How Running An Association’s Social Media Is Like Playing Golf

If you’re like us here at Incline Marketing, spending an afternoon playing a round of golf sounds as ideal as it gets. Not only is fun, challenging and active, but golf can also teach all of us a thing or two about social media marketing, which is always a lesson we’re interesting in hearing. As autumn hits, colder temperatures prevail and golf season comes to end, we’re here to give the game its proper due by drawing some parallels between the sport and an association’s successful social media strategy.

It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint

A round of golf is 18 holes, takes around four hours to play and is made up of an average of 80-100 shots. A golfer’s score is the culmination of each and every shot; your first shot and last shot, your longest and shortest, all count as one on the scorecard. A round of golf is a marathon, where every shot matters and much be carefully studied before taking a swing.

Similarly, social media is more of a metaphorical marathon than a sprint. Consistency counts more than many other factors in creating a successful brand online. It may seem like certain posts are more important than others, but each one adds up over time to create a full picture of who your association is and what it means to its audience. Every piece of content must be studied and constructed just right, with a clear message and with the association’s goals in mind, in order to be successful and lead to an overall great return on investment at the end of the day.

Precision AND Power Count

Drive for show, putt for dough, as the saying goes. While this is a delightful way to illustrate two facets of the game of golf, it’s actually quite true that the best players in the game, amateur or pro, can combine power off the tee and a steady, accurate hand on the putting green. Golf can be a game of long distances and the smallest fraction of an inch, all in a matter of minutes and mastering those dual considerations is key to victory.

Social media is also often about precision and power all at once. Associations need to pack a punch any time they communicate with members with the goal of engaging them, especially on social media. Sending a powerful message can mean the difference between a successful event and a boring one, a great membership drive or a merely good one. At the same time, the way your association creates its content involves some precise data. Analyzing numbers and examining the best way to word a tweet or the best time to post on Facebook or any other consideration is extremely important to catering to a niche audience which has a big impact on your organization’s online success.

Etiquette Is Super Important

There are a lot of rules, both written and unwritten, in golf. This etiquette, which includes everything from what you wear to which order you shoot, is a crucial part of the tradition of the game and a big reason why so many people love to play golf. Sometimes this etiquette can put people off and can hamper the growth of the game, and it is important to know when to be a stickler and when to loosen the rules, but keep the spirit of the game alive.

Etiquette is also an extremely important, if somewhat undervalued, part of an association’s social media efforts. There are certain unwritten rules of engagement that your audience expects to come as part of the experience of interacting with your association on social media. You also must have guidelines for your staff and volunteers and a plan for moments of crisis or when someone goes against etiquette. Understanding the rules of social media, both written and unwritten, as well as the rules for creating engaging content and the rules of your organization is crucial to having a well-thought-out and stable social media strategy that provides results.

Studying The Landscape Comes In Handy

Golf can actually be considered a team sport. Every professional golfer has a caddy who is instrumental to helping them play their best. Caddies often study the golf course for days and days before a tournament, determining distances, reading the slope of greens and examining the best and worst areas of play. The caddy’s knowledge is invaluable when a player needs to know exactly what kind of shot to make in a certain situation and can be the difference between first place and middle of the pack.

A good association social media manager is just like a good caddy in that they study the landscape of the industry, their social media results and their audience on a regular basis. Determining the pulse of your target demographics, what they’re talking about, what’s important to them, what they’re reading, how they’re talking and how they’re using social media to engage, is a crucial part of maximizing your efforts, content and return on investment. Study the landscape of social media, what’s successful, what’s not and plan your next moves accordingly in order to be successful.

Three Perks Of Twitter’s New Character Count Guidelines For Associations

Twitter’s latest change is a game-changer.

For more than 10 years, the social media platform has limited its messages to 140 characters and while that’s not exactly going to change, the way Twitter counts its characters is undergoing a huge shift.

At the time of this writing, every piece of text or media is included in Twitter’s 140 character count, which means that you can only squeeze in so many pictures, links, videos, hashtags and words. Often, some of these elements are sacrificed in order to fit inside the 140 character limit and the quality of the message can suffer along with this sacrifice.

Twitter is finally changing this model and exempting links and media from the 140 character limit. This long-rumoured change throws open the doors to all sorts of possibilities, especially for association marketers.

Perk #1

The first and most obvious benefit of this modification for associations is that they will have the ability to add more pictures and videos into their content. Gone are the days of forgoing a picture or video because a link to a website means there’s not enough room in a tweet.

Pictures and videos, as we’ve mentioned before, have been shown in numerous studies to generate more engagement and increase the reach of an organization’s message more than simple text. When you combine the engagement-boosting power of a video or picture with a link to the association’s website, it means more traffic and a better likelihood of results.

For example, let’s say you want to promote your association’s certification or designation program. Now, it’s much easier to state your tweet’s context, add a link to the part of the website with details on the program and include a short testimonial video with members who have been through the program. Now, you’re doing three things at once, instead of just one or two, and increasing the possibility of traffic to your website and more participation in a given service.

Perk #2

An event is one of the most effective ways to connect with members, provide them with added value for their investment and make them want to come back for more. Social media plays an important part in making this all happen as being online adds another layer to the attendee experience and multiplies the feeling of community that is present at a big association event. Twitter’s new character count guidelines means that you can make this experience even more valuable and memorable for attendees.

Part of the allure of live-tweeting an event is sharing every experience with attendees from multiple angles and perspectives so as to enhance the general value and atmosphere of attending. Fitting more media and more text into a tweet allows you to add something new to the attendee’s experience.

For example, when highlighting a trade show, you can fit the whole trade show experience into one or two tweets much easier than before. Instead of posting one tweet with text, one tweet with a picture or two and one tweet with a video, you can post one with all three and give attendees instant access to multiple views, perspectives and experiences of the trade show. This builds excitement and makes attendees feel as if they are stepping into a whole new experience that will add another layer to something they might have seen last year and the year after and so on.

Perk #3

A call to action is an integral part of any association’s advocacy program, which can be one of the most valuable aspects of membership. You may call your members to action with a letter writing campaign to politicians or call on members to contact local media and write for the association magazine with their stories about how the industry is making the community a better place. Whatever the cause or objective, you have to rally members and persuade them to take action en masse, which can be extremely difficult to achieve.

Again, Twitter’s new character count formula allows your organization to craft better calls to action that will be more easily spread and make it easier for members to participate. Ease of process is a integral part of a successful call to action. If members have to do many steps to answer the call, many of the less engaged members will drop the process half way through. Twitter’s enhanced character count allows your association to adapt its call to action to the social media platform and do so in a way that cuts out any ambiguity or extra steps to make it easy for members, thereby increasing the odds that more members will participate.

Here’s one scenario where this strategy comes into play. Let’s say you want your members to participate in a letter writing campaign to politicians in order to lobby against a piece of legislation. You can send out a tweet with a form letter attached, a video from an executive about why this issue matters and a link to the association website for more information, all while still using a hashtag that captures the spirit and community of the call to action.

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.

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.

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.

3 Easy Ways To Give Your Social Media Account A Refresh

There’s a reason people become addicted to cleaning and organizing their homes and home makeover shows on television; it’s refreshing. Housework can give a cluttered space a new look and make everyone want to bask in the glow of a room that’s been changed for the better.

We applied this same thinking to social media accounts and came up with three easy ways any organization can give their platforms a refresh to attract eyes and win over the hearts of their audience.

Add A New Profile Picture

There’s no doubt that images catch the attention of social media users more than any other element. Your organization’s profile pictures are the most constant and recognizable images associated with your operation online and can help do everything from attract profile views to likes to website traffic. Creating a fresh profile picture is one way to give your social media account a vibrant, new look and get users, both old and new, engaging with your organization again. Try using different colours, showing off a different setting or, in regards to Twitter or Facebook, complimenting your profile picture with your display picture with a creative and fun play on space like these examples.

Put More Faces Front And Centre

This piece of advice also utilizes pictures and images to give your organization’s social media account a jolt of freshness. Faces perform very well in studies linking social media posts to engagement and can serve as a way for your organization to put its members, customers, staff or volunteers front and centre. Creating content that utilizes faces will also help you think of new ways to promote your organization and its efforts by framing them in a different perspective, one that seems more relatable to your target audience. Post testimonials, interviews, event pictures and other posts that have the potential to show faces.

Ditch The Dry, Rambling Description

You know that little box you filled out when you started your organization’s social media account that asked for a description of your organization and then you immediately forgot about it? Ya, you need to redo that description. The description, which is often a dry, rambling, short version of your organization’s mission, won’t catch too many eyes when they scroll through a list of potential connections. A streamlined version that hits all the right notes is way more likely to achieve your goals and will liven up a tired social media account. Look for singular words or very short phrases that explain your organization. Check out popular hashtags and ask your most loyal and active members, customers or volunteers to describe your organization in one, short sentence and use their feedback.