Help Your Organization Leverage the Power of Twitter

by DJ MullerMuller Headshot

#worldcup2014.  #ipad . #followback.  #android.  These are just four of the topics trending on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 8:06pm.  The amazing thing is, these so-called trends are subject to change at any given moment.

Welcome to the world of Twitter, populated with 230 million active users who send more than 500 million tweets per day.  Although its dynamic nature can be somewhat intimidating, Twitter is a cost effective tool that gives organizations of all types and sizes a way to promote their brand, connect and engage their target audience and truly create a unique customer experience.   This is precisely why the social platform should be integrated into your marketing communications plan if you have not done so already.

Too often small organizations create Twitter accounts just to leave them sitting idle – failing to leverage its innate power to communicate and interact with their niche audiences.  The good news is, with a few simple steps, you can ensure that you are on the right track to implementing a Twitter strategy that drives results.

  1. Complete your profile and maximize your presence.

First and foremost, you must complete your profile with information that will help others easily find and identify your organization upon a search.  Make sure to choose a Twitter handle that is simple, easy to spell and does not include an abundance of special characters.  Ideally, your Twitter handle should be the name of your organization as that is the name that the public directly associates with you and will ensure that your account is easy to find.

In addition to choosing a Twitter handle, choose profile and header images that represent your organization and positively reflect the industry in which you serve.  Also, make sure your bio communicates your organization’s specific purpose, includes your location and has a direct URL to your website.

  1. Design and implement an insightful strategy that drives results.

With your profile complete, it’s time to design and implement a strategy that drives results. Although this may seem like a rather large task to tackle, if you break the process down into smaller steps it will be a much more manageable.

  • Define your purpose and set goals. Before you even begin to think about designing a strategy, you must know what you are trying to accomplish. Do you want to generate awareness for your organization?  Are you trying to generate leads for new membership sales? Do you want to increase member engagement?

No matter what your primary intention may be, make sure it is clearly established and set goals that will ensure that you are working to fulfill that purpose.  For example, if you are seeking to generate audience engagement, you should set goals for the number of mentions, retweets and favorites that you receive on a monthly basis.

  • Build your network.  Building a network is essential to setting up a successful strategy.  More is not always better. Although it seems as though the more people you follow, greater awareness will be raised, this is by no means the best way to attract the type of audience that you want and need to fulfill your purpose.

Start by following customers, clients, vendors, business partners, local businesses and other organizations in your industry. Additionally, take the time to identify and connect with industry thought leaders and experts. These types of connections will help create relevant content for your target audience, as well as provide engaging material to share with your followers.  To discover your industry influencers, check out Topsy, a popular social tool that allows Twitter users to analyze the social web based on specific search terms.

  • Know the platform. If you want your strategy to be successful, you have to do a little bit a research.  Twitter is not rocket science, but in order to attract and engage effectively, it is imperative that you know exactly how to interact.

In a nutshell, there are five different types of interactions on Twitter (see chart below). You should familiarize yourself with each and incorporate them into your strategy.

The Tweet.  A message that a Twitter use originates and may not exceed 140 characters in length.
The Retweet (RT).  A re-posting of another user’s tweet that appears on your Twitter timeline.
The @reply.  A public update that contains your response and the hyperlinked username of the person whom you are replying.
The Direct Message.  A private message you can send to your followers.
The Mention.  Any tweet containing a username within the tweet, including the @reply.

Beyond these interactions, you must master the art of the hashtag (#). By using a hashtag in front of a word, or phrase, you can potentially reach any Twitter user that is monitoring that specific hashtag. You can use your Twitter sidebar, or tools such as Google Alerts, Social Mention, Radian6, Trackur and Twitter’s search tool, to identify trending and relevant hashtags that will help you to connect with your defined target audience as well as industry influencers. As a general rule of thumb, never use more than two hashtags per tweet.

  • Develop quality content. Creating engaging content for your followers on Twitter can be a challenge as you only have 140 characters to attract and capture their attention. With this in mind, keep your tweets interesting by asking questions, leading with numbers and statistics, use images, videos and links, and promote your events. Most importantly, ,take the time to reply to those who mention you.   
  1. Add Twitter to your current marketing plan. Adding Twitter to your current marketing efforts will help  drive other users to your profile.  You should add a Twitter button to your website, or even embed a live feed., Promote your organization’s events, hosts contests and link to your other social accounts, such as Instagram.
  1. Measure your results and adjust accordingly.  As you employ your strategy, you need to make sure to measure your performance over time. This will ensure that you are reaching your goals and will give you insights into improving your strategy to better accomplish your purpose. Luckily, tools including Klout, Twitter Analytics, Demographics Pro, Sprout Social and Hootsuite, make managing your account easy and will help you to efficiently measure your reach and influence.  Explore the different features of each tool and choose one that best suits your needs.

As I mentioned above, Twitter is not rocket science. Therefore, have fun with it and don’t be afraid to adjust and experiment.  For example, try tweeting during different times of the day in order to determine when your audience is most active.

Following these simple steps will help you to leverage the immense power of Twitter.  Optimize your account, execute an insightful strategy, integrate your account with existing marketing, measure and monitor your results, be creative and, most importantly, and have fun!

For more Twitter tips and tricks, download WebLink’s free eBook 4 Simple Steps to Help Your Organization Tackle Twitter.

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.

September Technology Round Table Update

Knights of the Round Table

On behalf of AENC, I was very pleased to facilitate the Sept 19th Technology Round Table and I thank our fellow Knights for rolling up their sleeves and diving into the issues.

Knights of the Round TableThe “Knights” in attendance participated in true Round Table fashion discussing what was most important to them when it comes to Technology and how they would like to use it to deliver more value to their members.

Helping me in the meeting were 2 special guests.  Tobi Bowen of Instinctive Branding provided some great insights into the mysteries of social media, marketing and generations and Eyal Novotny, with us courtesy of AVAYA, shared his expertise in using video and video conferencing to communicate within your organizations and with your members.

Technological Challenges

During the discussion, it because clear that technology issues are, and should, be driven by our mission and objectives.  Specifically, we identified these as the most pressing concerns:

  • A Communication Plan
  • Delivering Member Value
  • Member, Board and Organizational Engagement
  • Collaboration Tools
  • Generational Issues
  • Social Media Platforms
  • Nuts-n-Bolts Training

One ah-ha moment came when I asked how many people had Communication Plans in place that addressed the issues that were coming up in our discussion. We are all told we need a communication plan but it’s difficult to integrate the messaging, marketing and technological issues involved into a cohesive plan.  Especially when technology is such a moving target.

Data Driven and Member Focused

One thing, though, is clear, using the “Mud on the Wall” approach to technology or just jumping on the latest new techie thing does not an effective technology or communications strategy maketh.

Among the “7 Measures of Success” is that every remarkable association must adopt a Data-Driven and Member Focused approach.  This implies using the right technology to deliver the right message to the right people – with measured results.  Technology is not a goal in and of itself.  Yes, you have a facebook or twitter page…so what?  Whether it’s your board, committees, staff or members, it’s all about delivering value in a measurable way.  And higher perceived member value means higher satisfaction and greater retention.

AENC will continue to provide you with more in-depth support on these technology issues so you can bring the highest value to your members without having to become technology experts yourself.

So, come and sit down with your fellow Knights at the next technology round table and lets slay this technology dragon together!

Author Bio

Robert GeigerRobert Geiger is a management and marketing consultant who helps organizations conduct effective strategic planning and organizational optimization so you maximize results without all the usual stress and uncertainty. Robert contributes to the AENC blog and writes the “Measure Twice, Cut Once” column in Success by Association magazine. Connect with Robert on Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/robertgeigernc

Branding Yourself and Your Company Online

By Guest Blogger Brandon Ives

“Can you explicitly name the value and added benefits your association offers your members?”

When people discuss branding their association with me, I ask them that question and tell them that their biggest challenge will be answering it. The response will provide the key messages they will want to convey to people who know nothing about the opportunities their organization provides – and can clarify them to those members who are supposed to know what it does.

Some leaders of associations need to contemplate to determine these messages. They know what they offer, but may not have mastered explaining exactly what makes their services or products unique to the general public. The branding process requires them to look inward and ask, “What are we offering members as key selling points? What do our members want from us?”

Once you answer these questions, creating your identity, logo, collateral materials, related branding items and online strategy will flow from those responses. But the process can vary somewhat, depending on the circumstances and needs of your company.

Initial Considerations to Keep in Mind

If your business is part of an existing organization – for example, a chapter of a statewide, nationwide or worldwide group – you should evaluate where they are in their own messaging and visual supporting materials as you determine your own branding. Do this before you develop your online strategy, and look at the overall marketing plan by the parent organization as well as your own chapter. Determine and identify the sales goals of both, and find out how they can or should be combined in your branding. Most associations that my company has handled in the past were part of a larger group or had a national alliance where we were permitted and successful in connecting their logos back to the larger entity.

Visual branding is an essential part of your overall branding and direction, as is developing a true position and message. Find a talented consultant or agency to help you with branding your organization. Associations without logos or parent affiliations should identify the visual marketing and online banners they want to use with their logos as a starting point. This will provide designers with an idea of how to best convey their branding in an effective way throughout supporting materials, online and otherwise. Similarly, a strong tagline or slogan can help push out your messaging and guarantee strong results.

If you have not created one yet, finalizing the mission and/or vision statement for your website and collateral materials is a good self-evaluation process for establishing your overall goal or goals. These statements serve as effective tools for letting people outside your organization know and understand your priorities. Just keep in mind they can be of limited help in branding your association with some people, such as those who view your business as a networking opportunity.

Establishing Strategies for SEO and Social Media

When my company assists in improving the search engine optimization, or SEO, for the website for any organization, we always start with a keyword research process and an online marketing strategy. For keywords research, we consult with association leaders about what visitors they are trying to attract and create a list of words related to that goal. For example, if an association’s primary aim with its online branding is to attract new members, we review which recruiting words and phrases when put in search engines would bring the association’s name up near the top of the listings and then incorporate them into the group’s online efforts.

Online marketing strategy goes beyond determining SEO to recommend other online approaches that will enhance your branding. Again, you should work with a consultant or agency to help guide you through this process and select an appropriate plan of attack. For example, should your organization use blogs to continue to convey your message best, or will linking to other websites to generate traffic work more favorably for you? As with keywords, the methods that work well will be revealed through researching and analyzing all online marketing strategies. When implemented, the result of these SEO efforts will optimize a website in a way that is unique to every association.

While social media is a big ranking indicator for many search engines, its SEO benefits are questionable for some associations. If your organization is catering primarily to a more mature audience that comes to your website for basic information on membership and upcoming events, will they necessarily want to follow you for updates on Twitter or Facebook? And do you have the staff or support ready to answer questions or comments resulting from your social media posts? In such cases, social media may not be a priority for your membership, which always needs to be your primary focus for your branding.

Of course, many associations employ social media quite effectively for branding. One organization I know that is involved in promoting air quality improvements and reaching an audience interested in environmental issues has received excellent SEO because of its active engagement with its followers on social media through frequent updates and responses to queries. This proves once again the needs of your members should determine your branding strategy, online and off.

Why Branding Matters

Many associations have followed the steps previously mentioned and thrived successfully online, no matter their size. Still, some organization leaders consider branding a frivolous or unnecessary expense. If you are one of those people – or encountering resistance from them as you want to engage in branding – consider the following:

  • All of your current and prospective members are online.
  • You need to connect with people all the time.
  • The market for finding members of associations is more crowded than ever.

Given these facts, to stand out and succeed in today’s market, branding is your most effective answer. It can help with recruiting, communications and many other areas. When formulated correctly, it will make a positive impression with newcomers and assist in the long-term success of your organization.

Brandon Ives is managing partner & marketing strategist for Brasco Design + Marketing, which helps companies design and implement creative strategies to springboard their growth. Armed with a client base in a variety of industries, Brasco Design + Marketing specializes in marketing strategy, creative brand design, web development, online / SEO marketing and comprehensive marketing management services. The company, located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, N.C., maintains a prestigious client base, and is a one-stop shop for all aspects of design and marketing creation and management. The agency has been providing services to clients since 2006 and delivers passion, energy, creativity and experience.

Selecting The Right Membership Database

Since December 2011, AENC has been exploring implementing a new membership database.  And if you have ever gone through the process , you know it can be a very painful.

Like any good association executive, we reviewed what many of our peers are using and went full-steam ahead with one that one of peers was using. They offered a great deal and it seemed like a great fit. That was until we got to the implementation phase. It was a nightmare to say the least. So much so that even our old database was beginning to actually look like a better option.

So, we immediately put the breaks on and went back to the drawing board. This time, we had a plan.

For several years I have been following Wes Trochlil’s blog – Effective Database blog and have gotten lots of good information from him. Wes is a consultant who specializes in association management systems (AMS) and one of our members had just mentioned they used him for their new database project.  Wes helped them from the beginning to the very end. Unfortunately AENC couldn’t afford that level of consultation, but I did give him a call to explore options.  For a very affordable fee, Wes provided us with a sample RFP and provided us up to one-hour of consultation time and unlimited email access. We were sold.

The AENC staff took the RFP, which if printed would be about 36 pages, and went through line-by-line and examined each question. And let me say this was a great exercise. It allowed us as staff to view our database for not only what it is now, but what it could be in the future. We input all the information about AENC – the types of membership, the committees, special interest groups, online registration, etc.

Our next step was to send the completed RFP to Wes and he would help us select appropriate vendors to send the RFP. Because he knows this side of the business, he knows so much about every AMS provider out there. Check out his list of the vendors on his site – here. I had no idea there were that many.

In addition, we also did a survey of all of our AENC member associations and asked them what they were using.  For the complete results of the survey so far, click here.

The plan now is to send the RFP to about 5 vendors (selected based on Wes’ recommendations and our survey, but mostly Wes) and then send them the RFP. We hope to have a new membership database in place by January 2013.

It doesn’t take one long to realize the AMS is the brain of the association. It is the cause and solution to many association headaches and picking the right one isn’t easy. And, unfortunately, its like any relationship. You are never going to find the perfect AMS, however, hopefully you get one that brings more joy than pain. We will keep you updated!

Tech Challenges Never Limited

Today’s association professional is constantly challenged by technology. A recent Charlotte Area Association Roundtable confirmed that.

For the associations present, challenges included:
–         Trying to keep up with all the different technologies and getting practical, measureable results from that effort
–         Devoting resources to developing virtual education
–         Balancing whether members get too much information vs. not enough
–         How to understand the ROI for new technologies
–         Keeping up with all the social media platforms
–         The amount of time and resources that are involved in providing technology tools
–         How to best communicate to members
–         Creating online certification and training
–         Trying to stay on top of the changes in technology in-order to remain relevant

Do any of these sound familiar?

The recent Roundtable focused on mobile meeting applications and also social media.

For associations, according to the recent book, Race for Relevance, it took the first association nearly three years to develop a mobile application. This is one reason many associations are challenged with being relevant. We move to slow.

One convenient way to dip your toes in the water with mobile applications is to create a mobile app for your conference. Hale Mast, executive director with the Fiduciary & Investment Risk Management Association (FIRMA), discussed a new mobile app he is going to be unveiling at his upcoming conference. The application will allow attendees to view the schedule of events, get speaker photos and bios, connect with speakers through phone and email (if the speaker allows) and it also contains links to the floor plan.

The company that developed is Global Media. And the have built the mobile application to be customizable to your event. It would also allow for interaction between attendees and provide exposure to sponsors or exhibitors.

There are now hundreds of resources for mobile applications for meetings and trade shows that one industry expert, Corbin Ball, actually wrote a blog which is an outstanding collection of resources – CLICK HERE.

The other challenge we discussed (and it was also a challenge expressed at the Roundtable) was social media.

With social media, you really have to focus on the why? There are so many reasons to delve into social media. Do you want to increase web traffic? Are you looking to target a new generation of members? Do you want to create a new avenue to communicate to members about upcoming events? Are you looking to create another format for members to network with each other? Or is it a little bit of all these things.

When AENC first got into social media, we didn’t have a strategy, we tried to do it all. That become too time intensive, so we decided to focus on FaceBook and LinkedIn and with the idea to build the network. If you want to have a network, you have to have followers. So, we just posted about events, included links to photos and just allowed it to exist. As more people became engaged in the site we began to post important news items important to the association community and also begin focusing on promoting things the association community is doing to impact lives (the focus of AENC’s new vision).

As we began to grow, we started using Twitter more and began using HootSuite to send out messages and multiple channels, and did scheduled tweets around events. In the last six months we re-designed our website to reflect our focus on social media and have bold icons on our website and email for all of our social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress (Blog), and PhotoBucket (event photos).

Now that AENC has developed a solid social media footing, we have been able to actually see some real world results. All of this activity has resulted in a higher ranking in Google. In other words, if you Google “associations and North Carolina”, AENC ranks in the top-5. In addition, we have also seen a great amount of traffic referred from our social media sites. We have seen a 400% increase in our traffic from FaceBook, a 129% increase in traffic from LinkedIn and a 292% increase in traffic through Twitter compared to just two years ago.

Now that our social media is running at full-speed, in January 2011, we started blogging regularly. We have gone from having 19 total views in January of 2011, to we have had 196 views so far this January. Not too shabby, huh.

Also, as Scott Williams from TH Management pointed out there is more to a blog than getting views. It results in what BLOG stands for – Better Listing On Google. You can also use your blog as a website, too. Take for example the Urban Land Institute of San Francisco – http://www.ulisf.org/
Other great information came out of the Roundtable, too.

–         Such as the reminder about the CAN-SPAM rules as it relates to marketing through the use of emails.
–         Using Skype for connecting with members
–         Creating Social Media Policies – for Resource, CLICK HERE.
–         And using Mashable.

Thanks to those that came out!!

Technology Drives Business – Are you Driving or Riding?

Our recent CEO Roundtable focused on technology and it was a great conversation around how technology was used in associations and also the challenges that come along with that usage.
According to our facilitator, Brooks Raiford, AENC member and CEO of the NC Technology Association, technology is generally used for two primary purposes, one internal and one external.
The first drives our business processes, in other words, our internal/operations. How are we using technology to manage the association from the inside?
Some areas of interest for associations are:

  • Virtualization (data and software hosting, document sharing, etc; mobile applications; integration of database with all activities, etc.)
  • Managed services (equipment and technical support)

The second purpose, and this is so important in a membership based organization, is using technology to enhance the customer experience.
Associations today and having to really consider the following as it relates to our external technologies:

  • Virtual networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, other “groups”)
  • Website – is it user-friendly?  Dynamic?
  • Business Development / Member Value (electronic directory; online marketplace for services/RFP postings, etc.)

As our facilitator said it best, for most associations, we need to be like the Wizard in the city of Oz. We have to be behind the curtain, appearing as we are much bigger than we really are because we have to not only compete for your attention, but try to appear like Google, Amazon or Facebook in the process.
Some tips shared –
– Look at your website – can you find contact information – phone, address, email, etc., in one-click or less? If not, you may want to consider some tweaking.
– How is your association allowing members to network with different subsets of members. Are you using social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn? Or are you looking at developing your own private social network through Higher Logic, Socious, or MemberFuse?
– How are you helping your affiliate members with direct business development – outside of the typical booth at the annual meeting?
– Simple things like dropping the “Annual Meeting” from the beginning of an event, instead, favored putting Technology Outlook first, then Annual Meeting. In addition, NCTA has branded url’s for events which re-direct to their site.
– Also have been co-locating meetings using technology. This way more folks can participate.
– Consider the hazards and risks associated with data breaches with virtualization.  Cyber security is increasingly important, increasingly complicated and challenging, yet expected by your customers.
– Organizations should get a better understanding of all the areas technology impacts so you can budget for it. Technology isn’t something you can just silo – its in everything we do.
– Consider using a 3-year cycle for computer replacement.
– Make sure your members have added your email address to make sure its “white listed”. This limits the amount of emails that get kicked back.
– By using technology, you really have to be in-front of your members more often. You never know when its going to hit that the member needs what you have to offer. Look at the way car dealers advertise. You have to always be visible.
– Consider exploring SMS – texting options in your communications. Many folks, especially younger folks, are getting their info that way.
– When getting members virtually, look to options like: GoToMeeting, conference calls w/ PowerPoint, or WebEx.
– Look to using virtual software – like Microsoft’s new virtual software, other hosted services (exchange, storage, back-up, voicemail, databases, etc.) or exchange services like A.nnotate.com.
Other thoughts of interest from the Roundtable, and this goes back to the customer experience, what barriers can we take away from the customer experience. At NCTA they created new express membership – created easy ways for members to join – just provide your name and contact info and even take payment over the phone to make it easy.
Many thanks again to those in attendance and to Brooks Raiford and the folks at the NC Academy of Family Physicians for hosting.

Association Tech Challenges

Thank you so much to Alec Parker and his wonderful staff (Prissy, especially) for hosting the CEO Roundtable today at the NC Dental Society – it was a real treat.

Today our focus was on technology challenges in our associations, however, we first talked about the success stories. And if you want skip and come back to the challenge post, that’s fine. It’s below this post – Association Tech Success. Here is an image of the success and challenges.

There were many challenges that came out of today’s session and we could have spent hours on the subject, but here were a few key points and some helpful hints.

The first issue with technology, and especially that of social media, is trying to calculate the return on investment. Many organizations have a Facebook presence, but the challenge is feeding it and nurturing the site(s). There are many ideas to help – volunteers, trading out for service, HootSuite or TweetDeck. However, when you get right down to it, and it was mentioned today, it’s not much different than the conversation we had about whether it was worth advertising on TV. Participating in social media is hard to quantify. At least with social media we have a way to track results – number of unique visits based on having a unique landing page for your social media pages. There is also a way to track the number of sites that referred you. In addition, there is the old-fashioned way of asking new members how they heard about you. The new challenge there is that many folks have heard about you in various places – web, social media, TV, radio, word of mouth, etc. The key with social media ( I mentioned this in the Tech Success post) is you have to decide if we don’t actively participate in social media because I can’t “track” it, then what would the cost be if you didn’t do it all? One association mentioned they now have more fans than members and now the challenge is to try and convert those over to members. Not all will join, but the fact that your presence is known is a good thing. It can’t hurt you? The challenge to with your association is helping your members make sense of it to. Facebook is currently the 3rd largest country in the world, make sure your members are taking advantage of it for their trade or profession, too. One other issue as it relates to the ROI is the number of choices out there. Look at this history of marketing channels. Amazing the choices, huh?

Another technology that could achieve greater ROI is email. Email is something that takes up so much of our time and there are ways to manage it. One is a book by David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Check out his blog and all his FREE tools, including this great paper on email management!! Also, click here for a great white paper on Taming the Email Tiger. For these and other presentations – visit – http://www.slideshare.net/AENC. Also, search Slide Share for other great Email Tips.

Another challenge that was addressed was the issue of integrating your different systems. Between your website, social media, membership database, etc., associations have a daunting task of keeping those systems communicating with each other. There are many great technology tools that can help with that. A great resource for those with issues around their association management system is Wes Trochil’s EDM blog  – EDM = Effective Database Management.  There are also issues with online registration, access to member information online and also the idea of creating private social networks with the ability to create community, in addition to the in-person meetings. Still very important.

The last issue that gained a lot of traction was deciding what social media platforms to use. And as we said earlier, Facebook and LinkedIn are the two prominent social media avenues and its important to feed those and make sure you focus where your people are. Chances are a lot of them are already on some sort of social media platform.

Other nuggets from today – cool tools – check out this information gathered from the recent ASAE Tech Conference. Click here for the Town Hall data. Also, check out the sites – Ever Note – this is a way to organize your life through your notes.  Check out StumbleUpon, too.  Great way to find websites out there that are similar to your interests. Imagine one of those Amazon tricks, “If you like this XX you might also like this YY,” for web sites.

Great information and I wish we could share everything, but that will get you started to understanding the challenges and see the successes!!