Social Media: What's Working for Associations Right Now

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Beekeeper’s Shana Glickman and ASHA’s Kellie Rowden-Racette teamed up at a recent AM&P Lunch & Learn to share first-hand experience on how to squeeze more out of your social media. Two key takeaways: Don’t take the social out of social media, and revisit Pinterest’s possibilities for your association.

By Barbara Bryant

Social media is not just a buzz phrase, but an apt description of the type and tone of the messages you deliver through various online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest said Shana Glickman, partner at the Beekeeper Group. She and Kellie Rowden-Racette, social media manager at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), delivered presentations on social media during a recent Lunch & Learn sponsored by Association Media & Publishing.

Glickman stressed that the information associations deliver to members, the press, and the public, including images, should be not only informational, but also genuinely social.

"It's not effective to keep the personal entirely separate from the professional," she argued. "You need to look and sound human and interact with people. Mix it up. Show what's going on behind the curtain. People want to do business with those they trust."
Glickman stressed that social media can be a "virtual handshake” a way of educating and providing content to journalists who use the information we post, and a way of engaging and empowering employees as well.
"Show employees how to use social media wisely rather than telling them they can't participate or share content on other platforms. Train them to be brand ambassadors," she urged.
Glickman also advises associations to crowdsource. "Ask conference attendees and staff to do things that you can use on social media. Wear t-shirts that market the brand. Develop and use hashtags a lot to ensure that your material can be organized easily and is searchable. Popular hashtags, a key part of widespread online conversations, are often picked up by others and can spread like wildfire among posters, helping your association be more recognizable.
Glickman stressed the importance of featuring your association's brand frequently and consistently. "If someone sends a photo from your site to another platform, will the viewer be able to walk it back to your organization?” Find a way to feature your logo in or with an image to make sure the brand is captured and passed on, she said.
Glickfield offered the following additional tips on how your association can make the best use of social media:
  • It's free- the way a puppy you adopt from a friend is free. It takes care and feeding to stay relevant and be effective.
  • The best social media platform for your association is the one it will actually use.
  • You need to be both a producer of content and a curator of others' content. Highlighting outside content, as others will do with yours, is another form of a virtual handshake.
  • To be successful, your association must be memorable. One way to do that is to be repetitive. Deliver your message more than once and find different ways to do so.
  • Be whimsical. (She offered as an example, a media campaign with a "talk-like-a-pirate" theme. The client was leery, but the campaign turned out to be a big hit.)
  • Emphasize quality rather than quantity, both in terms of the content you post and whom you follow on Twitter or like on Facebook.

Tips for Making Pinterest Perform for Your Organization

Kellie Rowden-Racette focused on how ASHA uses its social media platform of choice, Pinterest, to reach and engage its members. She explained that 56 percent of the association's social media audience is school-based, and they look for curriculum resources on Pinterest.

ASHA uses social media for advocacy, education, and to sell products through an online store. The association maintains 30 message boards on various topics, and Rowden-Racette has recruited ambassadors from across the association to keep them up-to-date. "They're content specialists and know their audience," she explained.
The platform allows the user to collect visual bookmarks called pins, on Pinterest or from other websites.
Rowden-Racette offered the following Pinterest-specific lessons that ASHA has learned from using this platform:
  • Make pins relevant and practical. They should be designed for immediate use.
  • Apply hashtags to make the content searchable (many users don't know that this can be done on Pinterest, she said).
  • ASHA posts 50 percent association content and 50 percent outside material to mix up the subject matter and tone.
  • Do an annual board clean up to weed outdated material.
  • Use Tailwind, a scheduling app, to post pins. It has a rich analytics tool called Virality. The tool divides the number of repins by the number of total pins to show reach and what your audience likes to share.
  • Don't use Pinterest for time-sensitive calls-to-action or to incite other quick responses over a short timeframe because most people don't use this platform as often as they do Facebook or Twitter.
  • Buyable pins can be used for the online store.

Glickman also offered a quick overview of typical audiences for various types of social media platforms, including a few with specialized uses.

  • Instagram. It's popular among millennials, and if you're taking photos anyway, why not upload them there?
  • Twitter. The 140-character limit can make it hard to deliver a complex message, but typing a teaser and a link can get the job done. The fact that tweets can be pushed quickly off the screen by more recent ones can make it hard to keep up with what's being said, so using a hashtag readers are likely to look for when searching for a topic is key.
  • YouTube. According to Google research, millennials spend 30 minutes a week looking at videos on B2B topics. Associations can produce these types of videos to attract this audience, which might not otherwise look to the nonprofit world for such content.
  • Pinterest. Because this platform is female driven and visual, it's good for sales.
  • Gramblr. Use it to upload photos from your PC to Instagram.
  • Periscope and Meerkat. These live-streaming platforms can be used to capture meeting presentations and conversations. Their downside: If accessed by cell phone, they drain the battery very quickly.

Barbara Bryant is editor, Association of Defense Communities. Association Media & Publishing sincerely thanks her for covering this informative Lunch & Learn for Sidebar readers.

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