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.

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!

Five Ways Your Association Can Use Social Media to Help Members’ Professional Development

Professional development is big for members of associations. We’re talking 30-bedroom-mansion-with-three-swimming-pools big.

In a 2013 survey done by Greenfield Services, education, networking and access to specialized information accounted for over 50% of the reasons why someone joined an association. These areas have one thing in common; they help members get ahead in their careers. Associations give their members a chance to make connections, learn new things and gather knowledge, which, in turn, will help them climb the ladder.

So, if a great professional development strategy is so important to attracting and retaining members, how does social media fit into this strategy? Here are five ways to incorporate professional development in your online communications efforts:

Twitter Chat With An Expert

This strategy checks off pretty much all the professional development boxes; education, specialized information and networking.

Just a quick refresher on what a Twitter chat is: A Twitter chat is a live, open-forum conversation that focuses on a specific issues that is important to a certain group of people. There is a moderator and questions are posed to generate conversation. For example, in this situation, your association may want to set up a Twitter chat where members can ask a lawyer about a new piece of legislation that will affect them.

A Twitter chat with an expert allows members to get information that will help them solve problems specific to them. It can also be a great way to learn new details of a practice they are already familiar with while also networking with their peers.

LinkedIn Conversations

Over the years, LinkedIn has established itself as the go-to resource for professionals looking to up their game and get recognized. This quest to be heard among the thousands of other LinkedIn users devolves into the race for endorsements or becomes easy prey for spammers. Don’t let your association settle for this while leaving your members to fend for themselves. Create a well-maintained LinkedIn group as a haven for your members.

LinkedIn groups have the ability to be exclusive, meaning that access to specialized information can be just that; specialized. Keep a good filter on who is allowed into your group and keep your eyes out for spam accounts that will make members disillusioned. Encourage conversation and a sharing of ideas among members in the group. Members will learn new techniques from each other and expand their networks at the same time.

Drop Knowledge With A Blog

A blog can be a gateway for your association, one that has a sign over top saying, “If you think this stuff is good, just imagine all the other educational opportunities we provide to members.”

Blogs are a great way to share information with members and non-members alike and thus help them with their professional development. Your association can tackle everything from new techniques specific to its industry to general advice (such as resume-building tips for members). Not only does it spread the wealth of information your organization has, but it can help expose the great work of your members by profiling their achievements, which is an effective form of networking.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a feature of Google+ that works sort of like an updated version of a webinar. It allows groups to gather online to learn and have a conversation.

Hangouts give your association an opportunity to incorporate the three aspects of professional development (education, networking and access to specialized information). For example, recruit a member to give a talk to other members about a new and effective strategy they are using at their operation. Not only does this provide members with an exclusive educational opportunity, but it also gives the speaker member a chance to share their knowledge and be recognized as a special resource in the industry. It also allows other members of the Hangout to meet their peers without the restrictions of distance.

Live-Tweet An Event

Your association’s events are the headliners of its professional development strategy. There are educational talks, exclusive content and hobnobbing opportunities galore. Live-tweeting the event adds another layer that allows your community to get even more from your efforts.

There are many times when your association’s annual conference includes overlapping educational opportunities. Tweeting bits and pieces of these talks allows people to do the impossible; be in two places at once. This allows your association and its members to get a 2 for 1 deal on learning.

Live tweeting an event also helps your association connect attendees directly with speakers and other attendees. It brings all parties together on one platform to talk, plan a networking meetup or ask follow-up questions to a presentation they saw.

Thinking Outside The Mail Box: What Email Can Do, Social Media Can Do Better

Email has been the champion of mass communication platforms for a long time, and for good reason, but no one is perfect. Email has its limitations and its flaws, especially when you’re an association looking to expand its reach and better serve its members.

The time when email was the only way associations and non-profits connected with their community online is now over. Social media has long-ago inserted itself into everyday use for organizations looking to get the word out. Its not enough to send a regular newsletter to 1,000 inboxes or continually promote causes, events and news with email blasts any more. While email is still a valuable way to supplement your marketing and communications efforts, social media has evolved to arguably become the stronger of the two outreach methods.

If you’re still a little skeptical (or a lot skeptical), give us a chance to make our case. Here are three things that email does well, but social media does better:

Recruiting Volunteers

Volunteers are an important part of any operation. Whether its reaching out to members in an effort to fill committee spots or to the general public to help a cause, communicating your organization’s goals and convincing people to join in achieving them is no easy task.

Email requests for volunteers often fall on deaf ears. Unfortunately, they too often become text-heavy nuisances that get lost in the sea of other important messages your members receive on any given day. Social media, on the other hand, allows your organization to be in the right spot at the right time while also highlighting how volunteers can make a difference, not just in the lives of others, but in their own as well.

The majority of LinkedIn users are looking for a professional leg-up. Your LinkedIn page/group is where your members or community go to share their expertise in the form of articles, network and seek out opportunity. This makes LinkedIn the perfect place for your organization to advertise its need for volunteers. It’s a perfect match between opportunity-seeker and an organization in need. Additionally, LinkedIn’s Non-profit Volunteer Marketplace offers organizations a dedicated space to post opportunities and appeal to those who are specifically looking for volunteer roles in their community.

Besides LinkedIn, infographics and videos allow an organization to chart out the value of volunteering with your organization. These tools, easily published on YouTube, a blog, Twitter and Facebook, answers the question, “What’s in it for me,” that many in your community might be asking. Rather than giving a vague, down-the-road response, show the pay-offs quite clearly. For example, if your association is looking for volunteers to join the a committee, chart out the impact their decisions could have on the organization or create a video in which current committee members explain how their participation has benefited their career.

Promoting Events

Nothing says “typical, old event” like a half-dozen, text-laden promotional emails leading up your organization’s conference or initiative. Let’s face it, if you do the same marketing over and over again, your community is going to start wondering if the event is going to offer anything other than what they’ve already seen in past years.

Social media offers your organization a host of new ways to promote your event that compliment your email regiment and draw attendees, both loyal ones and newbies. We’ve covered many of the ways in which social media can help promote your organization’s event and when comparing these opportunities with what email offers, its not much of a contest.

The opportunities that social media gives your organization in promoting events can be split into two main categories. The first is proving value. We showcased the ability of infographics and video to convey value in the previous section on recruiting volunteers and the same can be said for promoting events. Tweets and Facebook posts also allow your organization to focus on one area of your events that will help provide value to potential attendees without overloading them with information or a hard-sales approach. But probably the most effective approach in convincing someone to attend an event is to hear it from someone they can relate to. Blog posts can do wonders in this area. Have a member write a post about their good experience at an annual event or something along the lines of, “Five ways to get the most out of the annual conference.” This will help members see that your attempts at promotion are not driven solely by money, but by a genuine desire to help your community.

The second of the aforementioned categories is giving your community a voice. When you allow your community to help shape the event in small ways, it will help build their faith in the value of the event and pride in helping shape it. Social media gives your organization the ability to accomplish this crucial task. Tweets, Facebook posts, blog comments and contests that can be spread over multiple platforms allow your community to chime in on everything from catering choices to lecture topics, entertainment selections and the registration process. While it is important to give your community a voice, provide carefully thought out options for key elements of your event or risk committing to something that’s over budget or impossible to deliver.

Interacting with Members

Interacting with members has always been important. Keeping your association’s community informed about organizational news, industry trends, important legislation and feedback opportunities, such as surveys, has always been a way to support members. With the advent of social media, increased interaction between member and association has become expected. While email does allow the dissemination of information, it doesn’t quite lend itself to the back-and-forth of conversation like social media does.

Email is great for relaying basic information, but social media gives associations the opportunity to showcase different perspectives of issues and initiatives. For example, an email about an association’s lobbying efforts is an effective way to convey information and updates, but a video, a blog post and/or live-tweeting give members more access to both knowledge and value, while allowing them to comment and join in.

Social media also allows your association’s members to ask questions and get the specific answers they are looking for, something unavailable or overwhelming with mass emails. The best example of this comes from platforms like Twitter or Facebook. Members are given the chance to ask questions, such as, “How do I access the online version of the association’s publication,” and get a timely and tailored response. These platforms are also conducive to asking for and receiving feedback. Posting a poll on Facebook or tweeting out a question, such as, “What was the best part of last week’s conference?” gives your community an opportunity to respond and take part in shaping their own organization.

Lastly, social media is a great tool for association’s to help stimulate conversation not just between the organization and members, but between members and their colleagues. LinkedIn discussion boards and Twitter chats are platforms that organizations can use to promote conversations and increase the amount of networking and information provided to members. Email is an unlikely source for this sort of all-way, timely and flexible communication.

Operation Event Success: How to Pull Off an Awesome Event with Social Media

Pulling off any great plan comes in stages. Just take a look at any good heist movie and you’ll see that at least half the plot involves the ridiculously good looking, relatable main characters planning the job (including the creation of a catchy name for it, like Operation X, Y or Z) and the other half executing their plan with a slice at the end that sees them enjoying their spoils.

Putting on a successful event is similar, although hopefully it doesn’t involve breaking the law or doing any of your own stunts. A great conference or fundraising event involves planning, execution and follow up. Social media can help you complete this mission and take your event to the next level.

On that note, here are the three phases of putting on a successful event with social media, or what we’ve dubbed Operation Event Success

Phase 1- Approaching the Mark: Before the Event

The planning stage of the mission has a few key steps. These include establishing a hashtag, getting the word (and the details) out about the event, and posting/tweeting/writing about the important elements like how to register and how sponsors can get involved.

Remember to have some fun with it though. Create a video tour of the venue or trade show area and upload it to YouTube. Create a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure infographic for your blog or Pinterest to give attendees a fun way to plan their time at the event. You could even run a small Twitter or Facebook contest that promotes your event and encourages engagement, such as one that gives clues for the theme or location of your event.

Phase 2- The Eagle Has Landed: During the Event

This is the crucial part of your mission. The action is at its peak and all the players are in motion. A truly great event happens, well, at the event. If social media has anything to say about it, the conference, fundraiser, etc., will be a huge hit.

Live tweeting the event helps attendees network, learn, contribute and engage on another level, which is always a great thing. Setting up TV screens in the venue that show your live tweets can help attendees who don’t have Twitter keep track of any updates, information or fun stuff. Arranging a tweet up can also be a fun way for your community to network, collaborate and have some fun at an event.

Recapping the day’s highlights on a blog during a multi-day event can also be helpful, engaging and fun for attendees. Try to get one of your attendees, volunteers, members or organizing committee to write a short post to get a different perspective on the day and the event.

Phase 3- A Clean Getaway: After the Event

The chairs are stacked, the lights are out and the venue is a speck in your rear view mirror. But hold on, you’re not in the clear just yet. Even after the event is finished there is much to do on social media in order to achieve a successful follow up and ensure future events flourish.

Recapping the event with a blog post, a video on YouTube and/or an album on Facebook gives your members a chance to develop their new connections and reminisce about the event while highlighting the benefits of your organization’s efforts. Creating an infographic or photo collage on Pinterest can help show your attendees how their efforts made a difference.

Receiving feedback is an important part of putting together future events. Put a poll on your blog or Facebook page asking what everyone’s favourite moment was at your past event. Making the poll into a contest where participants win a trip to your next event also helps increase engagement and feedback.

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A great event isn’t built in a day, but with thoughtful planning, a well-executed strategy and a devoted follow up, all on social media, having a successful event can be easier and more fun for everyone involved.

What are your social media secrets to a successful event? Let us know in the comments!

 

How LinkedIn Can Be a Powerful Tool for Your Non-Profit

LinkedIn is an often forgotten instrument in the social media orchestra, sort of like the xylophone or harp of all platforms. But just like these instruments, LinkedIn can be an important and influential part of the whole. LinkedIn can help organizations increase membership, donations and its volunteer base while improving services to each of these groups.

LinkedIn is first and foremost a place to grow personally and professionally. This is done through networking, promoting skills, joining conversations and reading informative articles.

One of the main goals of a non-profit or association is to improve its members’ quality of life or professional life. Because LinkedIn’s users have the same goal, it makes the platform an almost perfect point from which organizations can start growing and improving.

Here are a few ways your association or non-profit can use LinkedIn to make a greater impact online.

Education

Education is a huge part of what many associations and non-profits provide members. LinkedIn gives a space for organizations to post original content and share interesting articles that can be a crucial element of on-going education for members.

Original content on LinkedIn can differ from a blog post by being more geared to the professional development of an association’s members. This might include an analysis of a study, information on a new law that affects members or tips to handling job interviews in the industry.

With LinkedIn’s promoted posts feature, you can even target specific groups of people so your message reaches the right audience. You’ll have to shell out a few dollars for it, but promoted posts can connect potential members with your organization when they otherwise would never have contact with you.

Giving members, volunteers or donors another source for good information will strengthen the trust and relationship your organization has with the community and further establish your non-profit as the place to go for the most useful resources.

Networking

Offering your members a way to network with others in the industry will give them a huge professional boost. Creating a LinkedIn group is a great way to provide networking for members between events and conferences.

Think about LinkedIn groups as a place to conduct a virtual roundtable. Provide a topic of conversation and members will join, engage and build their connections.

Once the connections are established, members can promote their skills and receive recommendations from others. This further builds their presence in the industry and gives them a great head-start on seeking new opportunities.

Professional Opportunities

Part of LinkedIn’s appeal to users is the chance to build and highlight past job and volunteer experiences. Seeking out people who have noted an interest in volunteering or have experience in your organization’s industry and letting them know about opportunities will draw them to your organization. Helping people out by building them up is a great way to develop a long-lasting relationship and spread great word-of-mouth about your organization.

Keeping group members informed of other jobs or volunteer roles through LinkedIn is similarly beneficial. This will help users build their resume and keep users coming back to your organization’s group.

Connecting

If you have trouble finding the right people to follow on Twitter, Facebook, etc., a LinkedIn search can help you in no time. Entering an industry keyword into the search box will likely turn up a decent group of users that share the same profession or passion as your organization. The next step is finding those same people on other social networking sites and connecting with them. This can help your organization connect with a larger network and provide services to this same, larger network.

LinkedIn has been quietly growing as a more effective way for non-profits and associations to connect with their audiences and provide them useful services. If you haven’t tried LinkedIn as an organization, definitely give it a go and see the kind of power it can give your organization’s community.