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April 01, 2020 Promoting Your Association During the Age of COVID-19 Sergio Garcia - Marketing Manager

Promoting Your Association During the Age of COVID-19

Chances are, you probably started off 2020 with a comprehensive plan in place to promote your association, increase member acquisition, retain membership, and boost engagement. Then COVID-19 hit like a Mike Tyson left hook and knocked all those plans out cold. 

Now, here we are, you're probably reading this blog post from home (if you're not, you need to get back inside asap!), and you might've lost count of how many days it's been now since you've been practicing social distancing. All the while, you're trying to work with your team, remotely, to figure out how to keep your community engaged. 

But, let's face it, no matter how much experience you and your colleagues have, this is uncharted territory. There's no direct blueprint to draw from to figure out how to navigate these waters. The reality is, we're all trying to figure it out as we go along as more information becomes available. 

So, how can you promote your association in the age of COVID-19? Especially when so many are more concerned about their well-being, their families, the economy, and for many, if they'll lose their job or find a new one after getting laid off.

Survey results from the Pew Research Center found that nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say the coronavirus outbreak will cause a recession or depression in the U.S., including nearly one-in-five (17%) who anticipate a depression. Additionally, 33% say they or someone in their household has lost their job or suffered a pay cut or reduction in work hours because of the coronavirus.

In many of my previous posts I've highlighted that we live in the age of the customer. That consumer behavior and the customer experience direct marketing and sales strategy. That fact holds even more weight now. 

What's relevant messaging to consumers right now? Well, everything I just spoke about.

The impact of this outbreak on our personal and professional lives, the uncertainty, the unknown, the isolation and the desire to connect now more than ever. At the heart of any association is community, and while many organizations get caught up in KPI's, metrics, ROI, etc. What matters most is connecting like-minded people around a passion for what they do.

Connecting is the keyword and that entails being relevant, sensitive, and agile.

Understanding Your Community's Concerns

I'm sure by now you've received a bunch of marketing messages with various offers, some of which are irrelevant to your organization's current needs. 

Relevant messaging and content is of significant importance right now. Members of your professional community are spending even more time online; as of March, time spent on social media has increased by 32% in the US and by 21% in the UK. Globally, social media usage has increased by 44%. 

In the midst of this increase in online usage and media consumption, we are all receiving a plethora of marketing messages making it difficult for your organization's marketing efforts to cut through the noise. 

Your industry has been impacted by dramatic change due to social distancing, and the best thing you can do right now is to be a resource to help people cope and navigate these times. 

Creating content that is not only relevant to the specific impact COVID-19 has had on your industry, but also relevant to the specific segments within your community, will help increase the chances of boosting engagement. Here's a great real-world example from the American Bar Association.



This content addresses a very specific issue, relevant to a segment of their wider community, and provides valuable information that answers a relevant question for that segment. The resulting engagement speaks for itself. Many businesses and organizations alike have gone the broad sweeping route for content during this time:

  • How to cope with working remotely
  • We're here to support you during these challenging times
  • How to manage your team during a crisis
  • etc. etc. etc.

Now, don't get me wrong, these are all important topics to address. But, as Mark Cuban once said “When you've got 10,000 people trying to do the same thing, why would you want to be number 10,001?”. 

Identifying the various segments within your community and understanding what their specific concerns and questions are during this time is essential to your association's marketing strategy. 

That theme ties back into the Flywheel framework I detailed in my previous blog post How to Promote Your Association Online; customer success fuels growth. The quickest way to get insights into what your community wants to know right now is by collaborating with your customer service and sales team. They are in constant contact with your community and are able to provide valuable insight to your marketing team. 

Effectively executing this requires strong alignment between customer service, marketing, and sales. 

Seamless sharing of data and active collaboration between key departments is essential to ensuring your association's content and messaging is relevant to the various segments within your community. 

Related: A detailed step-by-step process to streamline data sharing and collaboration between key departments of your association

Establishing process between these departments to update your organization's marketing strategy will play an important role in driving engagement during this pandemic. 

Data is Your Guide

Of course, monitoring data to measure performance will also play a crucial role to help identify what's working and what isn't. Data should also fuel what content goes to which segments of your community. 

Analysis of various data types and data points will help you identify relevant segments of your community to boost engagement. 

For example, you can look at Profile Data (such as job title, content downloaded, etc.) and Behavioral Data (such as pages viewed, channel source, etc.) and identify patterns among demographics to inform the best channels and media formats to leverage when publishing your content. 

Related: Unique data your career center provides and how to use it strategically to boost engagement

As far as research indicates, statistics show that organic traffic is down across most industries. 

Source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/coronavirus/

However, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Two out of every three consumers stated that their usage of social media will definitely increase over the course of the next few weeks and months.

Using your own data traffic tools should help you monitor if this shifting consumer behavior holds true for your niche. If so, then your marketing efforts should be optimized to suit. Below, I've listed some new and interesting insights on social networks that associations should consider leveraging during the pandemic.

Understanding Behavior on Each Channel

LinkedIn

Recently, LinkedIn posted the top topics trending since the Coronavirus outbreak:

  • Remote working 
  • Social distancing 
  • Crisis management 
  • Business continuity 
  • Online learning 
  • Collaboration

Joining these conversations through content and network activity will go a long way in boosting engagement. However, as I touched on before, relevancy is just one aspect of marketing your association during the age of COVID-19. 

You also need to be sensitive and agile. 

Right now, most of us are in isolation, and by nature, we are a social species. People want to connect and relate more than ever. It's not just about being a thought leader and a resource, but also relatable. 

When creating content and sharing resources on these topics on LinkedIn, or any channel, think about context and share personal experiences.

For example, what inspired this blog post was a meme my wife showed me (sound on, it's worth it):

Like so many others, I've been trying to navigate the repetition of working from home, maintaining my health and fitness, dealing with a very attention seeking puppy, ensuring we have enough supplies, and figuring out how to create the right content in the midst of a global pandemic. 

When I saw this quite hilarious meme, it made me realize we're all going through the same thing - trying to figure all this out, without losing our mind. 

So, by all means be a resource but don't get lost in selling, brand tone, KPI's, etc. Now more than ever, there's a need for the human touch in all of your organization's messaging.

This means engaging in trending conversations. Search through hashtags to find information and conversations on topics that align with your niche. Comment on posts, share insights, listen and engage with members of your community.

Note that you can follow and join conversations for topics by searching for a hashtag and clicking the “follow” button.

In the midst of all this activity, remember above all else, be yourself. Authenticity and genuine care is crucial to online engagement. It's not just about posting branded content or the latest statistics and industry news. 

In fact, some of the most successful posts on LinkedIn come from professionals who discuss topics such as:

  • Lessons learned in their personal lives
  • Showing appreciation for their team
  • Sharing words of encouragement
  • Spreading kindness

Right now, with everyone's online activity ramping up across social networks, company brand, professional brand, and your personal brand are all blurred into one. Understanding this concept is key to engaging your community on LinkedIn during this pandemic.

Facebook

With so many communities in lockdown, people are looking for support and reassurance. As a result, they're turning to online communities for this purpose. 

When you consider the loss of social interaction, through frequenting your local bar, your sporting teams, church groups, or even just running into friends at your local grocery, it puts into perspective the gaping void left in the wake of this pandemic, at a time when people need to feel connected the most. 

It shouldn't be a surprise to see online communities filling this void, and becoming more active, essential virtual meeting spaces.

Facebook Groups usage has significantly increased since the pandemic started. For example, as reported by The Guardian:

"In the UK alone, Facebook has facilitated the formation of an estimated 300 local Coronavirus support groups, whose combined membership now totals more than a million people."

Facebook has been promoting this feature for some time now as seen in the epic Super Bowl commercial below:


The social network giant sees Groups as a key element in its growth moving forward, and with everyone staying indoors now due to COVID-19, usage of this feature will continue to increase. 

Associations should consider creating Facebook groups for various segments within their community as people become more accustomed to, and more reliant on, online communities for an increasing range of their social needs. 

This channel can help you keep your community engaged, while sharing highly targeted content to the right segments, and help your members feel connected to each other and your organization.

TikTok

I'll be the first to admit, I'm a millennial and when I first heard of this rapidly growing new network I thought it was the name of a song 😂. 

If you're an association and you're trying to get Generation Z to join the ranks of your membership, TikTok is a channel you need to publish content on - especially now. 

Before I get into the specifics, consider these stats to understand why TikTok needs to be a part of your marketing strategy for member acquisition:

  • TikTok enjoyed over 1.1 billion installs as of March 2019
  • More than 500 million people globally use TikTok each month
  • 66% of its users are under 30

TikTok is the home of the next generation of professionals aka your potential new members. With that in mind, you may be wondering what exactly is TikTok?

TikTok Explained

This social network encourages its users to upload short videos; typically 15-60 seconds in length. Initially, users simply uploaded videos of themselves lip-synching to music videos. That eventually evolved into users uploading videos of original content, and these people eventually became "influencers" on the platform.

Now, with the platform’s explosive growth in popularity, there's far more variety in the types of videos people share. Anything ranging from up and coming comedians performing stand-up routines, young athletes showcasing their skills, pranks, dancers, fashion buffs, beauticians, and arts and craft fans, all share content. 

So how does this type of platform translate into promoting your association in the age of COVID-19? 

There are three main ways that your association can include TikTok in your marketing strategy:

  1. Create your own channel and upload relevant videos 
  2. Work with existing members who are on the platform to spread content to a broader audience
  3. Paid advertising on TikTok – this is fairly new and the audience for paid advertising is still growing. However, with more people turning to this network to discover products, services, and entertainment during this time, it's definitely worth exploring.

Some unique ideas for marketing on this network are:

Hashtag Challenges

If you've been on social media, you've probably seen everything from pushup challenges to the "until tomorrow" challenge.

Challenges are an extremely popular feature of TikTok’s community. These challenges are usually given a #-tag name, to make them both memorable and easy-to-find and drive significant engagement.

Your association can also encourage hashtag challenges on TikTok once you've established a decent following. If not, you can work with employees or existing members to try to kickstart your #hashtag challenge. Get creative and, in this case, it might be best to work with younger members and staff to get an idea of what would be considered fun and relevant. 

User-Generated Content

I previously highlighted this trend in a blog post Association Marketing Trends for 2020, at the time I can't say I foresaw just how important this trend would be in the midst of a global pandemic. 

Your association can work with younger brand ambassadors and/or employees that are already on TikTok, to help drive engagement with your organization. This ties back into the theme of being relatable.

Like any social channel today, you can see what hashtags are trending on TikTok and find unique ways to join the conversation. Humorous, relatable clips of the average day/tasks for professionals in your niche can drive significant engagement. 

While this may seem silly, here's a meme to get your creativity flowing:


Final Thoughts

Like I initially stated, there is no blueprint on how to effectively promote your association in the age of COVID-19. However, the insights and tips shared with you today are meant to help you understand the changes this pandemic has created and some unique ways to adapt to the situation - while being sensitive to the circumstances. 

I outlined some key components that your organization should consider going forward and, with all that's going on, there is definitely more insights still to be shared. Subscribe to the Madgex blog for more insights and strategies to keep your community engaged. 

Related: A complete marketing to promote your association online