of the next issue of the magazine and can be entered to win a Best Cover prize at the end of the year, as voted on by members (once again, via Instagram). Another idea is to post an industry-focused problem or a photo on Instagram and ask members to submit an answer to the query or a funny caption for the photo. These submissions can then be put in a special Member Section or Social Media Section in the next issue of the magazine. Not only will members race to see if their submission is put in the magazine, but it will also create a chance for fun content and will keep the magazine top of mind during the interim periods between issues.