If You’re Not Using Social Media – Why Would You’re Members?
By Jeanavive Janssen
(published CALSAE Industry Magazine Summer 2012)
In talking with associations about social media I’ve discovered a common theme: there’s a desire to use the social media tools available, however, board members themselves aren’t utilizing the outlets. If you’re not using social media, why would your members?
Social media is a cocktail party, and your board is the host of this virtual gathering. I recently conducted a two-hour boot camp with an industry board including hands-on training to build buzz around their association’s social media outlets. Everyone logged-in, joined all of the social media outlets, practiced posting photos, started discussion threads, liked each other’s comments – it was fun!
It’s like the end of the school year when everyone signs yearbooks. There is an energy and excitement around the activities, and, in the end, you are left with an archive that depicts all the wonderful life moments. True, often yearbooks end up on a shelf, but in the moment there is amazing energy, and everyone is engaged in an active viral conversation. No one wants empty yearbook pages!
Look at the bigger picture with these tools: if you have thousands of followers but no one is responding or sharing your links, you might as well be singing in the shower by yourself. You need to think of your organization as being a “Rock Star”! You need to build fans, and you want them to tell the world how awesome you are. If you are using social media tools you have to be active; you need to fill the social media outlets with thoughts, pictures, likes and comments, and share stories about your fans (your members).
You may enlist someone to “handle” your social media but you need to have real people posting, sharing and liking, not just your brand announcing events, offers or other things you are marketing. You need to show the many personalities of your organization – people buy from people they like, people attend events they know their friends will be at – focusing only on your business identity does not allow for the human connection that social media was built around.
Another theme surrounding social media is a general consensus that no one has time to do it. Your members don’t have much time either. If you only spend a total of one hour a month on social media posts that is 60 interactions since it only takes about a minute to do one. If you spread out the responsibilities and multiply that hour by the number of people on your board who are participating you can easily interact with your members on a very regular basis for minutes a day.
As you plan your social media strategies ask yourself if your association really needs to be using every social media tool just because they exist. Or should you pick the tools that have the most traffic and traction? Though you hear a lot about Facebook and Twitter, two major outlets that have not changed their services – and that drive traffic – are Google and YouTube. Because blogs increase a website’s ranking on Google, it makes sense to focus your efforts on creating blogs to increase search returns (search engine optimization – SEO). You can also create simple, homemade videos of your educational content to drive traffic to your organization’s YouTube channel.
Google and YouTube are outlets with long-term usages. This “staying power” helps you maintain relationships with existing members while also driving new memberships. The outlets provide content that can be referenced in other social media avenues (e.g. you can easily post the link to your YouTube channel on Facebook and Twitter). They have a long-term shelf life compared to “in the moment” social media. Remember, content is King.
Facebook, with its recent timeline changes and people wanting to keep their personal life and business life separate, is losing ground as being my top choice “in the moment” social media. I do foresee they will address this issue for businesses in the near future; till then I think Linked-in is becoming the new leader for professional social media.
Twitter, is great for announcing information in the moment. But don’t forget simple text e-mails, with traceable links to your content, is guaranteed to get in front of your members. And an e-mail with an effective subject line will engage your members prompting them to open it. Don’t forget to have a clear call to action within the e-mail. Do you want them to join a social media discussion, read an article or attend an event? Include the call to action in the first few sentences since most people use their phones to check e-mails while on the go.
Before you get started with any sort of social media campaign do some demographics on your membership: age, when are they online, how are they accessing online content (handheld/desktop), can they access social media outlets at their jobs or are they using it after work hours. Consider doing a survey. Then sit down with your board and create a manageable social media campaign and truly become engaged with your members. If you’re not having fun with social media your members won’t either. Pick the tools that work for your members, and don’t inundate with them with too many outlets.
Jeanavive Janssen has been doing social media since 1999. She was an early adopter and launched one of the first social media platforms in 2000, thenetworkgirl.com. The social media site retired in 2005. Jeanavive is actively involved in social media with several local chapter associations, as Marcom for the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMICNCC) and 2013 Marketing Co-Chair for Meeting Professionals International Northern California Chapter (MPINCC). She also manages the San Mateo Event Center’s social media campaigns as part of her business development for the Bay Area event center.