3 Easy Ways For Associations To Connect With Their Target Audience On Social Media

Whether you’re just starting a social media account for your association or your organization is an old pro at the medium, connecting with your target audience is a never-ending process that is crucial to the success of your online marketing efforts. Building an audience, increasing reach, boosting engagement and finding quality content are just four reasons out of dozens that you will want to be connecting with more and more people and organizations on a continual basis.

This goal is easier said than done. When you are starting a new account, connecting with the plethora of prospects can seem like an overwhelming task and when you’ve been doing it for a while, it’s understandable to think you’ve tapped out your audience and accept the plateau.

These struggles are real, but we have a few strategies you can try to increase your audience and connect with your association’s target demographic.

Make It Part Of Any Registration Process

In any given year, your association’s members have to fill out a handful of forms. Whether it’s event registration, membership renewal, volunteer applications, award nominations or magazine, newsletter or blog articles, your members send personal information to your organization all the time. Asking for someone’s social media handles, just like you ask for their email address or phone number, on any forms or communication is a very simple way to scout for online connections.

Your association may have connected with many of these people before taking this step, but there are always people who slipped through the cracks or who are new to the industry or social media that you can find out about this way. It also saves you the time of going on a hunt for hidden social media connections and gets your members thinking of connecting with your association themselves.

Comb Through The Friends Of Your Friends

If your association has been on any social media platform for even a couple months, there are surely accounts that post regularly and that you go to first when searching for the latest and most relevant news and content. Use these dependable friends of yours to connect with your target audience by mining their list of connections.

Pick five of the most relevant and active users that you follow or that follow you and take a look at who follows them and who they are following. This list will give you some great insight and will most likely yield a lot of social media users that you have not included in your list of connections. Because you have chosen a social media account with goals and content that are most like your own, these new connections are more likely to reciprocate this connection, engage with you, provide great content and become part of your community.

Seek Out Those People Who Talk Like You

One of the ways for associations to be successful on social media, amongst the millions of accounts and multitude of posts, is to find their niche and relay specialized, high-quality content on a consistent basis. Within this strategy is another method of making connections with your organization’s target audience. Find out what topics you specialize in, talk about the most and that generate the most engagement and then find the people who are also talking a lot about these topics.

Take a look at a large sampling of your most recent posts and analyze which hashtags, words, type of media and topics you post about and that get the most engagement. Once you have discovered these popular clusters, search for people using this same collection of language and content on any given social media platform. You will probably end up finding a few people who are interested in these niche issues and who your association can connect with. This process may be a little more time consuming than the previous two strategies, but it will be most likely to guide you to a small number of highly active and relevant social media users ready to embrace your community and make an impact on your efforts.

The Role Of Nostalgia And Innovation In Social Media And Member Engagement

There are two types of members that associations should be paying attention to the most right now; those from the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations.

Yes, every member counts, no matter their age or occupation, but it’s time to face facts; these two groups make up the largest working demographics in the world and often carry the most clout. Veterans of the industry are influential, know a lot of people and hold powerful titles, while young professionals are the ones ushering in the latest and greatest ideas and changes to the industry while having the potential to be a part of your association for decades to come, if you play your cards right.

Engaging these two groups and highlighting the value of your association to them is a crucial part of remaining a strong and sustainable organization. The success of your engagement strategy has the ability to influence everything from your association’s board leadership and event attendance to its advocacy strategy.

There are many ways that social media can provide one platform to convey an association’s virtues to Boomer and Millennials alike, but one key strategy is to employ nostalgia and innovation. Having an understanding of how to use these two elements to engage industry vets and newcomers, as well as how to tie them together, is crucial to standing out and proving your association’s worth above others. The following paragraphs provide some quick tips for integrating nostalgia and innovation into your social media strategy and taking one more step towards a stronger relationship with Baby Boomer and Millennial members.

Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a wistful affection for the past, that feeling that makes you long for the ‘good old days.’ Older members of your association have been part of the organization for a long time and there’s a reason for that; they’ve associated their time as a member with success and prosperity in their personal and professional lives.

However, the cause of nostalgia is often a feeling that the present is not as desirable as the past, which inevitably means that older members may not feel like the association is as useful to them as it once was and may be diverging from the path they have known and respected for decades. When this happens, it leaves your association open to not only a few lapsed members, but the potential for these influential and respected veterans of the industry to voice their displeasure for the organization for all to hear.

In this situation, social media can be a powerful tool to help older members remember what makes the association great and how membership is still a valuable tool for them. Photos are stories are two of the best nostalgia-inducing mechanisms and social media just happens to be the perfect place for those two elements.

Dig back into your archives of photos and pick a few from a past conference or event that feature members. In the lead up to the present incarnation of the event, post these pictures on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. This will remind older members of the impact these events had on their careers, the networking, the friendships, the lessons learned, and will help them realize that a continued presence there will be beneficial. Bonus points for engaging members by tagging them or playing a fun trivia game with the picture by asking what year it’s from.

Recruit a veteran member to tell the story of their first big moment in the association, such as the first time they put it on their resume, attended an event or received the magazine. Have them also relate this experience to their present day experience with the association. Put the story up on your blog or YouTube channel and post portions of it to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. These stories tell a first-hand account of the association’s excellence in the past and present, stirring up memories of the first encounter with the association in all members and generating positivity in the present.

Innovation

Innovation is the direct opposite of nostalgia. It is the constant striving for a better tomorrow and a belief that the future will be more efficient and more valuable than what was done in the past. Innovation is what young members, those who are just starting their careers, are looking for in an association; what can the organization offer them that is new, exciting and can give them an edge?

One of the prime reasons that Millennials stay away from joining associations is the belief that such organizations take an old school approach and are happy going about business as usual, catering only to the veteran members and how they like structuring benefits, events and more. This ideology can put young professionals off your organization for years and years and maybe forever.

Social media is a great way to show young professionals that your association is interested in providing cutting edge solutions to relevant challenges and can be the step up they need in their careers.

If your association has a trade show, take that opportunity to highlight the organization’s dedication to exposing members to innovative products and services. Arrange to go on a “shopping trip” with an industry veteran on the trade show floor and document his or her’s best finds live on Twitter or in a blog post or YouTube video later on. Put an emphasis on the the newest technology or cutting edge companies.

Another way to underscore innovation at your association through social media is to create an innovation podcast or YouTube channel. This weekly or bi-weekly piece of content would seek to find people in the industry that are using new ideas or methods in the industry or who are blazing a new trail. Ideally, these people would be association members. Interviewing them and using these discussions to highlight ways in which the industry is evolving will link your association with innovation and solutions and will draw in young professionals who are seeking these elements.

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.

What Krispy Kreme and Target Can Teach Associations About Social Media

Some of the best ideas come from studying successful organizations and adapting their effective strategies, projects and culture for use in your own organization. But while success can often beget success, studying the failure of another company also has merit.

Analyzing where strategies went wrong and the root causes of unsuccessful initiatives can help associations learn how to avoid the same fate of another organization that had to be taught the hard way. It can also make the path to success much more clear.

Take for example two American companies and their not-too-distant attempts to corner the Canadian market that sputtered and faded away; Krispy Kreme Donuts and Target. Studying where these two behemoths went wrong can help associations tap into the realities of human behaviour and grasp what it takes to create a successful, engaging and sustainable social media plan.

Krispy Kreme

The Context

Krispy Kreme, the favourite donut shop of millions of American, entered onto the Canadian stage with much fanfare in the early 2000s. While Krispy Kreme was initially successful and mounted plans for expansion, the love affair between it and the Great White North cooled off enough for the company to nix these plans. While the company’s plans for expansion have recently been renewed, they face a challenge in capturing the hearts and minds (and stomachs) of Canadians once again as smaller, gourmet donut shops have exploded in popularity over the last decade. While Krispy Kreme’s venture into Canada may not be deemed a total failure, its inability to realize its grand plans while vastly smaller competition prospered are a little embarrassing for an international chain with a big budget.

The Lesson

The social media lesson that can be learned by associations from Krispy Kreme’s floundering expansion in Canada is that quality matters a lot more than quantity.

Krispy Kreme produces millions of donuts a year and while many like how they taste, there is rarely any innovation or variation, which leads to a been-there-done-that attitude from consumers. On the other hand, smaller, gourmet donut shops use fresh ingredients to create unique pastries that pique the imagination of their customers, creating a brand and a product that can’t be found anywhere else. While their volume is less, their quality is higher and their return in greater.

Associations should create a social media strategy that seeks to produce content that is innovative, unique, engaging and valuable, even if they don’t have the resources to produce lots of it. Instead of daily tweets or Facebook posts that regurgitate press releases or quote magazine articles verbatim, create posts that use numbers, videos, visuals and testimonials to give members an experience they’ll want to be a part of and truly paints a picture of your association’s efforts to improve their lives. Make a movie trailer for the annual conference or put out a call on social media for a scavenger hunt within your association’s magazine. Whatever it is, be creative, be different, be focused on high quality content and be tuned into what members really want.

Target

The Context

Target’s foray into Canada was one big mess, from beginning to end. The company opened too many stores, too fast and customers were greeted by empty shelves, poor deals and an underwhelming experience. While Target’s opening in Canada was much anticipated, the company fell short and Canadian shoppers went back to buying from their usual spots. The monster-sized chain lost money rapidly while the stores continued to decline and less than two years after the first Canadian Target opened, the company pulled out completely. Needless to say, it was a massive failure for Target.

The Lesson

Target bit off way more than they could chew with the Canadian expansion and the product suffered because of it. Associations would do well to remember this example and not repeat this mistake on social media.

While keeping up with the latest trends in technology and social networking is important for any organization, it is never a good idea to branch out onto new platforms too fast. For example, if your association has a successful Twitter account, you may be tempted to start an account on Facebook, create an Instagram account and develop a bi-weekly blog to capitalize on the engagement your efforts are generating. However, if this expansion is done too quickly and without a proper analysis of demographics, strategy, expectations, guidelines and available resources, you can end up watering down the quality of your content and driving away your target audience. Start slowly by creating a new blog and as that develops and as resources dictate, add another platform to your strategy.

Associations need to remember to resist the urge to jump on the social media bandwagon of a new platform because of its trendiness in the news. Stick with what made your digital media strategy work and look for incremental ways to branch out and develop relationships with your target audience in that way.