21 ways to turn trade association members into advocates

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Chip Griffin
By Oct 5, 2015
12:23 pm

If you’re like most associations, you’re spending some time figuring out how to communicate effectively online. That likely means email, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and a few other platforms. But you likely feel limited by the amount of staff or consultant time you can devote to the effort. So how do you maximize your benefit? Help get your members — whether they are companies, organizations or individuals — engaged on your behalf.

Here are some ideas for how you can leverage your members to help communicate your association’s message and advance its goals using digital media.

  1. Ask. If you don’t ask your members to do things on your behalf, they won’t.
  2. Plan. Sometimes it is beneficial to just jump in, but try to come up with a strategic framework for what you want to do with members online. It will help make you more effective … and efficient.
  3. Target. Have goals and objectives for who you want to influence and what messages you want to send. General awareness is good, but if you can point your members in a specific direction they will likely be more effective.
  4. Train. No, don’t put them on Amtrak. Set up sessions at your conferences or schedule webinars to educate your members about how to effectively use digital communications to spread the association’s message and advance the causes the membership cares about. Don’t assume they all just know.
  5. Profile. Talk about your members in your own online communications channels. Most people will promote content that mentions them or their organizations.
  6. Share. Follow your members and read their blogs. Retweet them and link to what they write. You can’t just ask them to do things for you without doing things for them.
  7. Thank. When a member does something to help out, acknowledge that support. You can do it publicly using a platform like Twitter or privately with a note. Bonus points if you mail a handwritten note since nobody does that anymore and it gets extra attention.
  8. Follow. Like the Facebook page of your member organizations. Follow the Twitter accounts of your members. Subscribe to their blogs. Connect on LinkedIn or follow the company page. And then ask them to do the same in return.
  9. Engage. Take part in online dialogue with your members. Public conversations in comments, on Facebook walls, on Twitter, and elsewhere will get noticed by others and help raise awareness.
  10. Educate. Provide your members with the the information they need to be effective communicators. Put talking points, reports, links, or other important tools in their hands.
  11. Email. Send messages to your members. Ask them to email their employees, customers, vendors, and others. We all have email so we should find ways to leverage it effectively.
  12. Monitor. Pay attention to the news and social media coverage of your members and leadership. Share links to relevant articles even when they’re not directly relevant to the work of your association if they benefit your member companies.
  13. Publish. Ask your members to provide guest posts for your organization’s blog or online magazine.
  14. Crosspost. Did a member organization publish something interesting elsewhere? Ask to repost it on your organization’s blog — or better still write a summary with a brief excerpt and link back to the original post.
  15. Interview. Conversations with members make for excellent content that can be featured in multiple online venues. You can interview by phone, email or in person and share the Q&A on your blog and then spiral out from there.
  16. Record. Consider recording conversations with members or their presentations at events and share them as podcasts or as videos on YouTube or other video sharing platforms. It doesn’t have to be broadcast TV quality; it just needs to be visually clear and easy to hear the audio. Oh, and please put the camera on a tripod or other stable surface so we don’t need Dramamine.
  17. Introduce. Put your members in touch with key online influencers, including media, bloggers, social networkers and others. If you’re not the only one touting a message you’ll be more effective.
  18. Facilitate. Provide your members with the tools and resources they need to be effective while spending as little time as possible. Although you wake up every day thinking about your association, most of your members don’t. So give them the tools they need to communicate effectively with as little fuss as possible.
  19. Schedule. Use the calendar to set dates for group online communications activities. It could be a day dedicated to advocacy or a week focused on recruiting new members. By setting up a special “event,” it provides added motivation for members to take action.
  20. Report. Let your members know how they’re doing as a group. If they know what’s working and who’s doing what, they may feel some peer pressure to get engaged themselves.
  21. Evaluate. Figure out what’s working — and what isn’t. Then change up your Plan (see #2).

What other ideas do you have?

A version of this article originally appeared on 501central.