We contributed an article for Associations Now, the national magazine of ASAE. This is the primary publication for executives and leaders of professional associations.
Below is the article in its entirety, and you can also read it on the ASAE website.
Engage New and Potential Members Through Social Media
Social media has so thoroughly penetrated our daily lives that you may have put your social strategy on auto-pilot. That’s a mistake. Follow these tips to make sure you’re maximizing your reach and relevance among audiences that don’t yet know you well.
Social media is now baked into most associations’ communications strategies. Your active presence on social media helps your association appear higher in search results across the internet, which can lead to higher visitor engagement on your channels. But that’s not all. Content that is relevant and focused on the visitor also adds value to your new and potential association members—people you need to engage effectively to bring them fully into your community.
Put yourself in their shoes. Consider what social media content would capture your attention if you were a new member or prospect of your association. Build those topics and resources into your social strategy, whether it’s legislative news, event reminders, fun images of member involvement, or features and benefits of membership. Invite new members to follow your channels and explain the benefits, and then maintain a regular posting schedule of communications so they get in the habit of seeking your channels for timely and relevant information.
Your social media strategy should include posts on individual leader profiles. When key leaders comment on topics of interest to members, celebrate member achievements, or highlight resources of interest, this significantly expands your relevance to new members and reach to potential members.
Conversely, less frequent posting and less engagement downgrades your social rank. if members don’t see your posts anymore, that’s not good.
Association Research Steps to Success
Here are a few more considerations for better engaging with your audience, adjusting your approach, or adding a new platform to maximize your visibility.
Know your audience. Address the pains and concerns of your prospects and members with a solution to solve their most pressing issues. To do this, ask yourself the following questions: What types of content resonate with them the most? Do they respond most to posts that highlight other members, or do they prefer topical articles or webinars and other event information?
Understand your current engagement. Conduct a regular analysis of your social media channels to identify the most effective channels and content. You may find that what works on LinkedIn does not generate the same engagement on Facebook or Twitter. Does your audience spend time on the social media platforms you are currently using? You will gain insights on how best to focus the strategy for each social channel if you dive into their specific analytics.
“When key leaders comment on topics of interest to members, celebrate member achievements or highlight resources of interest, this significantly expands your relevance to new members and reach to potential members.”
Be bold and try new things. If you are not sure about trying a new approach on Facebook or Instagram, test it out to see how your audience responds. Whether theylove it or it falls flat, you have tried something new and you now have clues on how to proceed.
Test out new content types. Posting links to your blog articles is great for your website’s search engine optimization, but adding a variety of content types can help capture the attention of your audience through their preferences. Some people prefer a video to a blog post. Some would rather listen to a podcast during their commute.
Social Media Technical Tips
A few technical hacks can boost your success with social media. Create actionable and concise posts on your social media channels, but maximize your post character count, use appropriate hashtags, and tag members to expand your audience reach and post engagement. Hashtags and tagging can expand your reach beyond your own followers. These are searchable features on social media, and clicking on one will show all the posts on that social channel that use that specific hashtag.
The goal is not to be unique in your selection of hashtags, but to use common ones so you appear in the feeds of a broader industry or professional audience. The exception to this is if you are creating a hashtag that promotes your brand that you also want your members to use. Then your members can become your hashtag ambassadors.
When you tag new members, the posts can appear in the feeds of the members’ own connections. This tactic improves your brand awareness and could bring new prospects to your social channels. Additionally, when you tag others, they may return that action and tag you in their content. The more you engage with your social media followers by liking and commenting on their posts, the more they will engage with your association.
The one constant with social media is that it is constantly changing, with adjustments to search algorithms, user tools, and channel layouts. World and economic events may also necessitate fresh approaches to your social communications as you advance your strategy. Be the social resource your members and prospects turn to and prefer.
Speaking of a preferred association, we had a lot of fun with this branding project for the Wood Component Manufacturers Association. See our Work here.
You may also be interested in this video with 4 Ideas for Association Marketing.