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Tips for a More Social Association - 11/12/2013 -

It’s time to invest in social media because one day soon, the line between social and just plain "business” will disappear.

By Carla Kalogeridis

There’s a Hootsuite™ whitepaper out with some good tips for organizations looking to transform into a more social enterprise. It makes the point that while social is no longer new, but it is young enough that best practices are still being carved out. In other words, the standard for social media integration has yet to be drawn.

Here’s a summary of Hootsuite’s "Tips for Social Business” as seen through an association lens:

Tip #1 — Evaluate. After taking stock of your organization’s social maturity, it’s time to ask a few questions. First, where have you already or where do you plan to deploy social programs and against which goals? Avoid considering social in a vacuum. Take the time to understand where it best fits your organization and how to integrate it into existing organizational and departmental goals. You’re not reinventing wheels for social, just using it to make the ones you have turn faster. Look beyond vanity metrics such as Likes and Follows and try to find a direct link between conversation and conversion. Focus on influence and analytics over inflating a group size or follower base.

Tip #2 — Organize. While you want to centralize control over your social platforms with a social tool like a dashboard, you want to de-centralize the conversations you have over them. To do that, you need to empower your teams to engage your members and potential members in conversation directly.

Tip #3 — Listen and learn. People are talking about your organization. And if by chance they’re not, then they’re talking about your competitors and starting a conversation you’ll have trouble being a part of. Don’t let your organization get left behind. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once described your brand as, "what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Today, not only do you have an opportunity to be in the room, but also to take an active role in the conversation itself. Good search practices start with monitoring for mentions (the good, the bad and the ugly) of your organization, but can also focus on topics related to your industry where you can be an influencer.

Tip #4 — Engage to build community. While each association will have it’s own communication style, there is a right way and a wrong. The most important thing you can do is to acknowledge the voice of the member, really hear and respect what they are saying. If what you’re hearing is a complaint, let them know a resolution is being sought, then follow through on that resolution to the best of your organization’s ability. Integrate your response with existing channels, and let the most appropriate channel lead the way to resolution.

Listen and pick your moments. Give advice. If sales are a priority, nurture potential leads with relevant and helpful content. Make sales through engagement. The age-old sales maxim, "Make a friend first, a sale second” still applies to social, only even more so due to social’s ability to amplify positive, or negative, experiences.

Tip #5 — Collaborate. Share learning internally. Encourage your social teams to distribute new learning both within the team and your organization as a whole. Keep an ongoing loop of discovery and dissemination where best practices, positive messaging, or common questions are put forward for comment or collaboration. Ultimately, better internal collaboration supports improved external engagement, keeping messaging consistent, intelligent, and brand-appropriate.

Tip #6 — Measure ROI. Tie social to the big picture by linking it to organizational and departmental goals. Build the capacity for measurement into every social action. Use URL shorteners to track your click-throughs. Integrate Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to track on-site conversions or drill in to geographic disparaties in data.

Hootsuite wraps up by pointing out that now is the time to invest in social, stating: "One day in the not-too-distant future, there will be no more social business. Social will simply be business, and business will simply be social.”

Carla Kalogeridis is editorial director of Association Media & Publishing.


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