Let me start by delivering an important truth: There is no easy path to successful chamber of commerce social media.
It’s a hard reality, but it’s important.
There’s no magical formula, no “easy-to-use” content library, and no push-button solution that will miraculously have your online presence boom.
Social media will cost money and/or time to make it work, but when we talk with chambers around the country, it seems that there’s actually some foundational work to be done before even getting to that stage, starting with answering the question…
What Is “Successful” Social Media?
There are a lot of ways to interpret whether or not your social media is successful. Here are a few:
Followers: I mean, what better way to determine whether your social media folks are doing a good job than seeing that you have a boatload of followers, right? Here’s the problem… Just a quick search and I found a metro chamber in the U.S. that has 13,000 followers on Twitter. Good number, right? Well, Twitter now lets you see the reach of tweets that aren’t even your own. I went one-by-one through the chamber’s tweets, and saw zero engagement. No likes, no retweets, and the posts being seen by 100, maybe 200 people. So, it’s not followers.
Activity: When organizations were first getting on social media, they were told by marketing experts that they had to “post 3-5 times per day,” across all channels. Now, it’s, “The next generation of your member is on TikTok and Snapchat, so you need to be there.” So, we’ve all done it. Made sure to keep up that pace until we wore out. Even brought in services like TweetDeck and Buffer to help get it done. Bought pre-scripted content to not have to spend time thinking of stuff to post. Problem is… Nobody cared. Nobody cares. Posting to post will rarely provide good content that people want to engage with.
Likes, Follows and Shares: Now, we’re getting somewhere. But only somewhere. Not where we need to go, but we’re on the right track. Likes, follows and shares, which we’ll call “engagement,” is an indication that your content is being received, and your social media is working. But, the title of this blog isn’t “Why isn’t our social media working?”… It’s “Why isn’t our social media working for us?” This is the difference between posting worthwhile, relevant content versus posting fluff: “Blue is our favorite color. What’s yours?” There is merit to taking advantage of people’s desire to talk about themselves, but you want to do it with purpose.
Our Definition: We define success with social media for chambers of commerce as yielding real-world results. If your social media is bringing in new members, driving people to your events and programs and engaging people in your advocacy – THEN, you’re doing it right.
Social Media and Yielding Real-WorLd Results
Honestly, setting that as your goal is the first step. Congratulations!
It’s too easy to look at metrics on social media as their own category – i.e. “We hired a social media manager for $50K, and have 2,500 followers, post 3x per day and our posts were seen 132,000 times.”
The important questions to ask are did you bring in new members, increase sponsorship, advance your economic development or advocacy goals, develop new strategic partnerships or help your members grow through that investment?
Your social media investment ($$ and time) needs to be integrated into everything you do.
If your social media program isn’t yielding real-world results, then, frankly, why are you investing the time and effort?
I cringe when I hear organizations (companies, too!) say, “We need to be posting more,” or “We need to be on Instagram,” without any strategic thinking or data on why they believe that.
Because, I can assure you, if you don’t know your own purpose for doing so, the social media community – including your followers – is not going to care what you put out there.
Let’s Make It Happen
We break down a social media program into three parts:
- Finding Your Target Audience
- Developing Your Story and Delivery Method
- Engaging Your Audience
Let’s go through those one-by-one:
Finding Your Target Audience
We talk at Momentum often about finding where your targets audience hangs out.
Of course, we’re talking about where can we find them in real life, at chambers of commerce and other business associations, but the same concept is equally as important on social media.
Where do your members hang out?
Note: We’re bypassing the notion of actually knowing who your perfect members and prospects are… If you don’t have a grasp on that yet, start there first.
With the IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW Podcast, when I send our interviewees (chamber execs) the links to their episodes, I pay close attention to where they post, and the results of them doing so.
Some are strong on LinkedIn. Others on Twitter. Some Facebook.
The ones who post on all three are the ones I watch the most closely.
Why? Because I often see that one platform performs way above the others.
A chamber might be very strong on LinkedIn, but doing “due diligence” to post on the other platforms, as well.
It tells me where their engaged members “hang out” online.
Our philosophy is, that if you can identify – whether by intention or happenstance – that your members tend to congregate on a specific platform… Spend most of your time and effort there. Create awesome content tailor-made for that platform.
In fact, don’t just spend your time and effort there, but start to encourage your members and the community that THAT is the place to go to communicate with you.
If you want the full coverage for comfort, then set up systems for the others.
I can tell you, for Momentum, we focus on my personal LinkedIn:
- LinkedIn is where the primary content goes, and is then shared elsewhere
- My e-mail signature, my QR code and my digital business card all emphasize finding me and my content on LinkedIn
- After posting on LinkedIn, I do post on other platforms, and then use SocialBee (great tool) for evergreen posts
This is a strategy that’s now a few years in motion, and it’s working.
Once I learned not to focus on digital metrics, as opposed to real-world results, our LinkedIn-first strategy has directly yielded three clients and numerous referral and strategic partnerships.
Developing Your Story and Delivery Method
Like most parents, I’ve spent a lot of time watching Disney movies and shows.
But, being an author and a marketer, I probably look at the movies through a different set of eyes than most people – breaking down both the story and the storytelling.
One of the things that fascinates me most is the various graphics styles that Disney uses for characters – even the decision to use traditional animation versus CGI.
I envision the first meetings on a project, and the first artwork renderings, where they decide these things – the artistic style, the shapes of the faces and eyes, the amount of detail in the backgrounds.
These storytelling decisions are just as important as the story, itself, because not only do they offer tone, but they have to be consistent throughout the movie or show’s runtime.
I believe it’s important for all of us, and definitely chambers of commerce, to think about things the same way.
Chambers’ stories have many facets – from membership to events to advocacy to customized services to so much more – and it’s a lot to tell it all.
But there’s a value in know HOW you’re going to tell your story.
Will you use video? Or long-form posts?
Will you drive people to your web site? Or will you try to start conversation right on the platform?
Will you focus your feed on your content? Or share your members’ stuff?
Now, some of these answers will rely on capacity, and in-house skillsets, of course, but understanding your storytelling strategy will help you to focus your resources.
It’s also ok to try some things, the results of which will tell you how your members want to engage with you.
Engaging Your Audience
This is the implementation, and it takes discipline.
Here are some ways to engage your members and the community:
- Tags – We believe in tags, but we believe in relevant tagging. Tagging your members does two things – (1) it puts a notification in their inbox that you mentioned them; and (2) it helps get their name out to your bigger audience (big-time member value). If you’re posting photos, it’s ALWAYS worth the time to go through and tag every member in them. If you’re talking about how great your mixer was the night before, or a productive meeting you had, tag the folks that attended and get them to be involved in the post.
- Conversational Posts – We made the joke above about the “favorite color” question (which, so sadly, is a prevalent theme on social media – these innocent questions designed to get you to waste eight seconds of your time), but there are plenty of thing chambers do on a daily basis that can lead to discussion and feedback. It can be content based, or something as simple as “What did you think about our panel this morning?” or “What’s your favorite food you’ve ever had at one of our events?”
- Do your part… Make sure you’re following your members’ accounts, and engaging with their content. This will not only show real-world reciprocal value that will grow the relationship, but is also beneficial within the various platforms’ algorithms.
Understanding your members, knowing where they hang out, having a strategically-crafted story, and engaging your members will help you to translate your social media efforts into real-world results.
Still Looking for Easy? ChatGPT and Your Social Media
We’re going to stay away from the various controversies over ChatGPT and other AI chatbot services, and avoid the whole “take over the world” conspiracies, to let you know that ChatGPT is a powerful tool for chambers of commerce in this social media conversation.
We do full presentations on using ChatGPT, but we’ll sum them up here quickly:
- ChatGPT is a tremendous tool for helping chambers overcome “the blank page”… Whether it’s social media posts, press releases or blast e-mails, the AI can give you almost what you need to send – in a fraction of the time.
- Almost is the operative word. ChatGPT is not absolute, and often has mistakes and misinformation. Before sending anything, it’s important to review, and even do some additional research to make sure everything your sending is accurate.
- ChatGPT is also a great tool for research. We (Momentum) were evaluating CRMs for close to a year, and decided to ask the AI what it thought – “evaluate the various CRM tools on the market related to cost, ease of use and integrations”… It spit out worthwhile recommendations, and we made a decision within the week.
Now, all of this is theory, and until you get in and play with it, it’s hard to visualize. So, here’s a real-world example queried for the Niagara USA Chamber recently:
Now, obviously, we couldn’t just post these verbatim (not sure where the “bump and grind” came from), but this exercise took about 20 seconds, and we had five social media posts pretty much ready to go.
Last week, we did a job description for an intern position in about 30 seconds.
Critical to all of this, though, is that you have to know how to ask the queries to get the results you want.
In fact, that skillset has become so important, it’s actually opened up a new career path for people with the mind for it.
I do encourage you to try out ChatGPT, or whatever AI platform you like – seems like there are new ones sprouting every day.
Don’t worry, marketing people… AI isn’t coming for your job. Yet.
Where Do We Go From Here?
We didn’t write this blog because we want to get business doing social media for chambers (that sounds so awful – could you imagine?).
We wrote it because as we talk with chambers around North America, the top two challenges that we hear are:
- Our ambassador program isn’t working the way it should (for which we built our Virtual Ambassador Training program); and
- Our social media isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do
#2 is confirmed by simple searches.
We watch. We see lots of chambers who are posting regularly, where no one is engaging with their posts – which means no one is seeing their posts.
I encourage you to get out of the mindset of, “We need to be doing social media,” and transition to, “If we do social media right, we can create significant real-world results.”
We do consult on social media for chambers, and our “Growing Your Business through LinkedIn” webinar generally attracts 20-25 members when we partner with a chamber on it, so, if you’d like to talk more, set up a Zoom with us.