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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.

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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I like to watch Tara Hunt’s Truly Social series on YouTube. She did an episode on 5 Types of YouTube Videos Brands Should Make. It gave me pause.

One of my ongoing responsibilities here at AMPED Association Management is to produce regular publications for some of our clients. When a new issue is dropped, we announce it, with content highlights, across our various social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and the client’s online community.

These promotional announcements used to be text-only, and perhaps a little text-heavy. We’ve begun including an image, often of a staff member reading or presenting the new issue. We try to make sure the image is fun and engaging, and helps to put a personal face on the client association. Sometimes, we do video announcements that similarly feature a staff member presenting the publication and running through content highlights. Organic and engaging? Yes! But, the ideas in Tara’s video up the entertainment value and do so while keeping the process easy and the tone light. After watching the video, I have been thinking about different ways to apply many of these formats to benefit our clients.

One of Tara’s suggested format types, “Hauls,” reminded me of the “What’s in your bag” feature I sometimes see in magazines, where they lay out what a certain socialite is supposedly carrying around in her tote bag. I thought this might make a fun publication announcement:

The bottom line is that we want to provide content that members will find valuable, and that will cement our client’s position as an important source of information for their members. And, we want members to find our social presence entertaining. If your content is entertaining, your audience will like it, comment on it and share it. Their connections will then see it. And, they’ll all find themselves compelled to return later to see what’s new, building their personal connection to your association.

I look forward to the day when a member lets us know that they look forward to an upcoming magazine issue with anticipation, excited to see how we announce its release.

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What do TV news outlets and Ellen DeGeneres have in common? They both use Skype to interview guests. So why shouldn’t association professionals?

By now you know that creating video is an excellent strategy for bringing attention to your association. Video is an important communications tool to further your nonprofit's cause, market to prospective members or engage existing ones.

Skype is a relatively easy way to produce content in-house without hiring an expensive video production crew. By installing a free or inexpensive third-party plugin, Skype can record all parties involved (with their permission). Recordings of interviews or panel discussions can be repurposed as on-demand webinars to be viewed later.

Case Study
One of our clients, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) has a certification program, attained at the company level. The certification demonstrates proficiency in the best practices of the system integration profession. One of the goals of the organization is to promote CSIA Certification to the degree in which prospective clients require that only CSIA Certified system integrator may submit a bid. The more their clients understand what CSIA Certified means, the more likely they are to do this. 

One way we encourage clients to “spec-in” certification is to conduct video interviews of our Certified members discussing how requiring a certified integrator can reduce risk and increase efficiency for the client’s operation.

This comes with some major challenges.
1. CSIA does not have the budget to send staff to 400 member offices to capture this content.
2. Our members do not have budgets to allocate to video production crews.
3. Nor do not have the time or resources to produce or edit a video themselves.

With a little planning, a solid internet connection, decent lighting, and great audio, we have learned to create, edit and publish these interviews on our YouTube channel and public website.

Interviews may be conducted in one of two different styles:

Confessional: In this format, the interviewer is off camera and not heard in the final version of the interview. The viewer only hears and sees the subject of the interview. This requires more editing so that the final video contains the “parroting” of the questions along with the answers. This is a technique used in many reality TV shows; a producer debriefs the “contestant,” but you only hear the interviewee speaking.

Side-by-Side: Show one to four subjects in the interview on one screen with as many as 10 participants. The latter may look a bit like the old game show “Hollywood Squares” but could be interesting if you carefully coordinate who speaks, when.

Audio Podcast
You could also repurpose the audio from the Skype call into an audio-only version and turn it into a podcast. In a slide-less discussion, listeners can enjoy the interview while multitasking or commuting.

Software Solutions
There are many third-party software plugin solutions for recording the call, for both Mac and Windows. Many have free or limited trials, or licensed versions for only $20 or $30. 

Conducting a recorded Skype interview or panel discussion is easy to set up and conduct. The best thing is that the final product can be used by other departments in your association, from marketing, education, and even the board.

Additional Resources
How to Record a Skype Interview
Four key elements to shooting better videos
How to be a reporter’s favorite source: Ten tips, plus bonus tips for recorded interviews

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AM2017 logo as doc banner
When our graphic designer, Kristin, first released the branding for the Society of Wetland Scientists’ (SWS) 2017 Annual Meeting, we all knew that the little tree frog that was featured was going to be a star. There had already been extensive discussion among the Society’s board as to the accuracy of the frog, in relation to the meeting’s destination: Puerto Rico. As a group of wetland enthusiasts, it made sense why they were so passionate about the frog’s geographical accuracy. With that conversation alone, it was clear that SWS had already embraced him as the unofficial mascot of the meeting; so, staff thought, “Why not just make it official?” From then on, the tree frog was at the center of all meeting promotions.

We started using the frog as a mascot as a way to promote different aspects of the meeting. At the end of each meeting-specific email, the frog spokesman would include an interesting fact about the meeting’s theme, field trips or hotel and convention spaces.

Humberto meetinginfo
In a similar way, we would use these “Did You Know” facts to promote Puerto Rico as a destination. While the Society of Wetland Scientists is an international association with over 3,000 members, most of membership resides in the continental United States. Therefore, most of our annual meetings do, as well. With that in mind, it was that much more important to support this year’s “destination” location.

Humberto passport
As members became more acquainted with the mascot through email, we determined that it was important to put a name to the face (plus, he was too cute not to name). And with the association already so invested in this little guy’s authenticity, it made sense to put the power in the membership’s hands.

Humberto namethefrog
We polled the membership on Facebook and Twitter, keeping it as simple as possible, by asking them to either comment on the Facebook post or tweet at us with #namethefrog. Admittedly, suggestions were hard to come by at first; however, once prominent members within the Society started submitting suggestions, others soon followed.

By hosting the contest via social media, we knowingly limited the member response. Yet, it was strategically marketed to encourage others to “like” and “follow” our social media pages. Those who had subscribed to our pages were then rewarded by having the privilege to vote for the frog’s name.

Humberto votethefrog

In the end, SWS cared just as much for the authenticity of the frog’s name as they did for his physical form. “Humberto” was chosen specifically for its connection to the Spanish word for wetland: humedal.

Humberto name
We used the momentum from the #namethefrog contest to create Humberto’s own Twitter account. Those facts that we had been including in the meeting emails were then also highlighted as #frogfacts on Twitter. While the account was specifically created to promote the annual meeting, we’ve since used it to cross-promote other SWS event and marketing campaigns. For instance, to celebrate Earth Day, we’re encouraging followers to share and tag us in their Earth Day photos, using #SWSEarthDay. To kick off this initiative, we had Humberto share one of his photos.

Humberto EarthDay
Social media, specifically Twitter, has enabled members to actively engage with Humberto. It has become a main source of meeting information and a direct line to ask meeting-specific questions. Any interaction helps to increase visibility, not only for the meeting, but for the Society, as well.

Humberto cousin
Humberto was originally intended to be an outlet for relaying important meeting information, organically. He has since formed a personal brand that has helped reinforce the overall brand of the 2017 meeting, and to some extent, rebrand the Society of Wetland Scientists, as a whole. SWS will always be a professional society, focused on wetland science, but its membership has shaped the Society into one that appreciates fun, too.

Mascots won’t work for every association, nor will they help for every meeting. In this case, from his inception, SWS was invested in this frog. Members’ dedication to accuracy, paired with their willingness to embrace his mascot status, made this marketing campaign successful.


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I've long believed in the power of inbound marketing fueled by content, but nothing solidified my understanding better than when Adrianne Machina uttered the following words below during her presentation at the 2016 Annual Conference of the American Marketing Association-Madison Chapter.

"The chasm between never heard of you and your name sounds familiar is deep and wide."
– Adrianne Machina of Tornado Marketing, speaking about the effectiveness of content marketing and an inbound lead strategy

Mind the gap
If your company’s sales and marketing strategy relies solely on cold-calling and emailing, your staff might end up like the gentleman in the picture — in danger of a fall/fail. He's unlikely to make it safely across to "your name sounds familiar."

A potential client is more likely to accept a phone call or read an email from someone they’ve heard of than from someone they haven’t.

When a potential customer is not ready to listen to a marketing message, he ignores phone calls, emails and voicemails. In these instances, cold calls and emails will rarely initiate a conversation. So what should a company do when the prospective client isn't ready to listen?

Build a bridge with content
Customers do business with people they like and trust. So how does a company cross the chasm from, “never heard of you” to “your name sounds familiar?” Build a bridge with content.

Educate them. Share an informative article with them. Entertain them. Evoke an emotional response. When they are ready, they will answer a call, complete a form or perform the desired action the marketing staff wants them to do, because they trust the company, brand, and, ultimately, the business development staff who have been grooming them.

It is the fundamental concept of an effective inbound marketing strategy: groom prospects to enter the sales and marketing funnel as strangers and exit as customers.

What is inbound marketing?
According to industry expert Hubspot: “Inbound marketing is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.”

David Meerman Scott sums it up practically in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: "You can buy attention (advertising.) You can beg for attention from the media (PR). You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales).  Or you can own attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publish it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, an infographic, a Twitter stream, an eBook, a Facebook page."

inbound marketingHubspot's model of Inbound Marketing Funnel

Inbound marketing in real-life
Companies that receive the most traffic are the ones that have videos and blog articles and other relevant content in the search results. Whether it is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, inbound marketing works for any industry.

Unless a business is in some ultra-niche market, it is difficult for a brand to land on page one of a favorite search engine's results, especially if all they have on a website is an about us or products page. Search engines are fickle; they "like" pages that are dynamic, and have relevant information. If you don't keep your site up with fresh information, the search engines will move on to a website that does.

Proof that content marketing works
In a 2012 study, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found that inbound content marketing:
• attracts the most visitors of all marketing efforts
• creates higher engagement with an audience
• is the best tool in your marketing arsenal

An inbound marketing strategy develops your audience. Over time you won't have to find your audience; they will find you.

There are lots of excuses for not investing in content marketing:
• Don't have time
• Don't know where to start
• Have plenty of repeat and word-of-mouth business

Consider outsourcing. Many marketing consultants already specialize in your industry, or will learn it in order produce resonating content.

Producing content doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Some companies start with posting a one-minute impromptu video on YouTube.

Have plenty of repeat and word-of-mouth business? Everyone should be in such a position. For the rest: a good inbound marketing strategy will only make it easier for customers to talk about the company, service and quality work.

Reaching today’s modern customer is challenging with unsolicited phone calls and emails often perceived as spam.
The chasm between “I never heard of you” and “your name sounds familiar” is deep and wide.

Will you take a chance at jumping the gap, or building a bridge?

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