Everyone is trying to capture your attention. Think about it…

When you’re walking down the street, browsing the web on your phone, or even watching a football game, there is always a call for your time and attention from advertisers. Someone from somewhere is lurking around a corner with a new product, brand, or message to sell.

In a call-to-action world, how can association leaders and marketers stand out?

How do we cut the call-to-action clutter and form a meaningful relationship with our members and market?

The solution is simple: Social Media.

To better understand why, we first need to examine the association world more closely. Merriam-Webster defines associations as “an organization of persons having a common interest.” Associations are built on the premise that it’s members share common interests, values, and goals.

Merriam-Webster defines social media as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content.”

Do you see the commonalities? Both associations and social media connect communities of people, providing pathways to share common interests and spread knowledge.

Meeting members on a platform that they freely choose to communicate on will help your association market in a more natural way. For example, instead of screaming for attention on a billboard to every audience, think about engaging with a targeted audience on channels that are community based. Social media allows you to market your association’s mission, events, products and services in a conversational manner. Be strategic with your marketing tools, time and resources, use social media to reach who you want to reach in a way that members will be more receptive to your message.

Now that we have identified social media as vehicles for association marketing, how do we use these tools effectively?

Know your pathway.

Each social media platform has a unique way of connecting, sharing, and housing content. Depending on your type of association, member audience interests, and marketing goals, you should consider using a variety of social media platforms in different ways to help you accomplish your goals. Here are some of the major social media channels, and how they can be used effectively:

  • Facebook – the global community. Facebook is one of the largest social media tools in a marketer’s toolbox. With almost 2 billion users worldwide, this platform can reach just about anyone. Facebook acts like a forum, allowing a post to be liked, shared, and host a series of comments. When using Facebook, share messages that allow for dialogue with your members. This will contribute to building a relationship over a period of positive interactions.
  • Twitter – the real-time marketer. If you are looking to reach members with speed and efficiency, Twitter is your friend. In this space, the character limit is an advantage. Utilize twitter to share clear and concise information with your members. Twitter is also a platform that maximizes its feed, allowing users to scroll quickly. By sharing short information and tweeting back and forth with members in real time, this platform builds trust through consistent communication.
  • LinkedIn – the ultimate networking machine. What makes LinkedIn unique is its users are interacting strictly as their professional identity. Sharing relevant articles that relate to your association’s industry, or areas of interest, is critical on this platform. Provide content that your members find interesting, and over time they will look to your association for new trends and for credible information. LinkedIn is also the most effective platform to give your members resources for career development and opportunities.
  • Instagram & YouTube – the visual worlds. Instagram and YouTube are both highly visual social media platforms. The goal on both platforms is to capture your members’ attention through images or video. Use Instagram to market with short videos or on-brand photos. Remember to share content that highlights your members in a way that shows value in being a part of your association. YouTube is the best way to provide longer video content. To use YouTube effectively, post content that is time sensitive (shorter may be better) and remember, quality over quantity.

These five platforms are only a few of the many that are out there. Do research and find which platform your members use the most, and most importantly, what they are using it for. The most important part of marketing naturally on these channels is in seamlessly becoming a part of the conversation. By using each platform in the way in which it is intended, you will have more success in communicating with the platform’s users.

Use your pathway wisely.

Tailoring your marketing to each unique pathway will not only keep your marketing efforts fresh and interesting, but also engage different member types. No matter which social media channels you choose to use, here are six marketing best practices that will help your association communicate with your members online:

  • Have a measurable strategy. Don’t go in blind. Craft planned social media content that stays aligned with your association’s budget, brand, and marketing goals.
  • Use metrics to guide your decision making. Look closely at how your posts are performing. Experiment with posting at different times of day, targeting specific audiences, and more to maximize your content’s reach.
  • Interconnect your channels. It is likely members who follow you on one channel also follow on another. Form a way for the world to stay connected with your association by providing links not only between your channels, but also back to your website.
  • Stay on-brand. No matter what social media pathway you are using, and no matter what you are marketing, always post content that is aligned with your association’s mission, vision, and values.
  • Be reachable. The beauty of social media is in its ability to function as a two-way street. Unlike traditional marketing, social media allows for a real conversation to happen. Take advantage of this feature and be ready to respond to members.
  • Give your members a personalized experience. Above all else, social media is designed with me in mind. Personalize marketing and communications as much as possible to make your interactions cater to individual members.

No matter the scale, type, or age of an association, they all have one thing in common: community. Always keep this top of mind when marketing to members through social media pathways. The overarching goal is to form a community associated with your organization to which members want to belong. When members choose to join your online conversation, marketing for your association will become a welcomed dialogue.

By Nikki Quain, Marketing Coordinator