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.

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. This 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 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.

Canada Post Stand-off Highlights Value Of Social Media To Associations

The Canadian Postal Workers Union is on the verge of being locked out at the time of this writing and while the average person may not feel the effect of this work stoppage, association probably will.

Associations send out and receive a substantial amount of mail every year, from dues notices, invoices, payments, event brochures, trade publications, new member welcome kits and the list can go on and on. Having this flow of printed communications suddenly stop can have a huge impact on almost every facet of an organization. When members don’t received vital mail from an association, it can turn them from a well-informed, well-engaged and loyal professional into a disenchanted, disconnected, was-a-member fairly quickly.

This nightmare scenario only serves to reinforce the importance of social media to an association’s communications and marketing plan and, indeed, an association’s overall operation. If the scenario above seems a little exaggerated, it’s because the importance of print mail has decreased immensely over the last decade due to the rapid rise of electronic communications. By this very fact, social media becomes a crucial pillar of an organization’s communication efforts. However, print mail still has an important role for associations and its disappearance can be felt even more when social media isn’t there to fill the void.

Take, for instance, a new member welcome kit that usually arrives in the mail. This package usually includes a nice letter, information about member benefits, how to get the most out of membership, where to go if the member has questions, sponsored material and more of the same.

This information can be the basis of everything from the new member’s level of engagement, the return on investment of member benefits, sponsor relations and member recruitment channels. If this package never gets there or gets there in an insufficient time or manner, it can cause all those elements to decline drastically. This is when social media can step in to fill the gap.

Take that same example of a new member welcome kit. All of the elements included in the kit can be integrated into a social media strategy and can work in different, and sometimes better ways. That welcome letter can turn into a nice personalized message sent out via Facebook or Twitter along with a call to current member to add words of advice or encouragement to a new member. An outline of member benefits can be transformed into a handy infographic blog post and a how-to video on maximizing return on membership can be posted to YouTube. Sponsors can be hyped through social media posts, such as Instagram photos, tweets or a “special vendors” section on your association’s Facebook page.

At the end of the day, what this example illustrates is the importance of social media to a diverse, engaging and targeted communication strategy for associations. A postal strike isn’t the only reason for associations to have a robust presence on social media, nor should social media be a backup or Plan B. Rather, social media should be viewed as an integral part of a marketing framework that seeks innovative ways to connect with every member in the most effective way possible.

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.