The Ugly Truth: What Social Media Can And Can’t Do For Your Organization

Everyone wants a simple solution to complex problems. It’s the dream peddled by nutrition scam artists who claim one pill will make you lose weight and feel amazing and science fiction literature that conjures up a single vaccine that will cure all the world’s ailments.

In reality, living healthy involves exercising, eating right and a myriad of other daily necessities while preventing and treating disease and illness falls into the same multi-faceted category.

Social media often falls prey to this idealistic thinking. Many organization, whether its an association craving more members or a small business that needs to get the word out, think social media is the answer to all their woes and the one bright light that will lead them into a rose-coloured future.

We’re here to say, get real!

We love social media and both the numbers and anecdotal evidence has shown us that a solid social media strategy can have a hugely beneficial effect on brands. However, your organization will never get the most out of its social media efforts if it has unachievable goals and poor practices fuelled by unrealistic expectations. That’s why we’ve put together three things people often believe social media can do for them and their organizations and dismantled these myths.

Social Media Can’t…

Boost Your Bottom Line Significantly

If you are creating social media content with an ultimate goal of generating a significant amount of revenue for your organization, you’re always going to fail. Your association is never going to increase its membership by 10% or its event attendance by 20% because it’s on Twitter or Facebook. Your small business isn’t going to get a bunch of customers into the store just because it has a great-looking Instagram account. Sure, a few people might decide to go to an event or buy a product because they saw it on social media and there are rare times when a company’s promotion goes viral. However, having this as your main goal is like adopting a cat because your band needs a keyboardist and you saw a piano-playing cat on YouTube once. It happens, but you wouldn’t bank your future prospects on it.

Single-Handedly Make You Popular With Millennials (Or Any Generation)

Segmenting your audience into generations is all the rage in marketing, especially association marketing these days, and that’s great. You need to know your target demographics, their needs, wants, preferences and so on. Millennials have been the most coveted, and some say the most elusive, generation to marketers in recent years and many people have claimed that a presence on social will be enough to elevate an organization in the eyes of these young professionals. Don’t believe these people. People are complex and therefore, so are generations of people. Just because Millennials, or any audience, is online doesn’t mean for one second that simply showing up means you’ll get a second date with them.

Be Done Without Cost, Buy-in And Planning

We’ve heard countless stories from people in associations and small businesses who were given the task of social media management with little training, planning, resources or discussion from or with their colleagues and managers. They simply start a Twitter account or LinkedIn group because of a snap decision by an executive, board or themselves and are left frustrated and disappointed when their results aren’t what they thought. The ease and low-cost of starting social media accounts makes it seem like making a good social media strategy is easy, quick and cheap, but it’s not. Just like with any part of an operation, social media needs to be well thought out, have precise goals, defined resources and support and feedback from all levels.

Social Media Can…

Be Part Of A Revenue Generating Strategy

Social media is both an intensely immediate medium and a lesson in the long game. While content can be created, shared and engaged with in seconds, the cumulative impact of your social media strategy is what can be integrated into an organization’s marketing and revenue generating plan. Social media can drive traffic to a website, so a great, user-friendly website is a must. Social media can keep your organization’s products and services in front of potential buyers until the time they are ready to purchase said product or service and think of your organization. Social media can be a powerful tool for presenting data to sponsors or investors and can get your organization some key funding. These are just a few of the ways social media is an integral part of a complete revenue generating strategy.

Be Part Of A Multi-Pronged Value Proposition Plan

Your organization’s Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account is like a stage; without a good backdrop, actors and an engaging plot, an audience won’t find much value in it. Before starting a social media account with hopes of engaging a specific demographic, you must first determine what is valuable to that demographic. Once you have decided which products they like, what kind of media they respond to, what values they hold closest, what problems they have and how they look for solutions, you will never be able to market your organization to its target demographic. Remember, social media is simply a tool to convey value and rarely the foundation of value in and of itself.

Be Done Well With All The Considerations Other Initiatives Receive

Think about it this way; you would never plan an event for your organization without carefully considering everything from a budget to a theme to the best suppliers and every other detail on down to how a room will be set up. Why then would you not plan this carefully for social media, which is a long-term marketing initiative you have high hopes for? A social media strategy has a much lower likelihood of being successful if you do not treat it like any other project your organization undertakes. That includes getting a knowledgeable person to head it up, establishing a budget and resources, discussing goals and ways to measure progress and consulting various stakeholders, such as staff.

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.

If Social Media Strategies Were Superheroes

We believe that social media lets associations harness all sorts of super powers, which is why we wrote this blog post imagining what it would be like if social media platforms were super heroes. We’re back it again, but this time, we’re showing you what it might be like if specific social media strategies were turned into their fictionalized doppelgängers to highlight how successful these methods could be to your membership organization.

Member Interviews On YouTube

Alter-Ego:

Wonder Woman

Powers:

Super-strength, speed, durability, and longevity

How They Use Their Power For Good:

Wonder Woman is the perfect embodiment of this member engagement strategy. Take some time and film interviews with various members. You can target members who have accomplished something big recently, a long-time member or a member with some unique insight into a certain element of the profession. Putting together these interviews and posting them to YouTube has the ability to strengthen the bond between success, quality information, your members and your association. The videos are sure to be shared amongst your members at super speed and the content can be shared multiple times across multiple channels, making for a durable use of your resources.

Video on Instagram

Alter-Ego:

Wasp

Powers:

The ability to shrink to minuscule size and grow wings

How They Use Their Power For Good:

Video is one of the best ways to capture engagement and expand the reach of your association’s content and with Instagram, it’s even better. Instagram videos are designed to be small and compact (just like Wasp!) while also being versatile and strong. A well-made video on Instagram has the power to grow wings and take flight among your association’s target audience. You can create content about anything from a quick glance at a conference’s trade show floor to teaser trailer for your organization’s event to short videos of members explaining why they love the association in 10 seconds or less.

Infographics On Blogs

Alter-Ego:

Captain America

Powers:

Enhanced strength, endurance, agility, speed, reflexes, durability, and healing

How They Use Their Power For Good:

Captain America is loveable not just for his greater-than-normal abilities, but also for having all the values that society knows, trusts and holds dear, especially in times of crisis. Infographic blog posts have that same effect on people. They are trustworthy, reliable and can even help heal broken relationships with members. The agility and flexibility of infographs (traits they share with Cap) lie in their ability to take boring, old numbers and transform them into a story that shed light on the value an association can give members. Infographs can also give a new, engaging perspective on old issues that might persuade lapsed or unhappy members to come back into the fold of your association.

Proud Stats On Twitter

Alter-Ego:

Captain Marvel

Powers:

Flight, enhanced strength, durability and the ability to shoot concussive energy bursts from her hands.

How They Use Their Power For Good:

For those of you who are confused, so-called ‘proud stats’ consist of taking facts and figures about your organization and its industry and transforming them into a concise, fun, engaging and shareable point of pride for members. If you’re coming up empty on what that may be for your association, consider asking yourself, “Why does (insert industry here) matter to my city/province/country/world?” Once you’ve answered that question, find some numbers to back it up and put it out there for the world to see. Similar to Captain Marvel, these optimistic tweets can take off on Twitter as members see it and share it. They also have the ability to send a burst of energy and pride among members (Captain Marvel, anyone?) and have those members tie this great feeling to your organization.

Three Ways To Get Quality Images To Use On Social Media

The cliche ‘A picture says 1,000 words’ needs some updating for the digital age. We’re thinking something along the lines of, ‘A picture gets 1,000 views.’ That’s because in today’s age of social media marketing, images sell and they sell big. Pictures and video dominate timelines and capture many times more engagement than plain, old text.

Knowing the power of images is one thing, but obtaining these images is another thing all together. Associations, non-profits and small businesses can often be left wondering how to get high quality images to use across multiple platforms, whether that be for an Instagram post, a Facebook profile picture or a Twitter update.

There are a variety of ways to get top-notch images to use on social media and chose three of the easiest, effective and accessible ways to do so below.

Create Them Yourself

This one is fairly obvious, but many people don’t believe they have the skill or expertise to take quality images to use on social media. We’re here to tell you that’s a lie; you can and should be taking pictures all the time to add to your online accounts. You don’t need to be a professional photographer or an artsy individual to take some great photos. Make sure you have a decent camera (even a new phone camera will work perfectly) and go to work snapping some photos. Set aside a day or 15 minutes every day to take photos and stockpile them for use in content, a new profile picture or for an online promotion. If you really are not confident in your picture taking abilities, don’t try to be fancy. Take pictures of real situations that you and others can relate to, such as pictures of your colleagues, volunteers at work or someone interacting with particular product that you are really proud of.

Crowdsource Them

One of the most important lessons you should know about any aspect of social media and content marketing is that you’re not in it alone. There are hundreds and probably thousands of people who care about the same issues, products, services and opinions you are sharing on social media. If you have trouble creating images yourself, put out the call to your loyal following to help you out. For example, if you are an association that wants to have photos of its members at work, but it is too time-consuming and/or expensive to visit members on the job, put out a call on your various social media accounts for members to send in a photo of themselves at the office. You can even give them some incentive in the way of a photo contest. However you go about achieving this, just know that crowdsourcing images a great way to get quality pictures from a variety of different perspectives for future content creation while engaging your target audience.

Hit Up Unsplash

If you’re hankering for a truly stupendous photo to illustrate a point, such as a stunning panorama of nature or the perfect shot of a bustling city, don’t just Google it; visit Unsplash.com. First of all, taking pictures from Google images often infringes on copyrights and the photos taken from Google are often low quality anyway. Instead, Unsplash offers visitors a place to search and use open-source photos from photographers from around the world. You can almost always find a stunning photo that captures the mood or vision you want to convey on Unsplash with none of the photo-stealing guilt. All the photos are high-resolution and ready to drop into any social media material you have in mind.

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.

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 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.