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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.