A Fond Farewell

Cliches often get a bad rap. They’re boring, overused and aren’t creative or imaginative in any way. However, they do have one redeeming quality and it is the quintessential reason cliches are so prevalent; they’re true.

Take the well-worn phrase, “All good things must come to an end.” It simply means that nothing lasts forever, especially good things, because if they did, they wouldn’t be special or memorable or particularly good anymore. They would just be normal. And it’s true. There’s no such thing as bottomless ice cream cones, amusement parks have a closing time and before you know it, vacations are done and you’re back at the office.

The reason I’m reflecting so heavily on this particular cliche is because it perfectly describes the situation Incline Marketing and myself have come to at the present.

In July, 2013, a little company focused on digital marketing for associations, nonprofits and small businesses was born. That company was Incline Marketing. Throughout the last three and a half years, I have worked hard to grow the company and achieve the goal of helping incredible organizations get the word out about how they could give a hand to hardworking people in making better careers and better lives through online marketing efforts. Like every new venture in life, there were ups and downs, but the highs drastically outweighed the tough times and we achieved what we set out to do.

What I never expected when I started Incline Marketing were the countless other blessings that starting and running a company in the association and non-profit industries would bring. I’ve met great mentors, been a part of countless special events and opportunities that have inspired me, had conversations with amazing, intelligent and dedicated individuals that have left me hungry for success and have worked with a number of organizations and individuals who are achieving unbelievably great things every single day. It’s been an honour.

This is when we come back to that old cliche about good things and their end. We’re a small business helping other small operations and we’ve always been proud of that. We’re not flashy, but we get the job done and we do it well, we do it consistently and we do it by getting to know each and every client individually and working with them to fit our services to their budget, resources and goals. However, small businesses aren’t always sustainable.

After months of struggling with this decisions, grappling with leaving behind my clients, all the work I’d done and the business I’d built up with nothing but a dream and my own two hands, I realized that to continue operating Incline Marketing would sooner or later mean the company would be unable to sustain itself and to achieve the high standards it has prided itself on and promised its clients for almost four years. The breaking point had been reached and the tough decision had to be made.

As of January 9, 2017, Incline Marketing will be suspending all operations indefinitely. There haven’t been many moments in my life that have been harder than typing that sentence. I should probably count myself extremely lucky for that fact, but it’s tough all the same.

It’s been an amazing experience and I could not have gone through it without a few key people. The first and foremost would be my wife, Kelsey, who has supported me through everything I’ve done with Incline, from the early mornings to the late nights, the business trips, the weekend meetings, the occasional emails and posts while on vacation and listening to me running through endless scenarios and ideas for bettering the business and my clients. Running your own business is unpredictable and rarely a stable endeavour, but the real credit goes to those who believe in entrepreneurs unconditionally, every step of the way, through the thick and thin. That was Kelsey and there are no words to thank her enough for being that person for me.

There are also my parents, who have always believed in me and especially my father, who introduced me to the wonders of the association business when I was still just a 20-year-old kid trying to find out what I wanted to do with my life. For that, I am forever indebted to him.

Lastly, I want to thank all my clients and everyone I have met in the association industry along the way, with a special mention to the people at the Canadian Society of Association Executives. Each and every person I have talked to and worked with has been incredible to me and not only because they wanted to see their organizations thrive or their bottom line boosted, but because they genuinely wanted both of us to succeed together, to see a young entrepreneur thrive and to create a bright future for the industry in collaboration with one another.

It’s been an incredible journey and it’s with no less than a heavy heart that I say a fond farewell to Incline Marketing. It’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next, although I’m not entirely certain these are the last words you’ll hear about Incline and it’s services. It’s definitely not the last you’ll hear about me in the association industry as I certainly intend to stay active in this amazing space.

While it’s true that all good things but come to an end, I’d like to make one amendment to the cliche; all good things must come to an end so something better can begin.

Here’s to a bright future and to seeing every end as a beginning.

Stay social everyone.

Marc Cousineau

President, Incline Marketing

A Year-In-Review: Looking Back At Our Top Posts On Social Media Marketing In 2016

We did a year-in-review list last year and it was awesome, so we decided to do it again. Here are our top 10 posts about social media, associations, communications and marketing from 2016.

How To Get Members To Engage With Your Association’s Social Media Account More Than Once

The Post In One Minute: Creating a loyal and consistently engaged following on social media is crucial for associations in their quest to make their digital marketing strategy a success, which is why you need more than one-and-done interaction with your target audience. To keep your members and other stakeholders continually interested and coming back to your online domains again and again, it’s a good idea to foster conversations, add some fun into the interaction, know the topics your audience talks about most and go out of your way to mention people in your posts.

The Post In One Sentence: “The best way to reward members who engage with your association is to spread the interaction past the single point of engagement, such as highlighting the member who engages with your association the most every week, having a space on your website, newsletter and magazine where you republish the best interactions with your members or simply sharing members’ comments.” 

Why You’re Looking At Social Media ROI All Wrong

The Post In One Minute: Return on investment is often viewed as a revenue or profit-driven stat, but when it comes to social media, this perception is dangerous. When determining the ROI of social media, it’s important to create engagement-based benchmarks (such as website traffic, reach or engagement rate) for your association instead of financial ones and gauge your return based on the efforts you put in (such as time, amount of content, etc.). Once you track the data, you can then create ways to maximize engagement and therefore boost your ROI based on audience behaviours, which will ultimately benefit your association in other areas, such as event attendance. 

The Post In One Sentence: “Instead of measuring financial gains or losses from its financial investment in social media…, your organization should look to measure the impact of their online efforts compared to its content input.”

3 Out-of-the-Box Social Media Ideas For Associations

The Post In One Minute: Consistency is great when managing social media, but boring is not. When your digital marketing falls into a rut (and even when it doesn’t!), it’s important to mix it up to keep your audience engaged and finding value in your organization. Implementing some out-of-the-box ideas into your social media strategy can help rejuvenate your association’s presence online. Three ideas for achieving this include a Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank-type contest, challenging members to a round of “Association Champion Bingo” and creating a crowd-sourced mini book by and for members.

The Post In One Sentence: “Sometimes the transition from reliable to boring isn’t even perceptible until it’s too late and your association’s members have tuned out.”

Should Your Association Produce A Podcast?

The Post In One Minute: Podcasts are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for companies, organizations and brands to connect with a broader and more engaged audiences. Associations would be wise to at least consider producing a podcast and integrating it into their value propositions and communications efforts. Some of the benefits include using podcasts to increase education and professional development offerings, the ease of creating a podcast and their accessibility to members (which makes it a win-win) and their revenue-generating potential podcasts have for associations. 

The Post In One Sentence: “Podcasts are perfect way to share knowledge, which make them a great tool for associations looking to offer professional development, first-class information and even certification.” 

Three Twitter Analytics Tools You Should Be Using, But Probably Aren’t

The Post In One Minute: Twitter Analytics is one of the myriad of tools available to association marketers who want to use data and analytics to improve their overall social media and digital communications efforts. Using Twitter Analytics effectively is crucial to parsing the mountain of numbers available at your fingertips and using to build a successful strategy to engage an association’s target audience. Three tools that marketers may have overlooks within Twitter Analytics include Audience Insights (a view of your follower demographics), Events (the big happenings that people will be talking about in the near future) and Top Tweets (what content of yours has appealed to your following the most in the last little while). 

The Post In One Sentence: “The Audience Insights section of Twitter Analytics offers a valuable peak at the demographics you are reaching with your efforts and just how effective your content is at targeting those people who are most likely to signal a return on your investment.”

Four Ways Associations Can Maximize Time And Resources When It Comes To Social Media

The Post In One Minute: Time and resources are at a premium for all associations, so any strategy that can help you maintain a high-quality social media presence while being more efficient is a winning strategy. Scheduling posts in advance is one way to make better use of your time, as is creating an open idea bank where you, staff, volunteers, committee members and the board of directors can add content for you to use later. You can also maximize resources by reusing and repurposing older content by making it relevant to current issues members face. Lastly, set aside a few minutes at the end of the day to work on content for the future and after a couple months, you’ll be surprised at the stockpile of great content you can use when in a time-crunch or when writer’s block hits. 

The Post In One Sentence: “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.”

What Netflix Can Teach Associations About A Successful Social Media Strategy

The Post In One Minute: Netflix is the top dog when it comes to customizing and personalizing the user/member experience, which is one of the biggest reasons why the platform is so successful. Associations must look to follow Netflix’s lead in an era when people crave personalization, especially when it comes to communications and digital marketing efforts. One way to tailor an association’s content to the interests and values of its membership is to take a deep dive into the performance of past content and see what the numbers say. When you discover what a group of well-performing content has in common, seek to replicate it and provide members with more of what they want.

The Post In One Sentence: “Data is the key ingredient that makes Netflix’s famous recipe work; it takes reams of data about how individual users interact with the site’s offerings and tweaks its approach based on the results.”

6 Ways For Association Chapters To Engage Their Members On Social Media

The Post In One Minute: Association chapters often fail to develop either a large following or a consistent identity on social media, but it should not and does not have to be that way. Content that association chapters push out on social media should talk about local members and their accomplishments and local issues and how it affects the chapter’s members. Furthermore, association chapters can keep it regional by playing up their events and initiatives, or taking National issues/projects/etc., and putting them into a local perspective. Lastly, association chapters can use gamification on the local level to engage their members as well as starting conversations with other chapters.

The Post In One Sentence: “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.”

What Young Professionals Really Want From Your Association And How To Give It To Them On Social Media

The Post In One Minute: Young professionals are the future of any association. They are the ones that will be contributing their dues and event registrations and engagement for decades to come, if you play your cards right. Young professionals want a lot of things from a professional development organization, but some of the most important are to be recognized as individuals (not a Millennial horde!), to be recognized for their accomplishments, to have opportunities to make an impact and to be informed and entertained. There are several ways to achieve these goals on social media and draw more young professionals to your association’s services.

The Post In One Sentence: “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.”

Is Facebook Live The Future Of Events? Why It Probably Is And What It Means For Associations

The Post In One Minute: Facebook Live is not the first largely accessible and free live-streaming tool, but it sure is the most exciting in recent years. Facebook Live has the potential to change the association event scene in a big way. This post explored why Facebook Live would be so enticing to associations and what could change for event planners if the platform took over. Some consequences include a different perspective on revenue generation, a different approach to hosting non-members during events, the evolving role of event planners in a Facebook Live era and the rise of the Freemium Model to an even loftier position in associations’ marketing strategy.

The Post In One Sentence: “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, especially as Facebook Live reaches its potential.”

How To De-clutter Your Association’s Social Media Portfolio

It’s a situation that’s all too common; several months or years ago, someone at your association wanted to get the organization on social media and as well-intentioned as they were, they created a Facebook and Twitter account without a proper planning phase. Between then and now, a couple other accounts for your association were created while older versions were abandoned or were rarely touched without being shut down.

Now your association has two Twitter accounts, a few Facebook pages, a couple LinkedIn groups and a random Instagram or YouTube account that is barely ever updated, if ever. That’s not to mention the numerous untended accounts created by chapters, boards, well-meaning volunteers, committees, events or any other leftover or spontaneous-and-now-defunct movements from within your association.

This social media clutter is a real brand-killer. It makes your association look an amateur, it drains resources and takes eyes, traffic, engagement and credibility away from the quality content your association is trying to put out on social media.

If this sounds like your organization, it’s time to do some cleaning. Rolling up your sleeves and determining what accounts can be thrown out and which ones should be polished up is a big undertaking. Here are a few tips for making the process of de-cluttering your association’s social media portfolio easier and much more effective.

Check The Stats

The first step in separating the contenders from the pretenders in your social media portfolio is to examine which accounts are healthy and which ones have withered on the vine by analyzing the data. It’s important to look a few key elements of how each account has performed for the association in order to chose which ones make the grade and advance to the next stage of the process.

First of all, you need to check and see which accounts have the biggest audience (whether that’s followers on Twitter/Instagram, likes on Facebook, subscribers on YouTube, etc). The bigger the audience, the more potential the account has to your association. Next, you need to measure engagement. Which accounts are receiving more frequent engagement and higher quality engagement (shares and traffic as opposed to a simple ‘like’). The higher the engagement level, the more likely that account is to thrive moving forward. Lastly, gauge each account’s posting frequency. The more often an account is used, the more likely the audience is going to be engaged and the less work you need to do to cultivate audience loyalty and attention in the future.

Put Your Content To The Test

The part on posting frequency in the section above is especially important to the next step of this social media de-cluttering project; putting your content to the test. By now, you have most likely cut out a few accounts in your portfolio and need to thin the herd a little more. If it seems like your association needs more than one account on each platform (for example, a main account, an account for events, an account for chapters, etc.), it’s crucial that you have enough content for each account to keep your audiences engaged and thus make it worth your while to invest resources in each account.

Some of the accounts you have already looked at may have posted content very rarely and sporadically (for example, once every three weeks, except for that time four months ago when someone posted 10 times in a week). This may be because of inattentive, overwhelmed or under-qualified staff or it could be because there just wasn’t enough content to justify a separate account. To determine if you will have enough content to validate an account, create a rough content calendar for that account that covers the next one to three months. If you can fill the calendar with frequent posts and if the content contains a fair amount of information only pertaining to that account, then it’s justified. If not, it’s probably not worth your resources.

For example, you may think you need a separate Twitter account for your big conference or for each chapter of your association, but if there isn’t enough content to post about only the event or the chapter consistently, you may be better served to incorporate information about these facets of your organization into your main Twitter account.

Have A Transition Plan

The final step of your de-cluttering project requires you to turn your eyes from the past to the present and the future by crafting a transition plan. At this point, you have probably decided which accounts you’d like to cast off and the ones you want to keep around. The final step is making it official, but it’s very important not to go too fast or you may end up negating all the work you have done and making your future efforts even harder. Before you delete any accounts, create new ones or start to build on existing ones, it’s important to have a plan in place in order to retain as many audience members as possible and make the transition a smooth one to hit the ground running, maximize engagement and make efficient use of resources.

The most important part of this transition plan is to figure out how you will bring as many members of your audience as possible from the doomed accounts to the chosen accounts. Make use of as many communication avenues as possible to get the word out and help with this migration, such as newsletters and other publications, emails, email signatures, word of mouth, committees, your board of directors and, most importantly, posts on your soon-to-be-deleted accounts notifying followers of your impending move (this is where pinned posts come in handy).

Next, you should develop strategies to make your chosen accounts more robust and engaging, which can include refreshing its design, building a diverse and valuable lineup of content, creating a schedule for the use of resources and a plan to integrate several aspects of older accounts into one, new account. Give yourself and your followers some time to transition and once you are happy with the process, make it final by deleting the old accounts. The breathe a breath of fresh air!

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 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.

3 Ways For Associations To Team Up With Industry Influencers On Social Media

Technology has been a way for marketers to engage their target audience for centuries, from the printing press, to radio, TV and, most recently, online platforms. However, the best way to get people to invest in membership or go to your event is still word of mouth.

Word of mouth has been shown to still be the most effective marketing tool there is. A large factor in its success is the fact that someone you know and respect is telling you that investing in a product, service or organization is valuable, rather than the organization itself, who has an ulterior motive, no matter how noble.

The people who have the widest network, are the most trustworthy and respected and who champion your cause the most are called industry influencers. With one conversation, they have the power to potentially convince dozens of people to shell out some money to attend your association’s event or try a trial membership. Getting these industry influencers to talk up your organization is the key to harnessing word of mouth marketing and marrying this engagement tool with social media’s mammoth potential is one more step to maximizing your efforts and the results. Here are three ways to team up industry influencers on social media and boost your association’s marketing strategy.

Plan A Facebook Live Interview

Facebook Live is a great tool to make communication more accessible, open and engaging. A Facebook Live chat gives your association an opportunity to expose members to experiences they would otherwise miss out on, such on taking them behind the scenes of an event or connecting them to the CEO/executive director after a big announcement.

Use industry influencers together with Facebook Live to cultivate excitement for an association initiative. Have an influential member or industry professional come in and answer questions submitted live on Facebook. Streaming the discussion is not only a great way for members to receive information and take advantage of a networking opportunity, but it allows the industry influencer to talk up whatever initiative or project your association is trying to promote at the moment but putting them in front of a wide and receptive audience.

Host A VIP Event

Word of mouth doesn’t necessarily mean a member in a bar talking up the association to non-members in the industry. These days, many people get their word of mouth recommendations from the social media accounts of the people they know and trust around the industry. These influencers have blogs, Twitter accounts, Instagram accounts and Facebook pages that are full of posts detailing their experiences with a new products, event or service. These critiques are then viewed by many and their actions are often dictated by what they read. Use this digital word of mouth to your advantage by putting favourable content right in the lap of these savvy industry influencers that they can spread with a VIP Event

For example, your association may be starting a new seminar series it hopes to use as a springboard for greater member education and engagement and a source of revenue for the organization. Before the seminar series begins, create a seminar event and invite only five or six of your industry influencers who have a large social media following. Put on a great show with lots of visual appeal, great content and lots of hospitality. Encourage the influencers to post lots about the seminar to their following. Investing in one great event could result in scores of people following up on the influencers’ social media suggestion of going to the association’s seminar series.

Create A Testimonial Video With A Twist

Everybody likes a great late night show; they have funny hosts, captivating anecdotes from celebrities and engaging skits. It provides audiences with a relatable connection to someone they see as both exclusive and some worth emulating, which means that if a celebrity talks about a certain restaurant, bar or movie that they enjoyed, you can expect a big bump in revenue for that one things they mention. The same concept can fit into your association’s social media marketing strategy, where industry influencers are similar to celebrities and their endorsements are valued above all. But think like a late night show and spice up the regular, old testimonial.

For example, take a couple cues from the Late, Late Show with James Corden and his wildly popular segments like Carpool Karaoke or Take A Break. Have an industry influencer come in and sub in for various association staff members throughout the day, having them do the work that the staff member usually does. Film them while they help staff members ‘take a break’ and edit it together to create a short video that captures some funny moments, the reality of what it takes to run the association, the value it provides and how much the influencer respects the association and its staff at the end of the day. Post the video to all your association’s social platforms and have the influencer do the same so a twist on the usual testimonial.