“LOL,” you said.
My brow furrowed. My pulse quickened.
You had uttered the greatest ambiguity in the modern age of conversation, one only closely rivaled by the elusive “k.”
I was left alone to ponder in agony – had you actually let out a laugh at my pun about South African sea turtles? And if you had verbalized your appreciation, was it merely a soft chuckle or a ROFL-worthy guffaw? Or, as I dread, was it only a raised eyebrow and an ironic acronym?
Communication that isn’t face to face can be perilous. It can lead to uncertainty and high blood pressure.
If you, too, have struggled with LOL-paralysis, find comfort knowing there’s a better way.
There’s still room for real, human interaction in the digital world, and social media (yes, social media, the much-maligned downfall of sincere contact) holds the key for membership management.
Here’s how to shape your social media strategy to build relationships IRL:
Just like in person, a meaningful conversation involves speaking and listening.
Don’t just broadcast your content to followers and consider your work done. You need to keep your ear (or monitor) tuned to the conversation around your posts, and listen more than once a day when you schedule your messages.
Tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck allow you to build Twitter streams of users who have tagged you in a tweet, or who have used your organization’s name without tagging you. You’ll see what people are saying in real time, learn about them by clicking and reading their profiles and previous posts, and be able to react from within the same platform. Which brings us to…
Be prepared to acknowledge comments and reactions, both good and not so nice. You can thank members who share posts with a like, a favorite, or (especially if they add a word of praise for your organization) a hearty thank-you.
Any less-than-complimentary remarks deserve the most prompt attention, and top-notch customer service. First, make sure they understand their complaint has been heard, which should prevent any further escalation on social media. Even if you have no relation to the problem they’ve faced, you can let them know your organization is listening and will do what it takes to get to the root of the issue and rectify it if necessary.
Then do your part to find out what happened, if anyone was in the wrong, and the best way to remedy the situation. If your group messed up, own it. Make amends. Tell them how you’ll do better next time. And even if you didn’t err, apologize for any inconvenience and thank them for their input.
And of course, if someone wants to learn more or expresses interest in joining your organization, you should do what you can to engage them and make it happen!
3. Be a human too
It’s easier to yell at a Twitter handle than a person standing in front of you. Reduce faceless internet angst by letting members know you’re a real human being.
A great way to do this is by signing your name at the end of a message for your organization’s account, a tactic Chipotle does in its tweets. It builds a connection to a person, not just a logo. Especially if one person is managing your social media accounts, it’s best to save this for replies, rather than every single post.
Another way to personalize your account is by noting the primary poster in the page description. Twitter lets you tag other accounts in your bio section, so if your Twitter manager has an account, link to him or her there.
4. Be individuals
There are many voices that make up a membership organization, and it can be hard to showcase all of them. Give your staff and board members the opportunity to join the conversation with public social media accounts of their own. It lets you put real faces, even profile picture-sized, to names and real personalities to the mission.
Beth Kanter has a great guide on transforming nonprofit staff into “champions” on social media. It will require your time and energy to train your team and serve as a resource to them as they progress on the journey toward mastering social media. You’ll also need to set social media policies up front and enforce them along the way to ensure these accounts, while personal and unique, stay true to the overall message you want to share about your organization.
Some key points to consider:
- Your group’s brand and reputation are critical to your success and cannot be abused. Even when individuals are posting under their own names, they serve as ambassadors, and their words reflect back on the organization.
- That doesn’t mean they can’t have personality and opinions, as long as those don’t put respect for the association on the line. If staff want to tweet Vines of puppies (guilty over here), or root for their favorite sports team, that’s great – as long as the posts are kept civil and work-appropriate.
- Individual accounts should have faces, not logos! It’s another way to humanize your group.
- Create a list of dos and don’ts so your team has examples of posts to work from.
- Teach by showing, not telling, and walk team members through the process if they’re unfamiliar with social media. It’s better to spend the time for a comprehensive organization-wide workshop up front than to be bombarded with hundreds of calls or emails as they figure it out on their own.
- Monitor team social media accounts just as you do the public’s comments about you. It’s on you to catch slip-ups early and make sure the team is aware of any issues.
5. Be yourself
Your organization is pretty rad, and unlike any other. Show your members by using a voice and sharing content that’s particular to you. Embrace your quirkiness (it’s a good thing!) and be true to you. Your members will appreciate a genuine, not generic, personality on display on social media.
We’d love to hear how you build membership relationships through social media. Feel free to leave a comment below, but try not to use “LOL,” because it might leave me atwitter.
Looking for Membership Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Membership Management software solutions.