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The most simple, yet effective way to engage association members on social media

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One thing that marketers don’t get recognized enough for is the amount of time we spend testing things — testing new messages, new platforms and new algorithms to find that perfect balance of how best to reach our target audiences. This is extremely evident when it comes to trying to engage association members on social media.One thing that marketers don’t get recognized enough for is the amount of time we spend testing things — testing new messages, new platforms and new algorithms to find that perfect balance of how best to reach our target audiences. This is extremely evident when it comes to trying to engage association members on social media.

Which platforms should you use? What kind of messages do you put out there? What time of day should you post? All of these questions seem to be on every association marketer’s mind. And the answers are different for every association out there. There seems to be one pattern, however, that I’ve observed works for just about any association, in every industry, on every platform.

Start asking questions
That’s right. It’s as simple as posting questions for your membership to get them to interact. Enable your followers, likes and subscribers to create content for you by providing guided questions that are popular or hot topics within your industry. It sounds pretty basic, but I can honestly say through ten years of doing marketing and social media for all kinds of organizations that this is by far the most consistently effective method for engaging your community. There are a few tips and tricks to asking questions on social media that make these posts more successful:Be thoughtful of the types of questions you postYou might be wondering which types of questions you should be asking. One of the best ways to come up with questions is to keep your finger on the pulse of hot topics in the industry and what I call “passion propositions.” In every industry, there are three or four topics that everyone seems to be passionate about. Think about the tools people use in your industry or daily tasks someone in your industry typically performs. Creating discussion platforms for things your members have in common is a very effective strategy.

Catch their eye
To help engage readers, accompany the questions with high quality images. Take the time to include a professional looking image that will make your post stick out among the rest of the timeline. A good resource for these images is Pixabay, a free image and video community that has a lot of options to choose from.

Use built-In tools
Make sure you are using tools that are built in to the various social media channels to provide a unique experience. As most marketers know, in order to engage as many members as possible, you have to do a good job setting yourself apart from the rest of their timeline. For instance, don’t be afraid to ask simple questions using Twitter Polls. They look very nice in-stream and create the “fear of missing out” that we all know people hate. If they see 100 people have voted, they’ll vote too because they want to see where they stand with the rest of the industry.

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What is your association’s competitive advantage?

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Anyone who has been part of managing an association knows one thing for sure: there is an association for everything. The down side to this is that there are usually two or three or four associations for everything. That means that every association must set themselves apart from other associations that are competing for membership dollars. You’re not just trying to get industry members to join, you have to constantly be proving your value over other associations.

It's not unlike business in the for-profit arena. Those types of organizations must constantly be proving their competitive advantage to current and future clients in order to succeed, and the same goes for associations. In my opinion, there are two things that set every association apart from their competitors: their members and their content.

Members
Being a member of your association gives people access to your other members. With most associations, that means access to some of the “biggest and brightest” in your industry or niche. This is absolutely one of the most powerful attractions for potential members, and probably why a large number of your current members renew each year. If they know that becoming a member and attending your events means they can rub elbows with some of the biggest names in your industry, it’s almost a no-brainer.

There's a great opportunity for you to leverage your membership in your growth efforts. Let people know that the Elon Musk of your industry is a member and part of the board, with their permission, of course. Share the fact that your industry’s biggest names are part of your association and I guarantee others will want to be part of that. We all want to be part of success, and showing that those who are already successful value your association will inherently grow perceived value to potential members.

Content
The second thing that sets your association apart is content. There isn’t (or shouldn’t be) any other association that offers the content that your association does. Every single association produces content, whether you know it or not, and I don’t just mean the content you put on your website or your blog. Anything your association produces for your members' benefit is content. This includes things like certifications, guidelines, best practices and more. Members are constantly looking to see what others in the industry are up to, and you can be the voice to allow people to see things like that.

One source associations overlook is member-generated content. Enable your most active members to share their experiences with the rest of your members by making it easy to get that information to you. The number one reason I hear that active members aren’t willing to submit content is it’s too time consuming. If you can make it as easy as possible, and show them how, your member-generated content pipeline will always be full.

Taking the for-profit approach when preparing your association for 2018 might be just what your association needs. Take the time to layout your association’s competitive advantages and you’ll quickly be able to identify the things you should be focusing on and promoting in the year to come.

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Association websites: Three things you must consider in 2017

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It’s hard enough keeping up with association best practices that apply to your day-to-day operations. Now you have to worry about the ever-changing best practices for your website as well. I’ve had a few association professionals ask me, “What should I be doing with my website that I’m not already doing?” Here are the three things I tell them they must be doing in 2017 to keep up to date and get the results they want out of their digital presence.

Social Proofing
Believe it or not, each and every one of us has experienced social proofing at some point in our life. Defined as "the psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation," social proofing is the art of using testimonials and opinions of others to drive consumer behavior.

An example of social proofing would be when you’re looking for somewhere to eat and you hop online to look up reviews. You see two restaurants you’re interested in but one has reviews and the other doesn't. You decide to go to the place with reviews because the restaurant without reviews can’t be any good if it hasn’t been reviewed, right? You’ve taken other peoples' word for it (mind you, complete strangers) and made your purchasing decision. You’ve been social proofed!

Talk with the influential people who are part of your association to participate in testimonials, blogs or even a photo shoot. You can then use this material on your website to show that well-known industry members find your association valuable enough to be members. Add individual or organizational member photos (with their permission of course) to your site to show other potential members which big names are already part of your association.

Responsive Design
We all know that people live and breathe on their mobile devices today. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to make sure the experience you provide to your website visitors is just as good on a phone or tablet, as it is on a desktop. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you look something up on the internet and you can’t find what you need because the website doesn’t work well with your phone. We’ve all experienced those websites on our phones where you’re constantly trying to zoom in and out on your phone to click those tiny, little links. It’s extremely frustrating!

Many web developers are now using what is called “mobile-first” design practices. This means the website is designed with the smallest screen sizes in mind, working the way up to large screens. This practice ensures that anyone trying to access your website on the go is provided with the best possible experience and, in turn, can see the value your association brings immediately.

Do yourself a favor and put your non-member cap on. Pick up your phone and go to your association’s website. Is it abundantly clear what the benefit of joining your association is? Can you search for resources easily? Are links big enough to click, or do you have to zoom in? Make sure they walk away talking about the content and value your association offers, and not how terrible the mobile version of your site is.

SSL
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is an important way to show visitors that your website is secure. SSL is technology that establishes an encrypted link between a web server (where your website lives) and a browser (the vehicle that gets people there). The encrypted link makes sure that any data passed from the visitor to your site is and will remain private.
SSL creates a pathway for your visitors to search your site, purchase things like memberships or publications and share information safely. You should especially consider it if your website requires login to a members-only portal. The internet is swamped with bots scouring websites for unprotected password pages so they can add unwanted content, or delete it all together.

Getting an SSL is a standard and straight-forward procedure for any IT team. Your association should work with your web developer or the IT person directly to get this set up as soon as possible. This is a great way to build trust with visitors and show them that you’re aware of the potential dangers of sharing data. It’s just one more way to show them you care about them and their valuable financial and personal data.

 

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Crisis management: What to do when a speaker cancels at the last minute

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If you’re a seasoned association conference planner, you’ve undoubtedly experienced some sort of last-minute disaster at your conference, or shortly before it. If you haven’t, don’t worry; the conference powers-that-be will surely test your sanity at some point. It’s only a matter of time!

Last week, our team of experienced conference planners was faced with possibly the worse situation I’ve heard of in my time in the association industry. There we were, in the middle of a three-day technical seminar and everything was going fantastic. Attendance and participation were on target. The speakers were doing a great job during our general sessions. The food and beverages were delicious. Nothing could stop us at this point, right? Wrong.

The night before the final day of the technical seminar the phones started to ring. It was our speakers, sitting in airports, trying to find a flight to our location because theirs had been cancelled due to inclement weather. Not one, not two, but three of our speakers for the final day had to cancel. Mind you, they were the only three speakers that day. There we were, just about to head to dinner, and now we had try and Houdini our way out of this mess. Somehow, we had to come up with three speakers to fill three to four hours of general sessions the very next morning. Over the next five hours, via countless emails and trips to any available outlet to charge our phones, our able team lined up three new speakers to fill the entire day’s agenda.

Here’s how we pulled it off:

1. Tap into those already onsite
One of the first things we did was reach out to those on the Board of Directors who were attending. We knew that they would have a vast knowledge of anyone onsite who might be able to present. Keep in mind that in nearly every industry, and at nearly every conference or seminar you’re going to have other professionals who have done speaking engagements. Get the word out that you’re looking for speakers to fill a spot and you’ll be amazed at how many people have access to presentations they have already prepared, and are willing to help.

2. Reach out to your local contacts and resources
No matter where you are, more than likely there are professionals from your industry who are based near the event. Reach out to them to see if they or anyone from their organization would be willing to speak. This can be quite fruitful because little to no travel is required. Make sure to let any potential speakers know that you are open-minded to the topic (keeping in mind, of course, your association’s guidelines for speakers).

3. Use available technology
If your speaker isn’t able to make it due to travel glitches, see if he feels comfortable giving the presentation electronically. One of our stranded speakers was able to present remotely using GotoMeeting.com. It actually worked pretty seamlessly. One thing to note if you go this route is to make sure your venue has the technical capabilities to pull it off. We were extremely lucky to have the expertise of onsite A/V professionals. They were able to get things set up about an hour before the presentation was scheduled.

All in all, we were very fortunate things turned out so well. Having an amazing team like we do, who didn’t panic in the face of adversity, was key. We were also lucky enough to have a great Board of Directors willing to help at a moment’s notice. Their experience and their contacts in the industry really opened up the pool of possible replacements. If you plan enough conferences and events, something like this will happen to you. Just remember to keep calm, and plan on.

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The first thing(s) I noticed about AMPED (and you will too)

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When you take a new position at a new organization, you’re always filled with mixed emotions. You’re excited for the new opportunities and challenges that await, and, at the same time, maybe just a little unsure of making the change from your previous position. The fear of the unknown has a way of constantly reminding you that you’re only human. Anyone who has ever started a new job can attest to feeling so many mixed emotions that you’re not quite sure of how you truly feel for the first few days.

I was no different when I made the switch earlier this week from a position with Omnipress, a great organization in the association industry, to AMPED Association Management, an emerging leader in the association management industry. I was fortunate to have an existing relationship with many of AMPED’s great staff, but, admittedly, there was still some of that nervousness of making a big career change.

Here I sit at the end of just my second day with the organization, and I couldn’t be happier. How was the team here able to welcome someone so quickly and make him feel at home?

Teamwork: The very first meeting I was a part of here at AMPED was a weekly team meeting of the entire staff. Everyone welcomed me with a big smile and got right to work. We went around the room and shared the three main things that each person was working on. Before the first few people were finished, several others had raised their hands and volunteered to help with their projects. Now remember, these are people who already have full plates, voluntarily offering help to fellow coworkers in order to get the job done correctly and on-time. Incredible!

Pride: One of the greatest things I’ve witnessed is the bottomless pride that everyone takes in their work. In the world of association management companies, it’s all about representing the client associations and making them look good. I quickly noticed the pride that AMPED takes in making this happen. For AMPED, it’s more than “client work.” It’s our work. We don’t represent your association. We are your association.

Good People: This one sounds like something a new employee at any company would say, but there’s a distinct difference when it comes to our staff. Each and every person who works here, full or part-time, is a genuinely good person. They care about each other, their clients and the industry as a whole, and truly want to make everyone around them better. When’s the last time you were able to say every person you work with on a daily basis is truly a good person?

Do you want to know the best part of the good people who work here? They’re all incredibly talented! Each has his or her own area of expertise that contributes to the overall skill-set of the staff. Not any single person is more important -- or treated that way -- than the other. It truly is a team atmosphere of some of the best people you’ll meet.

While these are just a few reasons I feel at home here, they’re also why associations choose to work with AMPED in the first place, and continue to do so year after year. If you or your association has ever considered a partnership with AMPED, I strongly suggest you give our team the chance to make you feel at home, as well. I have no doubt that you’ll quickly see why the AMPED team is different in the most positive way possible.

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