Membership Insights, Trends, and Best Practices

    Questions and Answers from our Digital and Social Media Webinar

    Posted by Dana Hines on August 17, 2015

    The following Q&A is from our recent Digital and Social Media for Membership webinar, originally aired on July 23, 2015

    Membership Consultants recently hosted a webinar entitled Digital and Social Media for Membership, with some great tips on how you can utilize digital and social media for your membership programs. This webinar was very well attended, with great participation and some very specific questions from our attendees. Here are a list of those questions and answers. Feel free to listen to a recording of that webinar and send us any questions that you might have. You can find an on-demand recording of the webinar by clicking here.

    Let us hear from you if you have digital projects that we might be able to help with. For more information about our digital marketing services, please click here to send us a request.

     

    Q: What is a “Dark Post"?

    A: A “dark post” is an unpublished status update, link, video, or photo that is hidden from showing up on the organization’s Facebook page as an organic post. Rather, this type of post is only displayed as an ad.

     

    Q: Is the Facebook ad in the timeline an additional fee?

    A: Yes. Any ad on Facebook requires a fee. That said, an ad displayed in the timeline is not necessarily more expensive than an ad displayed on the right hand sidebar. Facebook has two ways to bid for ads: (1) cost per click (CPC) or (2) cost per 1,000 ad views (CPM).

     

    Q: Can you explain a little more about "Call-to-Action" overlay? Is it a free service from Google? What is the actual name of it?

    A: Yes! This feature is available through the free YouTube for Nonprofits program (part of Google for Nonprofits) that allows qualified nonprofits the opportunity to place a call-to-action overlay on any of your videos. A call-to-action overlay is sort of like a pop-up text ad that can include a headline, description, clickable URL, and thumbnail image.

     

    Q: When on social media, what kind of voice/tone is recommended when addressing your audience? Fun? Formal?

    A: This is a tricky question because it really depends on the voice and tone that is appropriate for your organization’s specific brand. Generally speaking, the voice and tone used on social media should be less formal, more conversational, and more concise than other communications channels.

     

    Q: How do you define Mobile Marketing?

    A: We define mobile marketing as any type of marketing or communications strategy that is displayed or accessed via a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. This can include text messaging, social media (e.g. Instagram), mobile apps, mobile ads, geofencing, near field communication (NFC) and beacons, and more.

     

    Q: Do you find that organizations are deferring traditional direct mail acquisition towards social media campaigns by hiring experts to develop and launch campaigns?

    A: No. And we don’t recommend abandoning traditional direct mail in favor of digital and social media campaigns for acquisition. Rather, we advocate for additional budget to support layering digital campaigns into the acquisition strategy to support and enhance direct mail.

    Just for perspective, In a recent comprehensive campaign for a full service type client where we were doing robust direct mail and social and digital marketing, the client attracted 4,000 new members through a year’s worth of direct mail, and 500 new members from digital.  So at this point, direct mail still provides more volume of memberships sold.

    Additionally, due to the complexity and need for real-time optimization of online and mobile strategies, we recommend organizations engage with an experienced agency partner to execute digital marketing campaigns. Without this type of expertise, digital marketing efforts can end up being all-consuming for staff while not maximizing limited dollars.

     

    Q: For an organization that has not had much of a membership presence in social media - what kind of a budget would be a starting point?

    A: This is a difficult question as every situation is unique. Social media campaign budgets can be affected by many factors such as platform, duration, goals, ad spend, graphic design and programming costs, testing, prizes, etc. For a very small campaign, a budget of a few thousand dollars may be adequate to get some traction. For a more aggressive and comprehensive campaign, an organization should be prepared to invest in the $10k to $30k range. 

     

    Q: Can you send too many emails for communication? We send more than 48 per year. Should we be concerned?

    A: No! Too often, we find organizations are afraid of sending too many emails without the proper data to support this fear. As a general rule, it’s always better to err on the side of over communicating when it comes to email. While every situation and institution is different, we recommend an email frequency of between 24 to 48 emails per year. Remember, email helps maintain a connection with members and visitors and keeps the organization top of mind.

     

    Q: The frequency recommendations - are these number of times in contact with members for any reasons or just membership related reasons?

    A: As a general rule, our recommendations for email frequency include all types of communication both membership and non-membership related. The key takeaway here is not to withhold or delay sending timely and relevant information (membership related or not) because of an arbitrary limit to the number of emails members or visitors can receive in a given week or month. 

     

    Q: Do you have a recommendation for the best way to administer a mobile member card? What are options for providing members with digital membership cards? Would you do that through an app or a weblink?

    A: Sure! While every organization and situation is unique, at a minimum, a mobile member card should be easily accessed via an app or mobile optimized webpage, and should be scannable for quick entry. There are many ways to accomplish this using various mobile technologies such as QR codes and bar codes.

     

    Q: Are there any options for creating and sending blast emails inhouse where click-through rate reports will be generated without needing to pay an outside entity for these services?

    A: Yes. Any legitimate email marketing platform such as MailChimp or Constant Contact will include reporting at no additional charge.

     

    Q: Can you tell us more about the expanded email acquisition - were these emails from a house list or were they rented, etc...? If rented, what regulations should you be aware of?

    A: An expanded email acquisition program is a marketing strategy that to reach a targeted list of prospective members who have opted-in to receive special offers from organizations just like yours! Targeting criteria can include demographic and lifestyle selects such as geography, gender, presence of children in the household, affinity, hobbies, and more. This process is similar to renting an email list; however, the campaigns are deployed by a third party to ensure CAN-SPAM compliance. As a best practice, current members and previously unsubscribed email addresses are scrubbed from the list prior to deployment.

     

    Q: What if an institution doesn't have an in-house list for ticket buyers? (We're in the dark ages - no online ticket sales here.)

    A: Without the benefit of an in-house ticket buyer list, one way to extend the reach of your membership marketing efforts is to institute an intentional email list building strategy. We find the “give-to-get” model works well to encourage visitors, website users, and social media followers to provide their email address in exchange for something of value. In this context, value could mean anything from a chance to win free tickets to a personalized Facebook cover photo.   

     

    Q: What about frequency for Facebook posts?

    A: Go crazy! Seriously, due to Facebook’s recent algorithm changes, organic post reach has significantly declined. This means Facebook will limit the number of organic posts your fans will see in their News Feed on any given day. Some industry analysts have speculated that organic reach has declined by upwards of 97%. Why the change? Facebook has stated that the “…News Feed is already a competitive place — as more people and Pages are posting content, competition to appear in News Feed has increased.” To combat this flood of content, organic post reach and referral traffic will decline if there are limited interactions (e.g. likes, comments, shares, etc). Additionally, in 2015 Facebook began limiting the reach of organic posts, specifically organic posts deemed as “promotional.” In short, there is no need to be worried about posting too frequently on Facebook. Rather, organizations will need to focus on posting highly engaging content often, and allocating budget toward Facebook ads to ensure fans see important posts.

     

    Q: Can you review again the response times that are expected for Facebook, Twitter, etc?

    A: Research has shown that in general social media users expect a response to questions and comments within 30 minutes to an hour regardless of the time of day/night or day of the week.

     

    Q: Does it make sense to cut back direct mail communications (ie museum monthly calendars, newsletters) and convert this to email communication or should we keep both? We are doing both for our membership renewal campaigns but are considering converting our marketing/communication pieces to email communication only.

    A:  They key Answer to this question is Communications vs Transactional!

    It may make sense to transition to an electronic newsletter and/or calendar of events; however, it really depends on your audience and whether or not this change would be appropriate given the type of information and how members prefer to receive it. In general, email is a more cost effective, timely, and user-friendly communications channel for day-to-day news and updates. That said, we don’t recommend abandoning traditional direct mail for transactional notices such as renewals or special announcements such as invitations to major events.

    Additionally, members may feel disappointed if a benefit such as a nice annual calendar or glossy newsletter is retired. A best practice is to conduct a member survey to determine the appropriate course of action. The other question to ask yourself with communications going electronic is:  How many members are going to be left out if we only communicate via electronic methods?   Often times these are the longest tenured, potentially most well-heeled members for whom we have no email address.  If that is the case, be sure that this audience is still hearing from your organization

     

    Q: When will the new book be published? This fall???? Which month? ;)

    A: Glad you asked! Our new book, Membership Marketing in the Digital Age will be published in November 2015. Membership Marketing in the Digital Age provides all the tools you need to implement a membership program that is healthy and growing. Written specifically for all those who are involved with membership, this comprehensive "how to" book includes traditional techniques, plus social and digital media trends and tactics for growing membership.

     

    Q: What are some easy ways to increase your email click-through rate? This is something that we struggle with, even though our average open rate is quite high. Our constituents seem to be receptive to email marketing from a Development and Membership standpoint, so we're constantly trying to figure out what we could be doing better.

    A: Test, test, test! Images, text links, call-to-action, button color and placement, layout, and content are all possible aspects that can impact click-through rate. To ensure accurate results, only test one thing at a time. For example, you might test the words “click here to learn more” against an in-text hyperlink such as “our tiger conservation program…” Additionally, marketing automation is quickly becoming a game changer for tailoring content and increasing engagement metrics such as click-through rate. This type of software allows an organization to personalize email communications based on an individual’s unique behavior and interests.

     

    Q: Do you recommend any organizations for mobile campaigns?

    A: Yes, Membership Consultants! ☺ We offer mobile marketing capabilities including text campaigns, mobile advertising, mobile apps, and more!

     

    Q: Another department controls social media and they are hesitant to post items that would not appeal to the whole Facebook audience (i.e., we have fans from all over the world). So membership is one thing they won't post. What are your thoughts on this?

    A: This is a shortsighted view in our opinion. Facebook and similar platforms will always serve a multitude of audiences just like a website. Prioritizing membership messaging on social media, including Facebook is a best practice for leading institutions. Indeed, not leveraging such a powerful channel to acquire new members is a far greater risk to the long-term sustainability of the organization than the risk of posting content that does not appeal to all fans. In our experience, Facebook users will simply disregard content that is not immediately relevant to them. If there is still extreme concern that membership messaging will alienate Facebook fans, then a discrete budget should be allocated to implement dark posts and Facebook advertising to reach a more targeted audience with membership promotions. 

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