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.

4 Reasons Blogging Is Still Something Associations Should Do

The golden age of blogging has long-since passed, but doesn’t mean blogs have totally lost their usefulness. Content is still what drives everything from social media engagement to education and purchasing decision in the online world. Blogs not only give associations a chance to create this content, but to produce quality content that helps achieve an organization’s goals. Here are four reasons why associations, as well as other organizations like small businesses, should maintain a blog in this day and age.

SEO

Search engine optimization allows your organization to be found easily on Google searches, which means more people see your website, your brand and your value. This is one of the first steps in gaining more members/customers. One of the main ways that Google decides who gets top billing on its searches is the amount of fresh, keyword-focused content that appears on the site (along with factors like mobile compatibility and Google AdWords). A blog is a fantastic way to frequently create new content/links for your site while incorporating more and more keywords. Pairing a well-maintained blog with other SEO strategies will, over time, prove very valuable to your organization or company and give you a leg-up over the competition or the alternative.

Specialized Information

One survey of thousands of association members from 2014 found that access to specialized information ranked second (after networking opportunities) as the most valuable element associations provide to members. Associations are in a unique position to be aware of the latest industry news, trends, experts, issues and developments. Most associations are excellent at providing this specialized information through publications, but blogs are a great way to go that extra mile and provide even more information for an increased value proposition for members. Writing blog posts about the issues that matter to your association’s members and industry will capture the attention, the engagement and the investment of its target market and will strengthen your organization’s overall performance and image.

Traffic

Take a moment and think of all the elements of your website that your want members and potential members to see. There are probably pages detailing member benefits, member registration, event registration, event descriptions, contact information, strategic plans and several other areas that are helpful to both the member and your association’s bottom line. However, if people never visit your site, there’s little value in these pages, which makes website traffic immensely valuable. Blogs can generate a substantial increase in website traffic. Creating a blog with content that’s relevant to your audience and spreading it to Twitter, Facebook and other platforms gives your audience a reason and a pathway to visit your site. Once there, they can explore (or be subtly directed elsewhere by you) and find value in your website, which is a win/win for your organization and its members.

The Freemium Model

The Freemium model is based on a two-tiered approach to selling content, products and services. The first tier consists of free items, such as a free one-hour webinar, that aim to introduce your target audience to your organization and its value. The second tier consists of more comprehensive, valuable and exclusive content, products or services, such as a full-day workshop, that can only be accessed with payment. The logic is that once your association proves its value, people will be more likely to invest in membership, or at least some of the products and services it provides, such as a conference.

Blogs can be a big part of an association’s successful adoption of a Freemium model. Writing blogs that connect to various association products, services and member benefits can give industry professionals a chance to connect with the association, take some value and see what is possible with full membership. For example, write a blog about resume-building and interview tips for people in your industry and then link to a page about member benefits that have to do with professional development and job cultivation. People get some tips for free and then are more likely to recognize and invest in other benefits.