Free vs. Paid: Will Your Members Still Love You?
- 8/17/2012 -
by Allison King
When we're talking about using social media as part of a content strategy, we are talking about having free content out there. One of the first questions an association might ask is: Does giving away free content lessen the value of membership in the association?
This question is the same dilemma that publishing companies faced years ago: Would giving away free content mean losing paid subscribers? With all the free content available on the Internet, publishing companies had to change their model and start making content available for free.
The answer to the first question is no (as is the answer to the second question). You can give away some of your best stuff for free, and it won't lessen the value of membership. Quite the opposite.
Using social media to give away valuable, free content will help your association:
Demonstrate thought leadership.
Increase brand awareness, trust, and credibility.
Stay relevant in the community of your audience.
Build a solid prospect list to sell products and services to (including membership).
The emphasis is on best stuff for a reason. If you owned a restaurant and you were giving away free samples at a food fair, you'd want to give samples of your best dishes to entice new customers, right?
Your efforts in social media should be approached in the same way: Hand out high-quality free samples of the real deal. Here are some tips for implementing the free samples approach to social media:
Make it valuable content. Don't give away content that is marketing in disguise. It has to be valuable enough to make it worth someone's while to read it. When you are creating this free content, keep in mind how it will benefit the reader.
Pay attention to quality. Don't skimp on quality just because it's free. Remember that your free content is representative of the "premium” or members-only content. If the quality of your free content isn't up to par, then why would anyone want to look further?
Give people a way to get more. Ask people who visit your blog to sign up for a free e-newsletter. Capture people's information in exchange for your whitepaper. Suggest additional resources when people download free content from your website, including paid content.
Give people a way to share your content with others. Sending tweets to your followers with a link to new content gives them an easy way to share. Use social sharing buttons– Twitter buttons alone increases sharing sevenfold.
As part of your overall digital strategy, your high-quality, free content will increase both member and non-member engagement, boost social sharing, and build an audience of loyal fans and prospects.