6 Simple Steps to Help Your Organization Interact, Engage and Celebrate with Members via Social Media

by DJ MullerMuller Headshot

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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. 
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Personal Leadership—A Definition

by Joel Thigpen

In business, in politics, in government, in civic organizations and in society generally, the need for improved leadership is blatantly obvious.  We have a huge leadership gap in this country and that gap will not be closed by wishful thinking that the “other guy” will step up or someone new will emerge to shoulder the responsibility for leadership.

Paul J. Meyer, the founder of Leadership Management International (LMI), writes that leadership is primarily determined attitudes and that every person starts with the childlike qualities of curiosity, flexibility, adaptability and self-confidence, which if retained, developed and channeled into productive activities will determine one’s own personal leadership.  Being dependent upon attitudes, personal leadership then is internal. It is expressed in the commitment to a course of action that is personally fulfilling. 

As defined by Mr. Meyer, “personal leadership involves the development of a positive self-image that enables you deliberately to choose a course of action because it satisfies your own needs, to follow that path and to accept responsibility for the outcome.  Personal leadership demands your conscious assumption of control over your own destiny through the establishment of personal goals that give depth and meaning to your action.”

Said another way… everyone, regardless of education, experience or personality has the potential to lead and we exercise personal leadership far more often that we realize. Doing what you know is right and productive for you regardless of the obstacles or the opinions of others is the essence of personal leadership.

Personal leadership is often confused with formal leadership but it should not be. In a given setting, leadership patterns vary and emerge based on the situation.  In organizational settings, leadership is often a function of position, and one person, therefore will be in a position of leadership more often than others. But even in organizations, leadership responsibility is shifted appropriately according to the situation and the needs of the group.

What should be clear is that the exercising of formal leadership is an outgrowth of one’s self-confident commitment to doing a needed job because it benefits both the group and person leading.  Without the internal quality of personal leadership, effective formal leadership cannot exist. 

Joel Thigpen is a Victory Lap Architect with The McGrail Group (www.mcgrailgroup.com); a leadership, productivity, membership development and performance improvement company located in Raleigh, NC, affiliated with Leadership Management International.  We inspire leaders to engage their teams and take a  Acknowledgement: “Effective Personal Leadership” by Paul J. Meyer and LMI.

Go Out and Paint the Fire Hydrants!

When firefighters aren’t out putting out fires or responding to medical emergencies, what do you think they spend their time doing? Well, they are usually out painting fire hydrants or getting ready to battle a fire. 

That was one of the many lessons Joe Stewart shared with attendees at AENC’s Government Relations Roundtable last week. The same is true for advocacy in associations. Its not enough to get members engaged on a certain issue, you have to always be engaged. There is always something to do related to advocacy, even when there isn’t a crisis.

Big thanks also to Beth Grace (Executive Director) and Laura Nakoneczny (Membership Director) from the NC Press Association and Chris Sinclair, Cornerstone Solutions for sharing their wisdom, too.

Other insights into advocacy:

– You must make sure to educate members about staying on point when discussing legislative issues with government officials. A legislator will never understand your issues as well as you do. Get members disciplined on your issues. Make sure they know the impact of certain issues and how the legislator can impact your business.

– Don’t stray from the talking points and start discussing politics. Also, make sure your members are “solid” on your issues. They can’t be talking to legislators if they are on the fence on certain issues. 

– Make sure you mange association member’s expectations on legislative issues. The process of influencing legislation is a long-term process. Members often need to be reminded that is not that your issues aren’t important, its just that others are more important right now.

– Don’t simply rely on email to get the attention of legislators. You have to combine all outreach to be effective – personal visits, letter writing, phone calls, advertising in local newspapers, along with email.

– Survey your members regularly to make sure you know what legislators with whom they have connections. Its not enough to say you know Sen. Hunt, it needs to go deeper. Such as we went to college together or my brother is his dentist, etc.

– Make sure you have an idea where your members are making contributions outside of the PAC. If you have a member that contributes regularly to Sen. Rucho, you need to know that.

– Another way to keep members engaged in the legislative process is by hosting local chapter or association dinners. Invite legislators to attend these events. Make sure you have two types of presentations ready – one for when legislators are there and another when one isn’t that covers PAC, grassroots, etc. You have to be willing to go out to the members and always stress how important advocacy is to the success of the profession. Also, invite legislators or other regulatory folks to come out and visit an office on a local level, visit one of your member facilities or your practice. You have to put all things on a local level. Make sure to quietly share with legislators the good things you are doing in the community.

– You should have a committee or task force established that is always seeking information from members about regulatory issues that impact them.

– Using public relations to change perception can be a good component to effective advocacy. Your message isn’t about getting people to like you, but about getting folks to hate you less.

– Identify young people in your association that can be trained and educated on the issues with a focus on advocacy.

– One of the greatest ways to upset the bubble of a legislator is when you get the general public to respond. Its one thing when a REALTOR from your districts complains about the potential mortgage deduction, but when you have a member of the general public call or write a letter, its begins to make traction. 

– Don’t forget, as an association, get your members to get their customers to advocate for your issues. Make sure they reach-out to all their spheres of influence.

– If you are going to go public with a policy issue, you have to be willing to go big and use multi-channels – Capital Tonight (News 14), NC Spin, local newspapers. and radio. This is in addition to the calls, letters, emails, etc. You have to be willing to thump a legislator upside the head (metaphorically speaking of course).

– And lastly, and one of the most important, make sure to thank legislators for their work on your issues.

Mentoring: Building Bridges and Avoiding Pitfalls

By Hope Venetta 

On March 15th I had the wonderful opportunity to share some insights I have learned over the years with AENC’s FUEL group

Here are the highlights

  1.  What is a mentor? Since we are all familiar with the concept of someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with someone who is less experienced, let’s talk about some of the specific kinds of mentors you can find.  Incidentally, you mentor does not have to be your boss or someone who manages you.
    1. Advocate/Sponsor – This is someone who takes up your cause.  A cheerleader.  It is usually someone in your company or industry that has access to key leaders and decision makers that you don’t.  This person sees something positive in your work and is willing to speak on your behalf to those who can affect your career.
    2. Teacher – The teacher gives specific instruction about a specific topic.  Think Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid
    3. Guide/Coach – The guide doesn’t tell you what to do.  He or she knows where you are going and lights your path as you move along.  A career Sherpa if you will.
    4. What can you expect from a mentoring relationship?
      1. Do not expect a listening ear for griping or whining.  Also, don’t expect your mentor to be a fairy godmother/father who grants you with new career opportunities and projects that will lead to your promotion.
      2. You can expect trust, someone who will keep your confidence.  Someone who will communicate to you the truth about your abilities and what you need to learn.  And you can expect respect for your abilities and what you have to offer.  However, you can also expect to do the heavy lifting in the relationship.  The mentor can potentially open doors for you, but you have to be ready to walk through them.  Learning new skills and refining the skills you already have will ultimately be what moves you forward on your career journey.
      3. Is there a special way a mentoring relationship is supposed to be structured?  No.  A mentoring relationship can be very formal with a contract and covenants that you both agree to.  Or, the relationship can be very informal, such as coffee dates once a quarter.  Here are some examples of various mentor relationships:
        1. The famous mentor – Can a best-selling author or industry rock star be a mentor for you?  Absolutely!  You can definitely learn from them through their books, seminars, CDs, and videos if you don’t actually have a relationship with them.  Personally, I have been learning quite a lot from Seth Godin these days.
        2. The ghost mentor – This is someone you observe.  Someone who has an amazing skill or professional way about them that you’d like to emulate.
        3. The mentor in the checkout lane – Huh?  This is someone that you have a very brief encounter with, but end up learning something from them… like your seatmate on an airplane, or someone you went to a workshop with at a conference, etc.
        4. The in the trenches mentor – This is someone who is really involved in your career and serves as advocate, teacher, and guide all rolled into one.
        5. How to find a mentor?
          1. Research
          2. Networking – social media as well as face to face professional networking events
          3. Volunteering – within your own organization, in your professional associations, and philanthropic organizations
          4. SCORE – the Service Corps of Retired Executives could be a wonderful resource.
          5. Are you a good mentoring candidate?  You will notice that the following qualifications have nothing to do with the skills you already poses.
            1. Are you teachable?
            2. Are you willing to accept criticism?
            3. Are you able to embrace change?
            4. Pass it on.  Become a mentor yourself.  You’ve just read the qualities of a mentor.  All that is required is that you have a set of knowledge or a skill set that someone else does not have.  It doesn’t matter if they are older, or younger, a working professional, or a student.  If you can impart wisdom or share knowledge with someone less experienced, you qualify!
            5. When is the mentoring relationship over?  It depends on you and your mentor.  Relationships can be a lifetime, or as short as a brief conversation over lunch.  The important thing to remember is that like many other personal relationships when the relationship no longer serves both parties in a positive way it is time to move on.

Hope Venetta is the Director of Professional Development, National Association of Social Workers- NC Chapter, Raleigh, NC  hope@nswnc.org

Leadership in Associations

Best Practices and Experiences – AENC Leadership Roundtable, 5/ 17/2013

Leadership Development:

1. Be in the driver’s seat and define the characteristics and competencies of the leader before searching for them.  Go slow to go fast later.

2. Have intentionality when nominating and be aware of generations, experience, etc.

3. Look at someone’s capacity to invest and be a non-partisan visionary.  Focus on the ‘what’ and let the team take care of the ‘how’.

4. Passionate leaders can hurt the organization by dominating and burning out, leaving a vacuum.  Rotate chairs, bring in new blood, be open to non-conventional sources for membership and leadership talent.

5. Create a Leadership College that requires skin in the game with an intention of growing leaders of all ages.

6. Create term limits to encourage leaders to get things done.

7.  Observe people in the organization and ask them to serve.  Also give permission to some not to serve.  Passion leads to vision, and leadership takes time.  Leadership development is a commitment to the individual.

8.  Develop a program to reach out locally for leaders and take the crop of the Top 25 into a 2 day immersion program.  That creates a win-win by increasing the pipeline of leaders long term and benefits the firm who sends the leader to the immersion program in the short term.

Leading From Behind:

1.Communicate and have dialogue on new leaders to convey mutual expectations at the beginning of the year.

2. Get everyone on the same page – mission, objectives, etc.  Get buy in and then throw out ideas to the Board, let them digest, and don’t push.

3. Associations of the future blend a combination of pushing and pulling.  The art is leading down a path and making it look like it’s from behind.  Look toward peer organizations throughout the country for models and inspiration.

4. Ask questions to get others thinking like you.

5. Identify the train wreck before it happens, identify issues, and help leaders think beyond the way they think.  Sensitize them to what they can make progress on.

6. Define outcomes and let the Board make decisions and mistakes.

7. Find the “why” of leadership and for the organization.

8. Resist setting an agenda as the Executive and encourage other’s input.

Also, if you are interested in a great video on how leaders inspire action, check out Simon Sinek’s TED Talk

The AENC Association Executive Roundtable was facilitated by Sarah Levitt, Executive Coach and Motivational Speaker.
To learn more about executive coaching and workshops: sarah@sarah-levitt.com, 919.210.8532, www.sarah-levitt.com.

Win Fair and Square – Taking No Ethical Shortcuts

Is Your Organization Right Side Up or Upside Down
Don’t Take Ethical Shortcuts

By Sandy Costa

In space, gravity provides no instinctual frame of reference and ones own body cannot tell whether it is upside down or right side up. As a result, there is no ‘upside down’. The typical internal compass that we use to determine where we are in the world just doesn’t work.

In the early 1960s, President Kennedy challenged the country to land a man on the moon and safely return him to earth. The Apollo 11 mission was America’s first attempt at a successful moon landing. While Michael Collins circled the moon in the Apollo capsule, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the surface in a landing craft. When the landing craft separated from the Apollo capsule, Collins said, “You guys are upside down,” to which Armstrong responded, “Well, someone is upside down!”

This brief dialogue between Collins and Armstrong illustrates why it is important for both individuals and organizations to have a strong internal moral compass which can determine whether your organization is right side up or upside down.

Integrity in the Workplace

If an association’s culture lacks a strong moral underpinning, there is usually no way for members to judge what is right and wrong. But, when a sense of integrity permeates the group decisions can be made based on what is right and wrong. Values such as honesty, trustworthiness and hard work should be known, understood and rewarded by all without question.

If a sense of integrity is missing within an organization’s conduct, it will take its toll on everyone. Employees may find themselves out of bounds and possibly reprimanded without truly understanding why. When there are no clear guidelines or expectations, they won’t know where they went wrong. In a culture that lacks the compass of clearly expressed and modeled behavior, people can easily lose their moral bearings.

Problem Areas

In a typical scenario, one or two association leaders may take actions they personally find perfectly acceptable. But these actions may be morally questionable. Others in the association see that happening and also start practicing situational ethics. Decisions are soon not being made in an atmosphere of clear right and wrong.

Other problems may occur when leadership gives little thought to how their decisions affect others. Leaders may think that exercising thoughtful foresight takes too much time, too much feedback and slows down the process.  And as we all know, time is money. It will become more important to get things done quickly and not necessarily to do them correctly. Corners will be cut. It soon will become the norm to say: “To obtain my goals, any action I take is acceptable.” The traditional Golden Rule is sent to communications and changed to: “The one with the most gold wins.”




Honest Competition

Working in honest competition makes all projects more enjoyable because everyone knows and follows the same rules. The fun comes from honing skills, preparing more deeply and carefully, then going out and performing at peak ability.

Associations need to invest in creating a culture built on a foundation of truth and honesty. Few things feel as good as taking actions aligned with our highest thoughts and the best of human nature. Human intellect needs the freedom to make mistakes, and it only has that freedom when we stock our conscience with right-thinking ethical lessons of conduct that we can take for granted—like gravity.

Every association needs smart leaders who know how to be right side up.

Costa is the popular author of the bestselling business and self-mastery book, Humanity at Work. He is a former Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Glaxo and former President and COO at Quintiles Transnational Corporation.  He is well known as a beloved leader and speaker with a message that offers true help and steps for better business and relationships as well as lasting prosperity. To find out more, log on to www.sandycosta.com





Why Create a Brand Message

Why Your Organization Should Focus on Creating Its Own Brand Message

By Amanda Gorecki, president and founder of Healing Waters Spa & Cosmetic Clinic

In my experience as a business owner, one of the most important steps to take in a company’s development is identifying a clear, concise brand message, and then effectively communicating that message to your target audiences.

Communicating your brand message means setting expectations and following through on them. As you implement certain practices and build your clientele, customers will develop certain expectations regarding your services and interactions. The best way to increase customer satisfaction and strengthen your brand is to focus on your company’s consistency. At Healing Waters, our goal is to establish customer confidence in our results so that their natural instinct is to turn to us first. Whatever your business offers – whether it is a product or service – make it your goal to gain your client’s confidence through consistency to ensure that you become their go-to resource.

Your brand will always reflect what people expect from your company. Whether that is something you have worked proactively to create, or an expectation of inconsistency because you take a reactionary approach, the results that come from your business are the ones that everyone – clients, potential clients, industry leaders and competitors – quickly learn to identify as your brand. Focus on the “little things” that make up your company as a whole. Whether you like it or not, clients associate everything that is related to your company with your entire brand. What they see in terms of the way they are treated upon arriving at your business, or how long they wait on the phone with customer service, or what your waiting room is like, will all ultimately affect the public perception of your brand.

We recognize the importance of these smaller aspects of business at Healing Waters Spa & Cosmetic Clinic. Each of our clients receives a warm, friendly greeting every time they walk through our doors to help them associate their visit to our clinic with warmth and positivity. We cycle annually through focusing on the transformational principles of Calm™, Balance™, Correct™ and Restore™, and find it helpful to include our clients in that focus. Upon arrival, each customer receives a card that explains the current quarter’s transformational principle. Through these efforts, our clients have come to expect consistent, positive results. Through our careful and proactive efforts in focusing on service details, we are able to create a strong and consistent brand message.

As you consider your own brand message, take time to determine what you want people to expect from your business and compare that to what people currently expect. As you reconcile those differences, do so with a proactive approach, a focus on the small details that will make a big difference, and set a goal for providing consistency.