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3 things to consider before starting your social media journey

For associations, social media success comes only after these three crucial questions have been considered.

Accounts with all the major social media platforms, regular posts to The Face Book and a handful of daily chirps on the Twitter machine do not equate to an effective member engagement strategy. For associations, social media success comes only after three crucial questions have been considered, writes Jo Anne Hui.

According to a recent report by Association Trends, 97 per cent of associations use social media. But how many are really doing it well? Really, really, really? Hmm. Thought so.

In order to get the most out of social media, you need a darn good strategy backing it up. Don’t have one of those? Fear not. Just take a #stepback and consider these three questions to get you started on the road to social media success.

Question 1: Where do your members hang out?

Social media channels, when used effectively, are a marvellous means through which to garner genuine awareness and interest in your association. Get into the minds of your members and the people you want to attract to your association. What are their preferred social media channels?

The aforementioned report revealed that of the western world’s major social media channels, Twitter was the most popular for associations (89.14 per cent) with Facebook (88.86 per cent) and LinkedIn (87.7 per cent) coming in second and third respectively.

Having said that, no one knows your members like you do. Are they highly visual people? Then they probably love logging onto Instagram, rather than hanging out on Google+ or LinkedIn. If you’re not entirely sure what your members’ preferred social media platforms are, pick up the phone or send out a survey.

Actions, however, speak far louder than words, so if you’re keen to identify the uncensored social media habits of your members, you’ll find that all social media platforms make it easy to figure out where your members are hanging out. For example, if you type ‘association’ using the ‘Groups’ function of LinkedIn search, you’ll be directed to a list filled with association executives, managers, members and influencers. Similarly, if you type the word ‘association’ into Twitter, you’ll find a bank of information on association-related content, which will not only help you get in touch with members and attract new ones, but will also put you in front of key industry influencers and their ideas.

If this isn’t enough for your inner investigator, here are 10 helpful social media monitoring tools to help you identify precisely where your members are online.

Question 2: What’s the purpose of each platform?

Not all social media platforms are created equal. In fact, you’ll find your members use each platform for many, many different purposes.

For example, while Twitter is a place to access up-to-the-minute stories and news updates, LinkedIn tends to be where people discuss industry issues and network with each other. Facebook, on the other hand, is often a means through which to consume the occasional funny cat video, inspirational meme or simply engage in an informal conversation. Depending on your membership, your members might choose to check out Instagram or Pinterest for visual inspiration, too.

The point is, if you do your research and dig around to find out what your members’ online behaviour is like, you are better able to tailor your content to their individual consumption needs.

Question 3: Do you have an established tone and voice for each of your social media platforms?

Just as different platforms serve different purposes, each one requires a different tone and voice.

Given the 140-character limit on Twitter, for example, updates are usually short and to the point. It’s also quite a casual, chatty atmosphere, so it’s best to avoid sounding dominating or snooty. Rather, you want to invite people into your conversation and offer insights. Meanwhile, because LinkedIn fosters a highly professional atmosphere, it’s best to adopt a formal tone when posting updates, and engaging with members and prospective members.

Having an established social media style guide gives you a framework in which to play around with your language, your tone and your brand’s voice, ultimately paving the way for conversations to naturally flow with your members in a way that is both authentic and consistent.

It’s important to note here that there’s a marked difference between the tone and the voice of your brand. Your voice is about the personality behind your brand and your tone is how you implement it when on various platforms.

Think about what your brand represents and how you want to come across to your members.

Do you want to be seen as professional and authoritative? Maybe you want to be viewed as friendly and lively. Whatever the case, consider the kind of language and the vocabulary you want to use on each individual social media channel.

That said, never forget that even though you’re behind a computer, you’re still connecting to humans. It’s important to adopt a personal approach when it comes to talking to your members, so let the authentic personality of your brand shine through.

Associations winning the social media game

You’ve identified where your members hang out, designated a specific purpose for each of your new platforms and established your association’s social media tone and voice. Huzzah! Now take a look at these little gems of association-inspired social media genius!

The American Kennel Club

Associations social mediaSuper cute with a large dose of fun and helpful information for dog-owners, this club’s Facebook page has attracted a high level of engagement by uploading a mixture of delightful videos, images and practical tips, and through the creation of fun social media initiatives to get everyone involved.

Check out the time when the Club encouraged members to share selfies of their dogs on their wall. The move attracted more than 14,000 likes, 1500 shares and 300 comments and photos.

The Academy

There’s so much more to the Oscars than just one night on television. This YouTube channel, run by the Academy, does a fantastic job showcasing the ins and outs of the Awards and engages people not only in the lead up to the event, but also long after the red carpet wraps up. Videos include interviews with filmmakers, highlights from previous years, past winners’ acceptance speeches and even advocacy pieces about legacy video stores and cinemas, and never-before-seen film footage.

This is the kind of evergreen content that extends beyond just one event and can be shared over and over again throughout the year.

Society for Human Resource Management

LinkedIn social media_AssociationsBy sharing the latest news in human resources and encouraging discussion among members, this association has leveraged LinkedIn to cement its position as an industry influencer. To give an example, SHRM posted an update about one human resource manager who stopped offering annual ratings and rankings. The organisation then asked members for their thoughts on this rather controversial move, who offered up their own insights and began discussing the topic among themselves.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Pinterest_associations social mediaPinterest is a visually led platform, which this education association has taken full advantage of. They share their knowledge via fascinating infographics, inspiring quotes and quick, easy-to-read lists.

Since 2013, this association has created 26 boards of 7200 pinned images, attracted 18,424 followers and garnered 3328 likes. Their Learn.Teach.Lead board is particularly popular with followers, who often share the content with their connections, such as ‘50 TED talks every educator should check out’ and ‘Top 10 things every teacher should be grateful this Thanksgiving’.

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