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Are You Engaging Members Through Social Media?

Lori Halley  14 November 2012  0 comments

This month many of our posts are focusing on member engagement. And in one of our posts - What Does Member Engagement Mean to You - we noted that the term “engagement” often refers to how an individual is engaging online - in terms of website visits, page views, and social media mentions. And while we cautioned that social media participation is only part of the member engagement equation, it is increasingly important to enable and promote two-way social media engagement with members.

Of course, each organization’s social media strategy needs to be determined based on your particular goals. But here are some ideas to consider as you develop the social media component of your member engagement plan for the coming year.

Show and tell to engage

While many non-profits are successfully raising awareness of their missions via social, membership organizations can also build engagement with both existing and potential members through showing and telling via social media. Of course, it’s more than simply posting images for folks to "like" or "re-pin."  The ultimate goal is to draw members to your website, where you can truly engage them and demonstrate member value.

As Debra Askanase noted in her post - Pew Study Highlights the Explosion of Photo and Video Sharing - “photos and videos have become key social currencies online, and the [Pew] study tends to support that.” Askanase also notes that her “expectation is that this trend will continue to grow with rising smartphone adoption, and the adoption of more image curation and creation services such as Pinterest and Instagram. The takeaway for any organization is how you will use the concept of image and video curators and creators, along with what you know about who they are, to nurture a connection to your cause, organization, and conversation online.”

Pinterest - more than pretty pictures

So how - you ask - can a membership organization leverage photo and video sharing for member engagement? In a Movie Monday video back in the summer - Is your nonprofit organization using Pinterest? - Noland Hoshino explained “why Pinterest is such a great tool for storytelling, for driving traffic to your website, for engaging supporters, and for finding out who exactly is sharing ("pinning") your pictures and videos.”

Hoshino suggests that Pinterest’s open system offers a great way for a non-profit (or membership organization) to post numerous photos - “a whole storyboard” - about your organization which can be viewed by anyone online, not just those who have signed-up (as with Facebook). The key benefit is that when folks view your images in Pinterest, they are linked to the original source - your website! Each image pinned on Pinterest includes a “backlink” to the original source location, which drives increased traffic to your site and also increases your chances of ranking higher in search engine results.

A secondary benefit of Pinterest is that you can find out about your supporters or members by using the source to see who’s pinning or re-pinning images. The more you know about who your supporters are and how they connect with you, the easier it will be to truly engage them.

So if you haven’t considered Pinterest until now, Hoshino suggests that you think of it this way - while Google is all about searches, Pinterest is about inspiration. And in our hyper busy world, people can check out a visual that tells your story, even quicker than reading a 140 character tweet!

What about Facebook? Do images rule there too?

The short answer is yes! According to this HubSpot post, “[v]isual content trumps text in driving social media engagement.” The post sites an  “infographic from global communications company M Booth and media measurement and analytics company Simply Measured, [that notes] visual content is not only taking the online world by storm; it's also driving engagement!” The post offers highlights from the infographic, including these stats: 
  • On Facebook, videos are shared 12X more than links and text posts combined.
  • On Facebook, photos are liked 2X more than text updates.
As Facebook guru, John Haydon, suggests, “[p]eople love pictures. People upload more than 300 million photos to Facebook every single day! Facebook users love liking, commenting on, and sharing photos more than any other type of content on Facebook. So posting photos automatically gives you an advantage in the EdgeRank game.”

In his post - Creative Ways to Use Photos To Increase Engagement On Your Facebook Page - Haydon offers “six ideas to help you get more from the photos you post on your Facebook Page.” Along with using Pinterest, Haydon suggests: posting large photos and “posting photos as links to gain EdgeRank advantage over other types of content.”

Recommendations and Board Connecting Via LinkedIn

But engaging members on social media is more than just about images. With networks such as LinkedIn, organizations can raise awareness and build membership through peer recommendations. As we noted in a blog post a while back - Is Your Organization LinkedIn Yet? - while LinkedIn started as a social media tool used by individuals to network, find a job or further their career, some of the recent enhancements at LinkedIn might make it a better fit for your membership organization.

Creating LinkedIn Company pages

Recently, LinkedIn launched re-designed company pages that offer a new look and additional functionality. The LinkedIn Blog offers details and a video you can watch here. If your organization hasn’t developed a corporate page on LinkedIn, you might want to re-consider.  After all, we know that word-of-mouth and recommendations can have a strong influence on individuals’ decisions to purchase products and join organizations. As we noted in a recent post  - Can LinkedIn Recommendations Grow Your Membership? - a recent MetLife/Ipsos survey found that: “[recommendations from friends, family and colleagues appear to have the greatest influence over a person’s decision to join. Nearly one-third (28%) of association and affinity members said that such recommendations were the most important factor impacting their decision to join. It was also important to many members that the association be well known and have a good reputation.”

When you have a company page, individuals can write recommendations about your organization, which in turn can drive membership growth and might also impact retention. Wild Apricot learned first-hand the impact LinkedIn recommendations can have.  With our focus on small nonprofits and local associations, we recognized that one of the best things for any company – particularly a smaller one – is good word-of-mouth from current customers. So to leverage positive customer feedback, we encouraged customers to post reviews on our LinkedIn page.

Board Connect

Another new feature that might draw you to LinkedIn is Board Connect. LinkedIn suggests this enhancement will help organizations “deepen relationships and cultivate connections” which should help you identify and attract volunteers and board members.  For more on this new feature, you can check out our post in the resource list below.

We hope these few examples offer some fresh insight into how membership organizations can consider social media applications as a way of engaging existing supporters and growing your membership.

Has your membership organization had success growing engagement with social media?  If so, we’d love to hear the details in the comments below.

Want more?

Here are some additional Wild Apricot posts and articles with ideas on social media engagement:

Image source:  World social media network, courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 14 November 2012 at 8:30 AM
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