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When it comes to Photoshop skills, I like to describe myself as a “seasoned beginner.” With so many ways to accomplish the same effect, I’ve always viewed the software as a conundrum. It’s an easy excuse to say that I never have enough time to learn more. But when it’s crunch time and I need a last-minute graphic, I’m at a loss, with no easy way forward.

Canva is the easy solution. This free, online software describes itself as making “design simple for everyone.” It provides ready-to-use templates for everything from blog banners to business cards. I value their social media templates most; the exact dimensions and layouts for each platform makes it easy to transform marketing campaign graphics from one social media account to another.


canva 1


Canva offers preset layouts, as well. If you’d rather create your graphic from scratch, there’s a simple toolbar on the side that contains a variety of font options, images and illustrations. The drag-and-drop editor enables anyone and everyone to use it — even those who aren’t seasoned Photoshop beginners.


Canva 2

Canva prides itself in making design simple, but is it too simple? By simplifying the functions, it limits design possibilities. I’ll admit that there have been times when I was unable to create an effect in Canva that I know is possible in Photoshop. When it comes down to it, online tools like Canva are great for discovering new ideas for graphics and creating quick and simple designs, but if you have a specific design in mind, programs like Photoshop and InDesign will always deliver.

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social mediaAs part of my responsibilities with one of our clients, I coordinate a media placement program. The program works to facilitate exposure for both our client association and its members by helping industry publications find member experts to fill specific media needs. Our client enjoys a great relationship with leading industry media groups who love to quote or otherwise feature members as industry experts.

This process of placing members in the media consists of two primary work flows. In our primary method, editors and reporters from industry media titles are looking for insights, quotes or case study information from our members on a given topic. I present the publicity opportunity in our online membership community and anyone interested can participate. Alternatively, association members have ongoing opportunities to write blog posts or recurrent columns on topics of their choosing.

It’s awesome for our members to receive mention in these publications and on the associated websites. It helps them build both name recognition and credibility with their end-user client target base. Helping to facilitate these placements and media relationships is a tremendous benefit of membership in this particular association. In addition, we do request that placements we curate mention our members as such – members of our association, so that we build name recognition and credibility as an association, as well.

This is an impactful, and growing, program. But once the placement is published, the work isn’t done. There are ways to amplify the content’s reach to maximize everyone’s exposure for their effort made.

After a member receives coverage or mention in the press, we announce the placement in our online community for members, and across all of our association social media channels. We also provide the following suggestions for members to make the most of their networks and maximize their exposure:

  • Include the media placement as a news-worthy item in an email or as one item in your regular e-newsletter, distributed to your company’s email list. Include a link to the article!
  • Add the piece, with a link to it, to your company blog or news section of your website. Make sure the content is easy for readers to promote themselves by adding social share buttons to the post.
  • Add the piece, with a link to it, to your company profile in any industry-related online communities or directories.
  • Post a link on your company’s Facebook page. Tag the people and organizations mentioned in the article.
  • Post a link to your company’s Twitter page, including:
    - A mention @reporter or @publication and @association (some will re-tweet). Include a “.” before each @mention so that the tweet will appear to everyone, not just followers.
    - Hashtags #association, #member (if you have one) and #publication.
  • Post a link to your company’s LinkedIn page. Again, tag/mention anyone else referenced in the article.
  • Post a link to these other areas in LinkedIn: company, personal, personal update, appropriate LinkedIn Groups, and LinkedIn Blog. Include a short explanation in each case. Tag/mention people and companies involved. The others you tag might like and share your update!
  • Similarly, post a link to your company’s Instagram, Google+ or any other social media accounts not yet mentioned.
  • Make an impromptu video (just using your phone or tablet will suffice) with the media placement in hand. It’s OK to show off! Show off the print magazine/issue or show the screen with the article on it. Post the video across all the channels mentioned above.
  • Consider pulling snippets (brief quotes or other poignant points and tidbits) out of the placement and pushing them out over a period of time via your social media for ongoing, refreshed promotion of the placement.
  • Encourage employees to share the news of your organization’s media coverage via their personal social media. More and more companies are doing this by establishing an employee advocacy program.

If both the featured member and our association work to promote and drive traffic to the placement on the media outlet’s website, it can help land the piece on that publication’s “Top 5” list, which, you guessed it, drives even more exposure for member and association. It’s a true win (for the member)-win (for the association)-win (for the publication)!

Please comment below: What strategies work well for you in expanding your content promotion and social reach?

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Linkedin Tip

I have been a fan of Wayne Breitbarth, a CPA-turned LinkedIn expert and author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success, ever since I heard him speak at a local business seminar a couple of years ago. When I had an opportunity to attend one of his in-person seminars last month, I jumped at the chance, partly because (true confession) I have neglected to keep up with this powerful and ever-evolving social medium, but also because Wayne’s witty, energetic teaching style makes learning fun.

Among the many tips I learned, here are four I want to share with you:

1. Download an archive of your data – now. Microsoft recently purchased LinkedIn and plans to integrate it with Office, Outlook and other products. Wayne recommends downloading an archive of your LinkedIn data now because some of it may disappear without notice. It’s easy to do: Hover over your photo in the upper right, go to Privacy & Settings > Getting an archive of your data. I chose the fast archive, which produced a zip file with my contacts, in box and other basic information that I don’t want to lose. For more tips, see Wayne’s blog on this topic.

2. Join groups that include people you want to meet. LinkedIn allows you to connect with other followers who are second-degree connections (someone who is connected to one of your contacts) – without having to send a contact request. Even though LinkedIn no longer categorizes your contacts, it still requires you to check how you know an individual (colleague, classmate, etc.), which can be a roadblock.

One caveat: The connect button in groups or “people you may know” sends the generic, LinkedIn invitation, not the personal invitation that Wayne recommends. A better option is to send the person a message first, then connect. If you’re concerned about flooding your news feed with group notices, remember that you can unsubscribe from notices or leave groups at any time.

3. Check out “Find Alumni.” One of the salespeople at the seminar said this tip alone was worth the price of admission. Let’s say I work for a Wisconsin association that offers continuing education courses for engineers. I look in “Find Alumni” for University of Wisconsin-Madison, then check engineering. Immediately, I have a list of the top 25 employers that I may want to notify about upcoming seminars. I can also see individuals I may want to reach out to. Wayne says I can stop feeling like a stalker; everyone on LinkedIn voluntarily shared this information.

4. Don’t think you’re posting too much. Thanks to LinkedIn’s proprietary algorithm, only about one in five of your posts actually appears in your contacts’ newsfeeds. Think about that: Even if you post the same information every day of the work week, your contacts will only see it once, and that’s if they’re paying attention. With the constant stream of updates, likes, shares, group discussions, expert advice and sponsored posts, it’s easy to see how your posts get lost. Wayne recommends daily status updates to stay in front of your audience.

You can execute any of the above tips without upgrading to a premium account. To learn more ways to tap the power of LinkedIn, check out Wayne’s website at www.powerformula.net.

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LinkedIn Goals


People use LinkedIn for some of the same reasons they join associations — for professional development and to connect with colleagues. This makes LinkedIn a great tool for associations! It provides an opportunity to both expand and add value to membership through increased brand awareness, engaging with members and reaching potential new members.

Business profile
LinkedIn users can learn more about your association by viewing your business profile. They can choose to follow you, so that they receive email notices when you post updates to your profile. I did some research on this, and came up with this list of suggestions to really showcase your association through your business profile:

  • Make a strong first impression by making sure your business profile information is complete and includes your web address. Include your logo and an enticing background photo.
  • Provide more in-depth information for those interested in learning more. One way to do this is to create a separate page on your profile for each member benefit you offer. Include member testimonials on these pages for each service.
  • Upload your member contact emails into LinkedIn, and then use LinkedIn to send out emails inviting them to connect with and follow your business profile, and to join your discussion group (more info on discussion groups is provided below).
  • Use LinkedIn’s advanced search function to identify potential new members, and invite them to connect, follow and join.
    Keep all your followers interested and engaged by posting frequent updates about your association and your industry. Include both your own content — such as blog posts — and curated content.

Discussion group
Cultivate a sense of community among your target members, by starting a discussion group around your industry or specific topic of interest. It's generally recommended that you keep topics here general in nature, rather than centering the group around your association exclusively. When setting up your group, use industry key words in your group name and description, and consider making your group open (not by invitation only), but subject to group manager approval. Here are some additional suggestions for maximizing engagement within your discussion group:

  • Invite all staff, members and industry leaders to join, and engage with, your discussion group community. All group members will then have your group logo and a link to your group on their LinkedIn profile.
  • Consider setting up a separate page on your website for the discussion group, to give the group additional visibility. Similarly, consider setting up a Facebook page or group and invite members of each network to join the other.
  • Add discussion starters regularly, trying to focus on group members’ needs and concerns. You can mark a particularly strong or relevant discussion as featured, to pin it to the top of the group feed for a period of time.
  • Join other related and relevant discussion groups to connect with potential new members. Interact with contributors in those groups, and start posting valuable thoughts or shared articles. Once you establish yourself, begin sharing announcements from your association, too, such as for upcoming events. This encourages members of those groups to become involved with yours, as well.
  • Auto-send an email to new group members. Welcome new members and encourage them to begin participating by selecting your Manage button, then Templates on the left.
  • You can, and should, email your discussion group members regularly using the Send Announcement option. Consider offering free content from your association, cultivating potential new members. Announcements will also get added as a discussion thread for your group.
  • Over time, you will be able to identify strong contributors within your discussion group. Perhaps your next search for an extraordinary board member or keynote speaker might begin and end in your LinkedIn discussion group!

As you continue to build and leverage your presence on LinkedIn, cross promote both your profile and discussion group wherever possible, including on your website, in your newsletter and on your staff business cards. Likewise, every time you host a webinar or attend a conference, be sure to put out notice, both on your profile and in your group, that you will be in attendance, as well as invite everyone you meet to join you on LinkedIn.

Building a valuable LinkedIn presence may take some time, but in the end you will reap a more robust association through increased membership growth and higher member engagement.

 

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super social

I recently attended a Social Media Breakfast (#SMBMAD) presentation by two members of American Family Insurance’s innovative social media department on the topic of employee advocacy. They were very clear that organic social media reach for companies is dead, and that employees can play a role in counteracting this.

 This post includes both information from that presentation and incorporates supplemental information from additional research.

What is employee social media advocacy?
Employee advocacy, in social media terms, refers to amplifying your organization’s marketing messages by leveraging the social media influence of your employees. This is done by making it easy for your employees to share company messages with their personal social networks.

An on-point employee advocacy program has three key components:
• It delivers relevant messages to your target audience, providing value to them.
• It supports your brand and enhances your culture as an organization.
• It generates share-worthy content, so your employees are inspired to share it with their family and friends.

Why do it?
No one likes to see their social feeds filled with sponsored content, no matter how relevant the algorithm predicts it should be. Let’s face it. Organizations are tolerated on social media just because they help keep networks free for others. As it is, social media channels are making participation more and more difficult for organizations unless they pay to play.

One quote from the American Family’s presentation, attributed to Augie Ray, CX research director at Gartner, was, “Your brand is disappearing from consumers’ news feeds, but friends will always see content from the people they know, care and trust.”

In other words, employees can help provide your branding messages with:

Reach
Employees have the potential to greatly expand a brand’s reach on social media. And the math is simple. Consider how many fans your organization’s Facebook page has. Now consider your employees and add together how many friends they each have, individually. I bet the result is quite a bit higher than your brand alone. In the presentation, it was stated the average is 10x higher, and 90% of employees’ social contacts will be new to your brand!

Trustworthiness and authenticity
People are trusted more than companies, and personal accounts are not filtered by social networks the same way that corporate messages increasingly are.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Here’s how to start:

Designate a leader
This person coordinates the different components of the program, provides information and training, clarifies guidelines, answers questions and collects feedback from participants, as well as external data.

Set up a system for measuring results
You can only manage what you measure, so start out by deciding what your reasons are for establishing an advocacy program and set measurable goals. Examples might include organic reach, a shift in target demographics, web traffic or sales.

Establish a social media policy
Be sure everyone understands the guidelines, and that they are reminded of them periodically.

Create a social media warehouse
This should include a wide variety of articles, video clips, infographs, photos and other images for employees to choose from. You don't want everyone sharing the same exact thing at the same time, or your efforts will seem canned and disingenuous.

Consider employees’ social media motivations
Consider that many employees want to find fulfillment in their work and want their contributions to make a difference in the world. Your employees will want to share that which makes them proud. Think sustainable environmental practices at the workplace, volunteering in the community or teams working on the organization’s latest project. Similarly, when an organization’s social content recognizes team members, colleagues will naturally want to share.

Feel free to recycle content
Recycling and repurposing content that’s already been created and even previously used can be really powerful, especially if it was well-received in prior iterations. Plus heck, it’s already available, and what could be easier than that?

Start small
Begin by training (and periodically retraining) a core group of employees who are already socially active and who appreciate and relate to the culture of the organization. And keep participation strictly voluntary.

Create a social work environment
It should not only be OK for employees to share on social media, but it should be encouraged, and even fun, to do so. Consider gamification, creating a leaderboard and mini-competitions. American Family encourages the use of #OneAmFam to help cultivate their engaging social culture.

Comply with full disclosure
Employees should indicate in content they share that they are employees of your organization. This may sound like a surefire way to kill all the fun, but American Family keeps it both transparent and light by using #iWork4AmFam. As a matter of fact, the tool they use to facilitate and automate their advocacy program automatically tacks this on to all employee posts.

Try out tools of the trade
There are a number of online tools that help facilitate the organization, scheduling and posting of content. Some are free or very inexpensive. Some companies, like American Family, use comprehensive customized tools.

Appreciate employee efforts
Show advocates that their participation matters, that what they’re doing is having an impact and is appreciated.

There are additional perks for your organization, too:
Aside from the obvious, increased social media exposure, employee advocacy programs can demonstrate your trust in employees. Advocacy programs improve internal communications between team members and management. Employees can derive deeper meaning and purpose in their work through exposure to great content and actively owning and sharing it. All of this helps employees develop a sense of ownership in the organization

On top of all that, employee advocacy programs can boost the bottom line. According to the National Business Research Institute, a 12% increase in brand advocacy generates a 2x increase in revenue growth. It has also been found that socially engaged companies are 57% more likely to get more sales leads. All this using a tool you already have — Employees!

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most-interesting-man-in-the-world-i-don-t-always-use-a-hashtag-when-i-tweet

 

Many associations use social media marketing to post content to various platforms as a means for getting their message out to as wide an audience as possible. As one website, todaymade.com, put it, “social media is about dialogue, not push marketing.” That would be the social part of social media. And, we as humans are social beings. Imagine who you would rather spend time with—someone who talks on and on about themselves without letting you get a word in edgewise, or someone who asks you about how you are doing, wonders what your opinions are and genuinely seems to care more about you personally than about impressing you.

Not too long ago, I attended a lunchtime talk by the social media team at American Family Insurance. The speakers were pretty delighted with Twitter as an ideal platform for interacting and building engagement with their target audience. I got to see their words put into action. As the program was beginning, I tweeted that I was looking forward to attending the program. Within minutes, American Family had favorited my tweet, and tweeted @me that they hoped I find the program helpful. Later that afternoon, one of the speakers tweeted @me, thanking me for attending. Now, that’s some really attentive engagement.

Here are 5 ways associations can use social media to engage members:

  1. Tweet a welcome message @new_members when they join your association and congratulatory messages @members who achieve successes or milestones.
  2. Design posts for engagement by using compelling visuals or humor, something to evoke an emotional response.
  3. Thank people for “liking” and “sharing” your content.
  4. Allow for commenting on blog posts, and respond in a timely manner to comments on your blog, FaceBook and Twitter posts, even if just to say thank you for the comment.
  5. Encourage the use of a brand hashtag by promoting it in all related internet and print marketing.

Another example demonstrating the power of engagement took place at the annual conference of one of our clients. We had a first-time exhibitor who became a super-user of the conference’s mobile app. Beginning before the conference even began, he was posting photos and status updates frequently, commenting on the photos and updates of others, and messaging with staff and registrants. Although he had never before met anyone in attendance, participants knew who he was and many already felt connected to him. Needless to say, by the time he hosted his booth in the exhibition hall, he had built relationships and he experienced a steady flow of prospects stopping by to talk with him.

Social media marketing is valuable because it facilitates engagement. Engagement is important because that interaction strengthens members’ understanding of, relationship with, and trust in your association.

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responsive-design

Responsive design. It's all well and good. Your site adjusts to the screen size, and your users get a good mobile experience, without having two or even three separate websites. But the process for making your site truly "mobile friendly" is a bit more complicated.

Why would someone view your site on their mobile device? What info do they need? What do you want to offer them and why are they different from your desktop computer users?

All these questions need consideration when creating a responsive design.

What is responsive design?
Responsive design is a design technique for websites that allows a page to rearrange itself based on the size of the screen displaying it. Modules rearrange themselves or even hide themselves so that nothing gets too squished and too small to view on a smaller screen, meaning mobile users have the same viewing experience they would have when visiting your website on a desktop computer.

The introduction of responsive design solved a few problems for website viewers. First, they were able to see the proper display of the website. But another, perhaps more important problem this solved, was the need to have a separate, dedicated site for mobile viewers.

Most large, modern websites now use a content management system (CMS) of some kind. To have the same CMS service content for two separate sites — a normal desktop site and a separate mobile one — was an extremely complicated and frustrating task and required a lot of extra administration time, skill, and effort.

Responsive design solved these issues. Simply having a design or template capable of responding to any screen width meant that you needed only one site, and that site worked on any device.

But there are some other really important reasons why you should make the switch to responsive design for your website.

Mobile usage is increasing
Take a look around and you'll notice a lot of people on their mobile phones. In fact, it seems that just about everyone is attached at the hip with their phone, tablet, or other mobile gadget. Consider the following stats from Smart Insights.

• More than 20 percent of Google searches are now being performed on some sort of mobile device.
• In 2012 over half of all local searches were done on a mobile device.
• 25 percent of Internet users in the United States only access the Internet via a mobile device.
• 25.85 percent of all emails are opened on mobile phones, with another 10.16 percent opened on tablets.
• In 2014 mobile Internet usage is expected to overtake desktop usage.
• Out of the 4 billion mobile phones in the world, 1.08 billion are smartphones and 3.05 are SMS enabled.

Recommended by Google
We all know that Google is a really big deal. In fact, Google claimed 67 percent of the search market share in 2013, making it the most popular search engine in the world. So, if Google claims that it prefers responsive web design as the recommended mobile configuration, hadn’t we better listen?

Why does Google prefer responsive design? For starters, it's more efficient for Google to bot crawl the site and then index and organize all the content that is online. This is because with responsive design, all your sites have just one URL and the same website coding across all devices. When a business has a separate mobile site and desktop site, there will be separate URLs with different website coding for each. This forces Google to crawl and index multiple versions of the same exact site.

A better user experience
Responsive design gives users a better experience. For example, users don't have to mess around with zooming and shrinking, swiping and pinching, to see the text or images on screen. Instead, all of the content automatically adjusts to the screen of the device. This makes it easier and more convenient for users to read and navigate on your site.

And, there are stats to support why the experience of users is so important. According to Google's Think Insights on Mobile, when a user views your mobile website and is frustrated, or doesn't see the content that they are searching for immediately, there's a 61 percent chance they will head to another website. However, when a user has had a positive experience with your mobile website, that individual will be 67 percent more likely to buy a product or use a service. Further, 48 percent of users stated to Google that when a site doesn't function on their mobile device it makes them feel that the company does not care for their business or about their viewers.

Social media has gone mobile
I’m guessing that you're involved in some form or another with social media. But even if you're not, you still realize how important blogging and social media are in the 21st Century. And, social media has also now gone mobile, which you may have also noticed. How important is mobile for social media users? According to a study from ComScore, 55% of social media consumption happens on a mobile device.

When you have a single responsive site that will function on any device, it is much easier for your users to share, interact, and engage with the content of your site. For example, what if a user shares your mobile site URL over social media and one of her “friends” views the site on her desktop computer? The experience would be less than optimal if it wasn't intended for a mobile audience. This makes the user unhappy, and we all know an unhappy user will go elsewhere.

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sweat III

Managing social media is like working out. You know you should be doing it regularly, but it’s so easy to neglect when so many other tasks need our focus.

From day one, we at AMPED have made social media part of our marketing and communications strategy, opening and managing accounts in Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for all of our clients. And while we have seen impressive growth in our audience and impressions, I’ll be the first to admit it hasn’t always been a smooth process.

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