For years member-based organizations have existed to bring together a group of individuals with common interests, attitudes and opinions. Fittingly, they have long represented the traditional network and served as the ultimate way for people to connect. However, as technology has had, and continues to have, a significant impact on the ways that we interact and communicate, we have come to expect information with the snap of a finger.
Your members are no exception to this trend. Luckily for you, in today’s tech-driven environment there are a multitude of cost effective tools that you can use to communicate and engage with your audience. One of the most well known and widely used is social media. From Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter, the creation and implementation of a social media strategy that attracts, retains and engages an audience is critical to maintaining member relationships and heightening the exposure of your organization.
Here are 6 simple steps to help you maximize your social media communication efforts:
- Set Goals. First and foremost, you must establish your purpose and set goals designed to accomplish that purpose. For example, you may desire to increase your member’s engagement and interaction across your social media channels. As a means to measure your progress, and ultimately success, you could set a goal to increase the amount of likes, shares and retweets that your connections and followers post.
Always remember that your goals should be specific, timely, relevant and attainable. You do not want to set your self up for failure and setting SMART goals will help to ensure that you are on track to implementing a social media strategy that drives results.
- Make a plan. With your goals set, you must now design a plan that will help you meet those goals. Planning can often be overwhelming, especially when you are creating and developing a strategy that is subject to the unpredictability of the human behavior. Despite this, you must realize that if you are patient and take the time to actively listen to and observe your audience, you will be more likely to realize success in the long run. The following tips will help you get started:
- Gather Data. Before you can begin to maximize your communication efforts, you must gather data that will aid you in making informed, strategic decisions. Use the tools that you have readily available, including the information in your current association management software (AMS) and web analytics, to collect information that reveals which social media platforms are the most popular among your members. Additionally, consider creating surveys to ask members their preferred means of communication. After performing the necessary research, you can choose which social platforms will best meet your organization’s needs and the needs of your members and target audience.
- Name a Manager. Once you have established your primary social media platforms, you should appoint one person to manage all of the accounts. This will prevent the duplication of information and ensure that your organization maintains a consistent tone, voice and personality across all channels.
- Create a Calendar. Beyond designating a single social media manager, it is important to create a calendar that will help you get organized. You can use tools such as HootSuite, Sprout Social or Buffer to schedule the times and days of the week that you want to post specific content. Make sure to observe and note the days of the week and times of the day that your members are the most active. Additionally, don’t be afraid to test and experiment with the timing and types of your content posts.
- Create Quality Content. Content is king when it comes to effectively marketing your organization and engaging your target audience. Make sure that you showcase your expertise within the industry by posting original content. Master the art of content creation and curation, share relevant content from thought leaders within your industry, include images, videos and links in posts, ask questions, be responsive to your members and celebrate your organization’s and its members’ achievements.
Download the e-book, 6 Ways to Produce Content Your Members Will Value, for more tips and techniques on how to create content that engages your target audience.
- Follow Through. Creating a plan is one thing, sticking to that plan and following through is a whole new ball game. To keep your organization’s audience energized share company and member stories, respond to comments and questions, create contests, sponsor giveaways, participate in chats and, most importantly, be yourself! Social media is great opportunity for you to increase the exposure of your organization and let your personality shine through.
- Monitor Behavior. Monitoring the behavior of your social media accounts will help you determine where to focus your future marketing efforts, as well as provide you with insights into the performance and effectiveness of your different content campaigns. Make sure to use monitoring tools, including Facebook Insights, LinkedIn Analytics, Google Alerts, TweetDeck, Klout, Social Mention and Pinterest Web Analytics, to help guide you in your efforts.
- Measure Your ROI. After you have set goals and initiated a plan, it is time to see if that plan is working. Measuring the ROI of your marketing initiatives is essential to justifying both the monetary and time expenditures of future plans. Although there is no universal way for each and every organization to measure the ROI of its social media, and accurately measuring its value can be tricky, there are a few tools that you can use to help get started. For example, you can use your existing AMS to track social media profiles, try the social reports feature within Google Analytics or access online calculators such as HubSpot’s ROI calculator that can help you measure your social media traffic conversions and quantitatively place a value on your social media efforts.
Unfortunately, social media strategy is not a perfect science. In order to get it right you must be open to experimentation. The six steps outlined above provide you and your team with the foundation that it needs to start maximizing your social media presence. Make sure to set SMART goals, design a plan, execute that plan and use the necessary tools to track your progress and, ultimately, measure your success.
Additionally, never forget to engage, interact and celebrate with your members, after all they are your most important assets.
DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™ the innovative, insightful and intuitive association management software with superior customer support. WebLink empowers hundreds of trade and professional associations and more than 500,000 small and medium businesses to help them acquire and retain more customers. Learn more at weblinkinternational.com.