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How Associations Can Succeed on Social Media

Using Social Media with Limited Bandwidth and Resources

Done well, using social media makes all your other objectives easier. Whether your association works to build awareness, create industry standards, provide certification programs, or promote field advancements, connecting with a world of similarly invested constituents will only make your mission easier.  Here’s how to get started:

Post with Purpose

Social media offer a wealth of marketing opportunities, but they aren’t all relevant to your group. So don’t invest until you’ve established a list of clearly defined goals. Social media goals should include short-term items—like improving your site traffic or registration for an upcoming conference—and long-term objectives—like growing association membership by X percent each year.

Defined goals will help you evaluate your social media success and pin down the best tactics along the way. For instance, when the Technology Association of Georgia wanted to spark conversation about the state’s tech-rich community, Twitter provided the ideal platform for a tech talk tournament. The campaign ultimately drove 2,000 unique video views.

Choose Your Channels Wisely

Most organizations already know which social channels their audiences prefer. Industry-specific consortia, trade groups, and professional associations, for example, can best target relevant communities (current and prospective members) via LinkedIn.  Charitable groups, on the other hand, might follow the example of major consumer brands, and grow their conversations on Facebook and Twitter. Of course, there’s no rule that says your social strategy must roll out one channel at a time, but being fully present in one sphere is preferable to a scattershot approach you can’t realistically manage.

Also, don’t forget to look beyond the big three. You might think your status as a technology consortium or healthcare group (for example) doesn’t lend itself well to the pretty pictures and recipe boards on Pinterest, but there are smart ways—infographics, illustrated timelines, web videos— to utilize visual platforms, even with data-heavy content. Consider YouTube, Instagram, and other photo-based channels—especially if you’re trying to engage any of the demographics (younger professionals, women, mobile users) that gravitate toward them.

Leverage and Promote Existing Work

Chances are, you’re already in the habit of creating authoritative content for your stakeholders, prospects, lawmakers, and/or the general public. Social media activity doesn’t happen apart from that work; ideally, social media help it shine. In fact, success in social depends on translating your thought leadership into engaging dialogue. So start planning your editorial calendar with social promotion in mind (e.g., tweaking your titles, incorporating surveys, soliciting questions and member stories, which are inherently sharable).

Over time, producing great content will actually make your social efforts easier, as followers begin to trust that your contributions are substantive and worthwhile. Plus, unlike fleeting status updates and tweets, informative articles and blog posts will eventually transform your website into a rich resource center that attracts more readers as it grows.

Exercise Your Social Listening Skills

Watch what other organizations in your space are doing well (or not so well) in social strategy. This isn’t necessarily about collecting more “likes” than the other guy; it’s about understanding your audience. Spend some time surfing competitor profiles with these questions in mind:

  • What are the hot-button issues right now?
  • Which client personas are more likely to respond/engage with social posts?
  • Which industry topics are unaddressed and begging for answers?
  • How do other groups handle negative attention?

Aim for Consistency

Social media use requires momentum. Just like exercise or studying, you can’t cram your efforts into a single afternoon—or even several weeks—and expect to generate lasting results. The best tack, regardless of your specific goals, is to bank social currency in small, steady doses. If you have internal team members who will be sharing the social calendar, work together with an eye on tone and message.

Unifying your social message and responses is often the hardest aspect for any group. Luckily, there are plenty of support tools and social CRMs that can help your team share access to social accounts and stay apprised of key updates, conversations, and mentions. If you need help finding the right tools and getting started…

…Outsource Your Efforts

How is outsourcing a solution when resources are limited? Partnering with experts may be the best way to get your social presence established and your custom toolkit in place—steps that might otherwise require months of experimental time and budget. An association management company will not only help you gather the critical mass necessary to warrant investment in social, an AMC can also provide value in integration, aligning all the aspects of your operation with all the advantages of a strong social following.

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