4 Ways Social Media Can Improve Your Association’s E-Newsletter

Association industry experts often espouse the benefits of creating multiple touch-points between the organization and its members in order to keep members engaged, informed and feeling like they are receiving value. One critical touch-point is an association’s e-newsletter. E-newsletters are a great way to provide valuable content to members, keep them up to date on events and initiatives and encourage their participation in association activities that validate the organization’s continued work, financially or otherwise.

However great e-newsletters can be, creating a publication that generates the desired open and click-thru rates is an imperfect science and can leave many an association executive frustrated. This is when social media can become a strong ally in the fight to improve your association’s e-newsletter. Here are fours ways your organization can use the power of social media to improve its e-newsletter and make it a powerful touch-point for your association.

It Can Tell You What Content Is Most Engaging

The sheer number of statistics available to gauge member response to newsletters has never been higher and that’s a great thing. You can figure out which content has the best click-thru rate, the longest average read time, the most shares and on and on. However, you can never have enough data and a big enough sample size, which why you should turn to social media to help crunch the numbers and come to a more well-informed conclusion.

You are probably already sharing links to your e-newsletter on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other platform you have. Create a spreadsheet and track the performance of these links, including the number of clicks, shares, likes, comments, etc. Combine this information with the stream of data you receive on your e-newsletter already and a clearer picture begins to emerge. After determining which content is most successful among your target audience, begin to create a strategy to incorporate more of that kind of content in subsequent newsletters. It will provide more value to readers and up the ROI of your efforts.

It Can Help You Curate Content And Authors

The thin line that e-newsletters (or for that matter any content dissemination platform sent to members) must walk is one of providing members with the information they need while at the same time providing innovative, unique and fresh perspectives in order to stand out. Achieving this balance will always be difficult, but social media allows you to constantly assess the pulse of your industry and membership while discovering new voices and new angles.

You already have a spreadsheet with your engagement numbers (as discussed in the previous section); it’s now time to add to it. Create a part of the spreadsheet where you can track the topics and subjects most commonly discussed by your target demographic on social media, as well as the amount of engagement each topic receives. From there, you can determine which pieces of content are the most relevant to readers and which individuals you may want to target when recruiting authors or sources for e-newsletter content. Not only that, but plastering your social media feeds with e-newsletter links and attributing the author a few times will only help potential contributors to see how much their efforts could help gain them exposure. Use this to recruit more authors with different views, experiences and insights to make your e-newsletter shine and reach a broader appeal.

It Can Drive Traffic

If you build more roads to somewhere, it’s almost an inevitability that more people will travel to that place. This logic can be applied to your association’s e-newsletter. The ‘somewhere’ in your e-newsletter is often an event you are promoting, a member benefit you want to hype, a call-to-action you want to boost or any other initiative your want members to take notice of. Social media is one way to build more roads to this initiative and drive more traffic (and member attention) to the elements you want to highlight.

While your association’s e-newsletter will no doubt attract traffic to any sort of important announcement, most members only open the newsletter once. Social media allows your organization the versatility to post these same links to the announcement in different ways, at different times and to different audiences. For example, your e-newsletter might have an article promoting an event. You can tweet about this article five times over the course of a week using different words and hashtags and at different times of the day to capture the most traffic you can. Utilizing social media enhances your newsletter’s reach and the impact of your organization’s marketing efforts by funnelling a broader audience onto a platform where your content can take over and encourage members to engage with the association’s initiatives.

It Can Whip Up Member Pride And Reader Loyalty

There’s something to be said for the concept of mob mentality. That is, people are certainly more inclined to engage in something if they notice others engaging in it first. While e-newsletters provide a great opportunity to create a personal form communication between a members and the association, it also means that this mob mentality is missing, which leads to a lot of people ignoring your emails and the potential for viewing its content, which is a win/win for the member and the association.

Placing the content from your e-newsletter on social media gives your organization a chance to shift the publication from a contained, one-on-one interaction to a more public action. When this happens, there’s a higher likelihood your target audience will be influenced by someone they trust and invest their time in reading the newsletter content. When other members of the association are reading, sharing and otherwise interacting with the e-newsletter in a public space, it creates a sense of community among the rest of the group and increases pride in the entire audience. Furthermore, social media allows the content in the e-newsletter to be consistently circulated and shared, giving your members a chance to make viewing the newsletter, and interacting with the association, a habit. Establishing your association’s communications as a habit for members means your value has been integrated into their daily lives and increases the likelihood that these members will remain loyal to your association long into the future.

4 Ways To Measure The Success Of Your Organization’s YouTube Channel

It’s become fairly common knowledge that video has ascended to the top of the heap when it comes to the most effective and engaging online marketing content. Video gets the most views, the most shares, the most comments, the most traffic and is a stellar media to convey just about any message your association, small business, non-profit or other organizations wants to get out there.

The rise of video to the top of the content marketing food chain means that many organizations (maybe even yours!) have created and populated YouTube channels. This is great, but any story of social media success involves tracking a platform’s results through key performance indicators. While you might be tempted to stick with the simpler, raw numbers, like views, comments and likes, when analyzing your videos and channel as a whole, these numbers don’t tell anywhere near the whole story. This is why we’ve come up with four other stats that will tell you way more about the impact of your videos and will allow you to delve deeper into the success of your YouTube strategy.

Subscribers Per Hundred Views

As we said in the introduction, views hardly ever tell the whole story behind a YouTube video’s success, especially when you are planning a sustained, long-term presence on YouTube and not just a one-hit wonder. Instead, your organization should focus on how many viewers your videos convert to subscribers.

The value of subscribers lie in their increased exposure to the brand, points of connection, opportunities to share and likelihood to provide traffic to links. A higher conversion rate means that your content is providing enough value to viewers that they want to be a part of your strategy for the foreseeable future. This number signals to you the quality of the views achieved, not only the quantity. Lastly, the ratio gives you an idea of what videos are most valued by your target audience, which comes in handy when increasing efficiency when creating new content for your YouTube channel.

Percentage of Views and Subscribers From Target Demographic

Speaking of your target audience, this KPI directly quantifies your channel’s success in reaching them, making a long-lasting impact on them and converting them loyal consumers of your brand.

Looking at the raw number of views any given video receives will not tell you if you are reaching the people who matter most to your association, small business or other organization. Your video could have 100,000 views, but if only 5% of those views are coming from people in your target demographic, it is not as successful as a video that has 50,000 views, but a target demographic viewership of 15%. Furthermore, breaking your subscribers down into demographics and analyzing how many are from your target audience group can also tell you if you are making gains or not and if you need to fine-tune your video strategy.

Quarterly Viewer Growth Or Decline

While the total number of views on your YouTube videos are a lesser stat when determining the success of your organization’s performance the platform, analyzing overarching trends over substantial time periods can give you an indication of what is working and what is not.

Calculating the rate of growth or decline from one quarter to the next isn’t a significant stat in and of itself, but can lead you ask and answer questions that are crucial to the continual improvement of your YouTube channel. For example, if the number of total views rose by 7% from Q1 to Q2, you can ask yourself if the content of the videos was different, if the style was different, if the way you shared the content on other platforms was different or if there was simply an outlier that can either be exploited or dismissed when planning for the future. Conversely, if the total views dropped, was there a reason or several reasons for that. Perhaps the content wasn’t relevant to your subscribers or the average length of your videos increased and became too long for multiple views and shares.

Top Influencer Shares

With any social media platform, shares (or retweets or the like) are one of the main ways to attract viewers to your content and expand your audience past your own network and YouTube is no different. Shares on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms bring people your video and increase everything from views to subscribers to comment. However, not all shares are created equal.

We already talked about the importance of tracking the impact your videos have on your organization’s target demographics. The same concept should be applied to your channel’s subscribers; those who are part of your target demographic matter more as they are more likely to have a mutual beneficial relationship with you through the content on YouTube. The members of your target demographic who are well connected with other in your target demographic can be considered top influencers, as they have sway over the viewing behaviours of the people you want watching your videos. Determining how many of your total shares are from top influencers will tell you how well your video is doing in pulling in members of your target demographic and how well the video is doing at convincing top influencers that the content is valuable to them and their network.

Four Resources Associations Can Use To Stay Up To Date With Social Media Trends

Associations often stress the importance of continuing education and professional development to members, but association professionals themselves must always be learning and adapting their skill sets as well. It’s essential that association marketers know the latest trends and developments in the world of marketing, especially the evolution of online platforms. This realm of marketing can shift rapidly and association professionals must stay on pace with changes so they can adequately meet members where they are and with what they are looking for online. Here are a few resources association professionals can use to stay current with the latest social media trends that will allow them to connect and engage with members a whole lot better.

Podcasts

Podcasts are probably the best way to get in-depth knowledge about the latest and greatest news about social media marketing. Each one can be like going to a conference seminar and workshop and many come out bi-weekly, weekly or monthly, so they are current and immediately helpful. Lastly, podcasts offer a multitude of views and perspectives from a variety of people for each show and they feature the honest and analytical opinions and experiences of these people, rather than standard surface tips, advice or tutorials.

Some of the best social media marketing podcasts out there include The #AskGaryVee Show (built around audience participation and the topics of brand building, entrepreneurship, marketing and creativity), Social Media Social Hour with Tyler J. Anderson (introduces specific tactics and resources marketers can start using right away) and This American Life (which isn’t about social media marketing, but will definitely showcase the way marketers can tell a captivating story piece by piece).

Blogs And Industry Websites

Some of the best, most prolific and most veteran social media marketing aficionados ply their trade on a blog or website of some sort. The association industry in particular is full of some amazing professionals who specialize in spreading the latest news on social media marketing and how association marketers can continually improve their online marketing strategies to stay current and effective. These columns are published very often, so content doesn’t go stale, and frequently offer up the most practical advice for association marketers that want to tweak their social media strategy to better serve members.

Some of the best industry websites to put into your daily must-read list include SocialFish (who push a lot of data-based articles, infographs and guest posts that can help with social media strategy), MemberClicks (a blog that is updated almost daily with short, sweet and immediately helpful marketing tips of all kinds for associations) and Social Media Examiner (the most in-depth and comprehensive blog we’ve seen on social media strategy and recent online marketing news for everyone from small businesses to non-profits).

Seminars, Online Chats And Networking

There are hundreds of marketers working in the association industry, many of them working every day to innovate and improve their social media strategies. While these insights are frequently conveyed through blogs, professional publications, podcasts or other official sources, many of the most creative ideas fall through the cracks and never reach other association marketers. This is when all the little opportunities to connect with dozens of marketers in the industry come in handy. Networking events, conference seminars, one-off webinars and online chats can introduce you to people just like you who have experienced real-world issues and dealt with extremely relevant challenges in the social media space and have created innovative solutions. Mining these people for the small of big things they have will no doubt result in success for you and your association.

Some of the best places to go for this crowd-sourced knowledge include CSAE or ASAE conferences and seminar (many which have at least one or two sessions on marketing, social media and online engagement and plenty more people willing to talk about their experience with social media) and the weekly Association Chat Twitter chat (using the tag #assnchat, association professionals from all over the world gather to talk about various topics, often with a bent towards marketing, social media and engagement).

Experiment

Sometimes, the best way to learn and evolve is to jump right in and take action. Trying out new tools, styles, strategies and platforms is often the path to finding how social media is changing and how your association can use these changes to improve its online marketing strategy. Hands-on learning is the best way to become proficient in a new technique, tool or feature that social media platforms often introduce on what seems like a monthly basis.

The key to experimenting on social media is to test and track. Set up a private testing account on which you can experiment with new design tools, new features and any other new element a social media platform might introduce. Next, when implementing an experimental strategy on your actual account, track the response and vary the strategy slightly over a period of time to gauge which approach is the most beneficial and engaging to members. This is how you can learn what’s new, what works, what doesn’t and how the tastes of your target audience are changing so you can keep pace.

5 Reasons For Associations To Consider Producing Sponsored Content

Everyone loves Buzzfeed, right? The eclectic online media platform has become a cultural phenomenon that has achieved incredible staying power over the years, which is not an easy task in the age of fleeting viral sensations. With its wacky quizes, addictive lists, GIF-filled editorial and surprisingly solid long-form articles, Buzzfeed has become an online powerhouse. It’s that one site millions of people click on every day just by habit.

While the incredible share-ability of its articles deserve much of the credit for Buzzfeed’s success, there’s another strategy the site has used and elevated to great effect during its rise to the top that has allowed it to grow and thrive; sponsored content.

While sponsored content (the practice of allowing companies to post online content, such as a blog post, to a platform in return for money instead of the traditional approach of blatant advertising) is nothing new, Buzzfeed has surely embraced the strategy more than most and has been successful with this model. Posts like “9 Things That Have Changed In The Last 20 Years” and “Sunbathing: Expectation Vs. Reality” (sponsored by Motorola and Cancer Research UK respectively) are just two examples of this sponsored content or native advertising.

Sponsored content isn’t purely the domain of big-time online media platforms. Here are five reasons your association should consider implementing a sponsored content strategy for its social media efforts.

Brings In Revenue

This one is a no-brainer. Your association is already pulling in sponsorship money by giving companies a forum to promote their products at events, in your magazine and on your website. With sponsored content, you can add another way for companies to get their point across to your members. It’s a win/win situation in which the association gets another revenue source and more money to invest in member benefits.

Provides Value To Sponsors

Your sponsors are super important. They give a lot of money to your association, which in turn can be used to fuel the organization’s ongoing efforts and new projects. However, sponsors want to see a return on their investment as well. If associations fail to highlight the value of sponsorship, that money won’t be flowing through the door for very long. Generating sponsored content for your association’s online platforms allows the association to analyze the response to the content even better than traditional media. You can show sponsors valuable performance indicators such as clicks, views, read time, etc., that highlight the increased engagement between members and the sponsor. Going into a meeting with a current or potential sponsor armed with this data is a powerful strategy to receive and hold onto sponsorship dollars.

Gives More Information To Members

While sponsored content may seem like nothing more than hiding an advertisement inside some hastily put-together paragraphs, if you plan right and put in the work with your advertising partners, this content can really help your association’s members. The companies paying for these sponsored content slots often have a beat on the newest trends, innovations and thoughts in the industry and can shed light on the information members value most. Create some guidelines for the companies you are working with or have a brainstorming session with them to ensure the content they push out via sponsored posts fit with the needs of members. This will help get members more engaged as well. Remember, sponsors have a reason for creating solid, engaging content as well; they want eyes on their content!

Gets You First Dibs On Exclusive Content

As we said in the previous section, sponsors are usually businesses that are in tune with the needs, wants and views of members and have the resources to introduce innovative solutions to their problems. Giving these companies a platform on which to introduce these products to their target audience (your members) allows them to promote new products quickly in a forum their demographics trust while also building up the perception of the associations among members as an organization that is on the cutting-edge and exhibits the most current developments in the industry. This way, when your members are thinking of where to look for all the latest news, they will think of your association first.

Promotes Events, Services And Initiatives Better

Sponsored content is a two-way street. Once your sponsor has created content and paid for it, it makes sense for them to get their money’s worth by spreading that content everywhere, from Twitter to Facebook to their own website. Usually, their target audience is your audience, so casting a net this wide will inevitably increase awareness and exposure of your association among the people who matter most to the organization. Depending on the type of content in the sponsored post, this can lead to more attention for your association’s next big conference or a new opportunity for members created by the association, which can then lead to more revenue.

The Power Of The Guest Post And It’s Importance To Social Media Success

Having guests guide content for a short period of time is nothing new. From guest appearances on sitcoms to the popularity of the rotating Saturday Night Live hosts to celebrity editors for big time magazines or newspapers, traditional media and entertainment has been employing this tactic to engage audiences for decades.

Guest input can have the same effect on social media. Having a special guest contribute to your organization’s social media efforts can add some much-needed flair and unique insight to your content and drive engagement, traffic and, potentially, revenue.

Here are four reasons why guest posts are a great way to enhance your social media strategy and how to create a framework in these special contributions can flourish.

A New Voice And A New View

Let’s face it, your organization’s social media content will inevitably get tired. As much as you try to switch things up and get creative yourself, you are still speaking with your own voice and from your own perspective and when it all becomes commonplace, people have the tendency to tune you out for a while.

Having a guest come in and contribute their voice and views to the content can rejuvenate your social media posts by providing some variety. You can try having a debate style blog post about an issue that’s relevant to your audience with someone who has a different opinion than you. It doesn’t need to be a serious topic if that’s too risqué, but having someone to act as your foil, introducing a new way of talking or shedding light on a subject from another point of view is a great way to get your audience back to maximum engagement.

Added Credibility and More Relatable

Most of the time, you and your organization are posting something on social media because you get something out of it. You hype up an event on Twitter because you want attendee revenue, you highlight a special product on Instagram because you need it out of your stock room to make way for new products or you write a blog post because you want more traffic to your website. While this makes you business savvy and engaging, at the end of day, some people will see it all as a ploy to get at their time, finances or other resources.

Guest posts can introduce your audience to someone who seemingly has less to gain from promoting your organization, which makes them, and your content by default, more credible and relatable. For example, have a member or customer simply talk about the value they find in your products or services through a video or podcast interview or set and moderate a live Twitter chat or Facebook feed with one of these loyal clients/customers/members.

A Larger Audience

Expanding your organization’s network and audience is a critical way of drawing more engagement, more clicks, more traffic and a higher likelihood that all these elements will lead to a new sale, a new customer, a new advocate or a new member. Expanding your reach is always an ongoing task and often, you need help from others to achieve success.

Word of mouth is still the most popular way for someone to find out about an organization and using guest generated content is the digital equivalent of spreading the word. Influencers in your field or industry are connected to a large segment of your target audience that probably don’t know or don’t care about your organization, which makes their recognition of your organization’s value so significant. Having these industry influencers write blog posts for your website, provide quotes and a pictures for a Facebook post is a great start. To up the ante, provide an influencer exclusive access or an exclusive experience and have them live-tweet or create an Instagram story of the experience.

More Opportunities For Your Target Audience

Generating engagement is one of the primary goals of a social media strategy for any organization, whether you’re a small business, a national association or a mid-size non-profit. Sure, your audience can engage with your organization’s content by the traditional means, but if you really want to combine the powers of personalization, interactivity and a bigger spotlight to drive long-term loyalty, make it possible for your audience to put their fingerprints on your content.

Having your audience contribute content for your organization’s social media efforts creates an experience for them that not only gives them a voice, but also gives them a chance to gain exposure for themselves. This next-level engagement tactic gives your target audience a sense that your organization is all about providing value, opportunity, creativity and a chance to elevate their thoughts, feelings, ideas and talents to a new level. For example, you can give control of your association’s social media feeds to a board member for a day so they can chart their experience with an event or their everyday lives. You can also crowd source ideas for new logos, slogans, jingles or anything else and set it up as a contest to promote local artists on your social media accounts. Whatever you do, creating an increased number of touch-points between your organization and your target audience through these guest posts on social media will only benefit you in the long-term.

How Associations Can Use Video To Encourage Members To Take Action

Associations exist to serve hundreds (and even thousands) of members and entire industries, but the relationship is a two-way street and organizations often ask their dues-paying audience to do certain tasks out of necessity. These can range from small tasks (like registering before attending a free webinar or seminar) to large ones (like joining a committee and completing necessary responsibilities).

Without the willing participation of members, many association initiatives would be flops. It’s a scenario where associations are asking members to “help me help you.” However, association professionals spend countless hours tearing their hair out at the inaction of members and struggling to find ways to encourage them to engage.

Creating and sending out video content on social media is one way to overcome this obstacle of inaction among members. Here are three ways associations can use video content marketing to drive action and engagement among members during an organizational initiative.

Put It Into Perspective

You know and we know that many of the tasks your association asks members to do takes no time at all, but for some reason, members sometimes don’t know. These are the times that leave you puzzled that members won’t take two minutes to complete something that could have huge benefits for them and the entire industry. Video can help your association put these tasks into perspective for members and encourage them to take action.

Let’s take the example of a letter writing campaign your association has created as part of its government advocacy strategy. The association has drafted a form letter for members and all they need to do is download it from your website, fill in the blanks, find the contact information for their local representative from a list you have provided and email it to them. It takes five minutes, tops, and can have a huge impact, but there’s a lack of participation.

Create a video that puts this work into perspective, such as a short video that briefly outlines the steps needed to complete the letter writing initiative and then highlighting other everyday tasks that would take longer to do, such as waiting in line to buy a coffee or heating up last night’s leftovers for lunch. It’s a fun approach and makes the task seem much more manageable and important for members.

Create A How-to

What might seem like a straight-forward or simple task that you are asking of your members might actually seem overwhelming to them. This disconnect between your expectations and actual member engagement can lead to frustration and, even worse, a failed project, initiative or event. Creating a how-to video is a great way to not only guide your members through the process, thus making it more likely they will participate, but makes these instructions visual and easy to follow along with.

For this example, let’s look at the scenario of asking your members to submit information or ideas. This often happens when an association is asking for feedback from an event, doing a benchmarking report of some sort or seeking content for its publications or marketing material. Members may have some very valuable feedback or ideas for your organization, but don’t know the first place to start when trying to convey these ideas to the association.

Let’s say, for instance, you are asking members to send ideas and content for the association’s magazine via a website or other online application. Create a video that outlines and shows the step by step process for submitting ideas, pictures, articles and any other piece of content in an efficient way. Cover some troubleshooting issues to help less tech-savvy members embrace this resource. You will not only get a better response rate and better content, but you will have one more way to notify members that this initiative is happening!

Show The Impact Or Value Of Their Actions

Many members won’t take the time to participate in any association events or initiatives because they believe that the impact or return on investment is non-existent or isn’t worth the time. Video is the best way to show the impact of their actions in a visceral and relatable way that combats this apathetic attitude and makes members feel as if they are part of something big and meaningful.

For example, your association may be looking to recruit members to volunteer for a committee, task force or focus group, but the response has been less than you hoped. Volunteering in these types of roles can be time consuming and often thankless, leading members to view them as not worthy of their effort and something they’ll let others do instead.

To drum up some awareness and interest in these volunteer positions, create a video that focuses on one decision that was made or action that was taken at a committee meeting that resulted in a change that benefited members. Once you have settled on what this action was, trace its story from its origins with the committee to its long-term impact with members. Interview committee members and members who have been impacted by the decision and show the consequences of the decision in action. Members who see that their work will influence the people around them and the industry they are passionate about will be more likely to see the value of participation and take action.

The Ultimate Showdown: Finding The Best Way To Tell A Story On Social Media

Social media is the ultimate storytelling medium. Organizations have a plethora of storytelling tools at their disposal when using an online platform. There are so many, it can be overwhelming at times, which is why we put together this fun little competition to see which tool was best at the job of storytelling. These aren’t all the ways an organization, association or business can tell an engaging story to their audience, but it’s a list of the very accessible, very successful methods and while the effectiveness of each tool depends on the goal of the story, there’s one that reigns supreme almost every time. Let the games begin!

Quarterfinals

Video vs. Meme/GIF

Our first matchup pits the power of video against the small, but powerful content that is the meme or GIF.

Memes and GIFS can be a great way to make an impact and tell a story is a very immediate way. For example, tweeting a meme with picture of your association’s president talking to a member with a quote about what the association means to the president over top the photo is one way to capture a story of passion, value and leadership in one very succinct way to tell a tale. GIFs are like shorter videos that pack a lot of emotion and content in a few seconds.

However, video is just too versatile to lose this matchup. Videos can be long or short, serious or playful, can present a lot of context and background or get straight to the point, can include lots of interaction and creativity and, most important of all, can be used with similar effectiveness on most social media platforms. It’s no contest; video runs away with this one.

Testimonial vs. Roundup/Recap

The next competition in the first round sees the relatable testimonial square off against the information superstar that is a roundup or recap.

Roundups or recaps are two ways to tell a story about a recent event or initiative and focus primarily on facts, figures and a straightforward retelling of what happened. It’s strength is the substantial amount of information it provides to an audience. Roundups and recaps often offer links to a few different sources or the insight of a variety of people to capture as many viewpoints as possible and tell a well-rounded story.

Where testimonials have roundups and recaps licked is their engaging, relatable and passionate nature. Yes, a testimonial of an event, service, product or experience is only one person’s viewpoint, likely offers no behind-the-scenes exclusivity and lacks the thoroughness of a roundup or recap, but that within that one voice is a crystallized explanation that gets to the heart of what makes the element their talking about so special. It stirs in people that same feeling and moves them to act, share, engage and take part in that story as it moves forward. The winner here is the testimonial.

Photo Essay vs. News Article

The penultimate match of the quarterfinals has the eye-catching photo essay duke it out with the classic news article.

News articles are classic for a reason; they work. Articles can come in many shapes and forms, such as interviews, editorials, lists, tip sheets, survey analysis or long-form profiles, but the foundation of each one is their ability to spin a story using the written word and maybe a few pictures along the way. Articles are main storytelling vehicle in association magazine, blogs and even on longer-form social media platforms, such as Facebook. They are in-depth, informative and, if done right, can move people to act with the visuals they conjure up, the emotions they convey and information they carefully construct.

While news articles are a worthy competitor and could edge out their nemesis on some days, photo essays claim victory on most occasions. Photo essays are similar to news articles in that they tell a story of an issue or a person. However, whereas the ratio of written words to photos is 90/10 in articles, that ratio is reversed for photo essays. It’s telling a story through photos with some text to provide context and background. Photos provide a more visceral tale of what is happening and helps the audience connect with the subject matter. Furthermore, this method of storytelling is versatile and can be done with greater effect on more social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, a blog and even on YouTube. The clear winner is the photo essay.

Infograph vs. Audio Story

The final clash of the opening round pits the savviness of the infograph against the allure of the audio story.

An audio story is more commonly referred to as a podcast or a radio show. This medium seeks to tell a story through the use of sound and talking. It can be as short as a couple minutes or as long as over an hour and can include interviews, narration, music, sound effects, editorials, speeches or the like. Audio stories have the unique ability to take you out of the environment you are in and bring you to the setting of the story. They are personal, informative and engaging and easy to put online (on a blog, Facebook or Twitter) and bring anywhere on a smart phone.

While audio stories are very trendy right now with the popularity of podcasts such as Serial and This American Life, we have to give the slightest of edges to the infograph. An infograph combines stats and data with engaging images to build a cascading story about the state of a particular issue and its relevance to the audience. Numbers put the abstract into perspective for an audience and pairing this with some textual background and a lot of visuals paints a picture that can be powerful, engaging and shareable. They are easy to make, easy to upload to just about any social media platform and are very accessible for every type of organization, no matter the target audience. This broad appeal makes it the winner in this very tough matchup.

Semifinals

Video vs. Testimonial

Our first of the final four matchups has video vs. testimonial

This is a case where fire is fighting fire and, in our minds, video burns brighter. A simple testimonial can be passionate, powerful, concise, engaging and relatable. However, video can not only incorporate testimonials into its structure, it can do so in a much more visual way than a written or text-based testimonial that appears through a tweet, a Facebook post or an Instagram post. A video can also combine several aspects of a testimonial and make it part of a larger piece of content that overwhelms what testimonials offer, such as adding inspirational music and capturing the perspectives and exclusive looks in a much more interactive way. Because of its versatility and large skill-set, video cruises to victory here.

Photo Essay vs. Infograph

This competition pits two visual-based methods of storytelling against each other in a tight race for a spot in the final.

These two pieces of content are very similar. They both use images as their foundation and main tool to engage. They can both be shared on multiple platforms. And they can both be used to focus on a bigger picture issue or a smaller, niche subject. While it may seem like a coin toss, the photo essay squeaks out the win here because of its ability to tell a story every time as opposed to the infograph, which has the potential to become a rundown of boring, self-serving numbers if done incorrectly. Photo essays appeal to the human side of both the organization creating it and the target audience. While infographs can be fun and engaging and informative, photo essays can use stats and data in much the same way while also having the ability to use quotes, personal views and brief storytelling techniques, which all adds up to victory.

Finals

Video vs. Photo Essay

In the winner-take-all match, video faces off against photo essay to determine which storytelling method is best on social media.

These are two great methods of storytelling, especially when it comes to telling a story on social media. However, video wins this competition eight or nine times out of 10. The reasons are numerous; video combines images, sound, people, action, stats and text, whereas photo essays are, for the most part, static. The length of videos is easily manipulated to fit the organization’s goals and the type of platform it is shared on, whereas photo essays usually have to include multiple photos to tell a story. Video can be shared easier on the same or more platforms than photo essays. We can go on and on, from a more measurable ROI to the availability of resources and the number of content sources, video gets the better of photo essays every time. It was a valiant effort, but the winner is…

Winner

Video!

Video is a powerful, engaging and effective way to tell a story while benefiting the short and long term goals of the organization. While video is the best way to tell a story in many situations, it doesn’t mean that it always is. It’s important to look at what your resources are, what the story is you’re trying to tell, what social media platform you are using and what your goals are when developing a storytelling strategy. All these method are a great way and combining two, three or four of them together to tell a story can result in a more powerful and engaging result.