Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2011 ASAE, Washington, DC. Originally published in Communication News, February 2011. www.asaenet.org
By: Carol Meerschaert
I bet you've never thought to yourself, "I'd like more work to do." So how can you possibly accomplish everything and manage your association's LinkedIn group and Facebook page as well?
You need not be an expert; you just need some expertise. You can stay on top of the important tasks by using two acronyms I've developed. Just take it FAST and take it SLOW and here we go.
FAST: Frequency, Access, Statistics, Templates
Always remember: Social media moves quickly; you snooze, you lose. So, build short time slots into your daily schedule for checking and updating your groups (LinkedIn) and pages (Facebook). For example, schedule 10-minute slots three times a day.
Set up auto-notifications so that you know when someone writes on your Facebook wall or posts a discussion on LinkedIn. The easiest response: Just "like" the post.
Post at least a couple of times a week to keep things fresh. It will give your audience something to react to and set standards for the sort of content they should deliver.
Keep in mind that it's very easy to create controlled access to your group. At the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association, we position our members-only LinkedIn group as a member benefit, and more than half of our members belong to it.
Speed things up by multitasking. I process 10 to 20 requests to join per week. That takes about 10 minutes total and can be done while I'm on a conference call so it is not a time sink.
Save even more time by uploading your new members into the group as they join to make them preapproved. What if you don't have the bandwidth to check member status? Just make yours an open group.
Recruit volunteers to serve as page admins on Facebook and managers of the group on LinkedIn. These volunteers can help seed discussions and monitor what's posted.
Just be sure to take the time to write out guidelines so everyone is clear on what's OK.
Stay fresh without being annoying. Our Facebook fan page grows steadily. We keep status updates steady—but not obnoxiously frequent—by announcing major events and posting photos of the events afterward. We also post a notice when new videos appear on our YouTube channel. This kind of regular posting takes less than two hours a week.
Keep track of what gets the most interest and when. Social media come with boatloads of free statistics worth a thousand words. I ran a couple of Facebook ads and found that our clicks came almost exclusively on Friday and the weekend. So guess when I post things on Facebook? How is your group growing? How's engagement? Do people post discussions? Do photos get more clicks than links? Are shorter posts more popular? Use the stats to guide you so you can give members what they want and stop wasting time posting things they don't care for.
Use the template feature in your LinkedIn group to set up and send automatic responses. You can use templates for requests to join, for approvals, and when you decline membership. I'm a big fan of "one and done." I even have a template for when I have to remove job postings from our group. (We don't allow them, preferring to drive traffic to our online career center instead.)
Now it's time to go …
SLOW: Search, Links, Outreach, Work
Always think search engine optimization. Instead of typing out URLs or remembering to bookmark sites before clicking away, many people simply Google a short descriptor. When someone searches for "HBA," I don't want the first page of results to be about the Hawaiian Bible Association or health and beauty aids. Your social media will enhance your SEO by adding incoming links to your site. Check how you're doing by searching for your organization on LinkedIn and Facebook. Set up a Google Alert account to see when and where your organization is being mentioned.
Keep in mind that the fastest, easiest way to get social media content is to post links from your website to LinkedIn and Facebook. You'll save a ton of time, get the message across, and drive traffic to your website. Copy and paste is all it takes.
Don't spend any more time and money than you have to on member acquisition. Using social media makes acquisition better, faster, cheaper. Chances are that friends of your members on Facebook and connections on LinkedIn are also in your target market. Use ads on these sites to target by geography, career level, and employer. You can view the results in a minute each day and alter if needed to reach your goal. This is so much easier than the "spray and pray" bulk mail methods of the last century.
Allow chapters to have their own Facebook pages. The HBA Greater Philadelphia chapter is a shining example of how to engage members using Facebook. The volunteers ask event speakers to post engagement questions before an event, discuss key points from the event, and then post photos afterward. Although this chapter was started just four years ago, it reached 1,000 members in 2010.
Enjoy the many ways social media lets you work smarter. Using social media has not only allowed us to decrease the number of eblasts we send, but it has increased member engagement. It lets our chapters that don't have one of our signature programs (women in transition, women in science) to connect their members to our larger community.
I cannot directly attribute our membership growth to social media alone, but in the year I have been with the HBA, we have increased from 5,000 to nearly 6,000 members, even as we've experienced what probably was the most tumultuous year in the healthcare industry. Facebook and LinkedIn are two more tools for your toolbox. Learn to use them efficiently and they'll help you to reach out to a new audience, engage members, and drive traffic to your website.
Carol Meerschaert is director of marketing and communications at the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association in Fairfield, New Jersey. She'll share her volunteer guidelines with you if you email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol is also a member of the Linked Users LinkedIn Group. Join other online community owners and managers at: LinkedUsersTweet