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Facebook for Associations: The 5 Best Ways to Promote Your Organization

Author: Tatiana Morand
July 12, 2018
🕑 11 min read

This is a guest blog post by Julia Campbell, a nonprofit digital marketing and online fundraising strategist.

Are you looking for a way to develop buzz around your association? Or are you feeling unsatisfied with your current growth, but aren’t sure how to reach a larger audience?

If so, Facebook marketing might be the answer.

Last year, associations that used Facebook as a platform to market themselves were able to grow their audiences by 38%.

Imagine if every time you posted to Facebook, 38% of the people that saw those posts had never heard of you before.

You’d likely get a lot more interest in your association, leading to more event attendees, members, and donations — and that’s exactly what I’ve seen happen.

Whether you’re new to Facebook marketing, or you’re looking to improve, there are a few tactics you can use to strengthen the bond people feel with your association using Facebook.

In this post, I will detail the five main tactics associations on Facebook can use to build community and increase engagement, as well as share examples of real-life associations who are seeing big success.


1. Turn Facebook’s Declining Audience into a Huge Advantage for Your Association

You may have heard stats about Facebook that make it seem like engagement is declining.

For example, Facebook reported a roughly 5 percent decline in total time spent on the site in the last quarter of 2017.

And organic reach (meaning the amount of people your Facebook Page can reach just by posting and not through paid media) was down 52% in the past year.

While these things are all true, there’s also ways that you can can turn them into an advantage for your association.

To counteract the decline in use, Facebook has decided to reward high quality posts by showing them to more users. They’re also punishing low quality posts, by showing them to less users. This means that more people on Facebook will only see high-quality content.

If you create only high quality content, then you’ll reach more people — which can be a huge advantage for your association.

But what exactly does Facebook consider high quality?

Facebook has created a simple list of questions that will help you determine whether a post is high quality or not. Here they are:

  • Is this timely and relevant content?
  • Is this content from a source you would trust?
  • Would you share it with friends or recommend it to others?
  • Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution? (e.g., asking for people to like the content)
  • Would you call this a low quality post or meme?
  • Would you complain about seeing this content in your News Feed?

One type of post I often see standing out and getting lots of engagement are personal posts, like behind-the-scenes updates on your nonprofit’s operations.

This could also include sharing fun photos of your volunteers hard at work, or using it to build urgency by showing just how critical the work you do is.

These types of posts perform well because your audience immediately feels an emotional connection to them, and may feel compelled to take action themselves.

CMRF Crumlin’s campaign is a great example. They wanted to increase their donations around the holiday season. To do so, they created a post about one child’s path to survival through their work — a story they knew would resonate with their audience.

facebook for associations

By sharing a real-life example that showed just how CMRF Crumlin had saved this baby’s life, they were able to raise over $60,000 throughout the course of their campaign.

And even if your association isn’t saving lives, you can still use this principle to build a stronger connection with your audience.

By giving your association’s Facebook page a personal touch, your members will feel more involved with your mission and get a better sense of just how much their donations can help you accomplish. Plus, you’ll start seeing higher engagement, meaning that your posts will appear more frequently in your audience’s Newsfeed.


2. The Easiest Way to Help Your Supporters Connect

1.4 billion people use Facebook Groups every month. If your organization isn’t, you could be missing out on a powerful way to motivate and connect supporters of your cause.

A common mistake I see being made are group admins that only talk about their organization, such as their brand or new products.

Here’s why that’s bad.

Try to imagine the last time you talked on and on about a company online… in a positive way.

It likely doesn’t happen often.

The same holds true for Facebook Groups. If you only talk about what your organization is doing, members will leave your Group in droves, or you’ll see close to no engagement.

On the other hand, the Facebook groups that are most successful are organized around a cause, issue, or topic of interest to members of the group.

If you don’t have a specific cause, or issue you can organize your group around, there are other ways to increase group engagement.

For example, your Facebook Group could be used as added benefit of paid membership in your association.

It could also be a private, members-only Facebook Group where you share job postings and other exclusive incentives.

The Women Speakers Association has a private group just for WSA members “to connect, post questions and dive into deeper dialogue on topics that support you in getting your message out into the world.”

Alternatively, you could use your group as a way to mobilize people quickly around specific issues. The ACLU uses their ACLU People Power Group, which has over 5,000 members, to catalyze their supporters to take action.

Your association could also start a public, free Facebook Group for marketing purposes, to give people a taste of what you offer as they decide whether or not to become paying members. A new feature that will make this easier (and that I’m excited about!) is the forthcoming “Join Group” button and plugin that admins and developers can add to their websites and their emails.

Finally, when in doubt, follow the 80/20 rule that’s often quoted about social media. Keep 80% of the conversations about value-adding topics that help your members, and only 20% of the topics related to self-promotion.

This will ensure you keep seeing high engagement, and that your members will want to keep participating.

If you’d like to see more examples of Facebook Groups that have a lot of engagement, here’s a list of 33 Facebook Groups every nonprofit professional needs to join.

Free Member Application Forms

3. How to Get Your Members’ Attention Where They Are

Have you ever messaged a business on Facebook and gotten an instant reply from a bot?

Now that interacting with brands through chat apps like Messenger and WhatsApp has become increasingly common, more and more associations are leveraging bots to create personalized experiences for their constituents.

Although some organizations might be concerned about seeming too robotic, using bots can help your association keep up with messages at all times of the day.

Companies are using them because they don’t want to miss out on leads, and that’s the same reason associations are jumping on board.

Imagine a potential member comes to your Facebook page on the weekend, well after your office hours.

By the time Monday rolls around, that prospect may have found the information she was looking for, or even joined another association online (not to mention the time it takes for you even to get caught up with your Facebook messages).

However, a bot is always online, and can give prospects the information they need in a matter of minutes.

For example, Facebook messenger chatbots can be set up to answer FAQs right on your association’s website. They can then provide answer to basic inquiries, such as “How can I join?” and offer a link to sign up, or more information on the topic.

Plus, quicker response times from your organization shows your potential new members that you’re listening and that you care about their experience with your association.

A fantastic example of how a simple chatbot can be used for donor prospecting and lead generation is the Climate Reality Project.

They use a chatbot in Messenger to help their Facebook fans get more information about the organization and their work around climate change and environmental issues.

Go to their Facebook Page, click on Send Message, and then click on Get Started to see how it works!

If you’d like to set up a chat bot for your association’s Facebook Page, you can easily do so here.


4. Post This Kind of Content Whenever Possible.

In 2016, Facebook launched a new feature that completely changed how people interacted with Facebook.

In that year alone, more than 3.5 billion people used that feature. Even today, the daily average continues to double.

You’ve probably seen this feature pop up on your Feed, or even interacted with it yourself.

This feature is…

(Drumroll, please…)

Facebook Live Video!

If your association hasn’t gone live yet, you should consider doing so. Here’s why.

First off, Facebook Live videos experience a much higher level of engagement than non-live videos. According to Buzzsumo, the average number of interactions on a normal video was 928 as compared to 1043, and about 25% of these interactions were comments — the most valuable kind, because they can give you more useful insights about who’s watching your videos.

You can also add a Donate button directly to your Live broadcasts. If your audience truly feels compelled by the message you’re sharing, they can help without having to switch screens.

Planning regular Facebook Live videos chock full of valuable content, will help humanize your brand, and encourage more of the meaningful interactions that are so important to get seen on Facebook.

If you want some inspiration, check out the Humane Society of the United States. They frequently go live on Facebook to share breaking news related to their cause, to celebrate organisational milestones, and to showcase behind-the-scenes stories of their work on the ground.

Plus, their videos instantly get more traffic and comments than their regular posts. A live video about the effects of Hurricane Irma on local wildlife got 129K views and almost 600 comments, compared to a regular video posted two days later that got only 94K views and 101 comments.

facebook for associations

Another great example of Facebook Live is how it’s used by World Pulse. They announce fundraising campaigns, make special announcements, and hold live conversations between their staff members and online community.

Your association could also hold a live Q&A show with your director or marketing manager every week, featuring an association member success story, taking questions and answers, and discussing topics of interest to the industry… or do all of the above!

To get started yourself, all you need is a smartphone. Here’s a simple guide that can tell you more.


5. How to Build More Buzz Around Events

Many nonprofits I’ve talked to want to increase their event attendance.

However, they also aren’t sure how to reach out to a larger audience.

That’s where Facebook can help.

Creating a standalone Facebook Event for every live and virtual event that your association hosts can help increase attendance and awareness leading up to the big day.

For every person that clicks “Interested” or “Attending” on your Event page, you have the chance to get it to appear in more potential attendees’ Newsfeeds. It can also show up in the Upcoming Events tab of people who haven’t even Liked your Facebook Page.

And for every few RSVPs you get on your Event page, you’re likely to get more clicks and views on the event page on your website. This leads to getting more ticket sales, with the added benefit of being able to update potential attendees on event developments as they happen and making them even more excited to participate.

(If you want more help managing and creating events, check out WildApricot’s event registration software!)

A great example of this is North Shore Pride, a small, local, volunteer-driven organization that uses Facebook Events to build hype around their annual Pride Parade & Festival.

By posting inside the event almost daily leading up to the big day, they’re able to keep the event top of mind, as well as encourage procrastinators to RSVP.

Providing more details to attendees leading up to the event also increases excitement, and encourages people to share and to invite others in their personal networks.

On top of this, If you want even more exposure, you can also promote your Facebook Event using targeted ads.

Plus, by targeting the ad to your website visitors, people on your email list, and/or people on Facebook who are interested in your issue or cause but may not yet like your Page, you’re reaching out to people who are likely to be more interested than the average.


The Best Way to Post On Your Association’s Facebook Page

No matter which of these best practices you’re implementing first, there are a few style tips you can use to get as many eyes on them as possible.

At the recent F8 developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg himself said that Facebook is going to emphasize posts from pages that are, in his words:

  • Trusted
  • Informative
  • Local
  • Inspiring conversation

So, if you can start getting more engagement on your posts, they’ll start getting more real estate on Facebook’s newsfeed.

Associations on Facebook already have a bonus in that you’re already creating an exclusive, valuable community for your members with newsletters, conferences, and other communications.

Bring all of those wonderful member benefits that you offer over to Facebook, and you will be able to create an engaged, dynamic online community, willing to share their stories and spread the word about your work!


Where to Find Even More Tips to Grow Your Association on Facebook

If you’re looking for more help on developing a great community on Facebook, we’ve got you covered.

Check out this post on how to create a great Facebook page for your association.

My group, Nonprofit Social Media Storytelling, offers support for nonprofit professionals who want to share ideas and advice about creating a story through your marketing. You can also reach out to my Facebook page for more blogs and tips on nonprofit marketing.

WildApricot also shares a variety of great posts, and their Membership Tribe is a great place for any membership pro who wants to harness the power of Facebook for their association.

Happy Facebooking!


Related Resources:

Julia C. CampbellJulia Campbell is one of the most well-known nonprofit digital marketing and online fundraising strategists. She offers a number of free nonprofit webinars and courses on her website and she is the author of Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits.

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