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Trim the Pork from Your Social Media - 9/27/2011 -

Follow these friendly reminders to keep your message heard above the Facebook and Twitter clutter.

By Ben Berkey

It’s a kiss of death for your social media strategy: your members unlike your association’s Facebook page, stop following your Tweets, and cut you out of their Google+ circles. Or even worse, email alerts on their smartphones about your association get intercepted by an uncompromising spam blocker.

Why would your members deprive themselves of your carefully crafted (or proficiently repurposed) content? You would never intentionally try to annoy them, right?

Know Your e-Pork

Automatic email filters block most junk from reaching our inboxes, but spam has now infected social media. (Editor’s note: Mashable has a good article on spotting and preventing Facebook spam.)

Unsolicited junk is a nuisance, but did you know there’s such a thing as "good” spam? Known as bacon, these e-mails and social media notifications include coupons and announcements that people sign up to receive. Department store discounts, Groupon deals, and even your association’s social media updates can become bacon when inboxes and social media feeds get too cluttered. Your members will glaze over your hammy content without reading it, and they may even unsubscribe from your bacon-saturated pages.

The following tips and reminders will help you trim the pork from your social media, allowing you to stay active without becoming a nuisance to your members.

The Don’ts

· Avoid spam-like words. As you create your social media copy, review Association Media & Publishing’s tips for staying away from porky language. Even if the text doesn’t trigger a spam filter, gimmicky sales pitches can turn away readers. In general, avoid words such as "free,” "order now,” and "unlimited.”

· Don’t flood your members’ news feeds. Too many helpful social media announcements can be overwhelming. Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) communications coordinator Carrie Smith recommends, "The conventional wisdom is three to five tweets per day, or more for special events such as conferences, and one to two posts on Facebook per day.”

· Don’t write like a robot. If your updates look like they were automatically generated by a social media android, members will definitely skip over your boring, artificial copy. Carrie Smith says that when updating the ONS Facebook page, "I try to give every post a personal touch so it doesn’t sound like marketing material. One way of doing that is to speak directly to why whatever we are linking to might be of interest to our followers, rather than just posting a generic title and a link.”

At ONS, staff librarian and information resources supervisor Mark Vrabel also maintains an active Twitter account, ONSMark, which is separate from the main ONS account. While the ONS account covers official announcements, ONSMark can be used to "highlight the accomplishments of individual ONS members, and to participate in live chats on Twitter such as #RNchat and #IVchat,” Vrabel explains.

· Don’t get too personal. We’ve all received offensive junk emails about uncomfortable bathroom and bedroom topics. While members appreciate knowing that a real person is updating your social media pages, they don’t necessarily want to know about your stomachaches and dating issues. Review Association Media & Publishing’s list of social media mistakes for more information.

The Dos

· Keep it simple. Pithy tweets and concise Facebook posts are simpler to digest in a crowded newsfeed and easier to share with others. According to Source Con, clever and strategic use of tags can facilitate this process.

· Repurpose with purpose. Don’t just recycle old junk for the sake of filling space on your Facebook page. When reusing old content, spin it in a new way or tie it to a current issue. For example, giving members an excuse to poke around in your website’s archives may remind them about an underused feature.

· Entertain. As with print junk mail, if spam or bacon’s content is uninteresting to us, we throw it out. Social media was started for recreational purposes, so don’t swamp your members with too much shop-talk while they’re trying to escape. Enjoy the guilty pleasure of using Facebook and Twitter at work. Use creative language, and share some casual photos from a recent conference.

· Use new-found social media knowledge for good. Do something with the positive feedback you acquire via social media. Let your fellow staff members know when an article generates a lot of buzz (or lack thereof), and allow members’ comments to influence your content planning or marketing. If your members find that chatting up your Facebook wall or re-Tweeting improves their experience with your association, they will engage your social media more often.

Members as Promoters

The goal of your social media activity should be to make members feel good about your brand. If they trust the information in your social media feeds, they’ll keep reading them and sharing them with others. Once members start promoting your association on their own, then your social media hubs can really start to reap the benefits—and bring home the bacon.

Ben Berkey is copy editor at Oncology Nursing Society and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee.


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