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Chamber Executive Article Archive

Social Media Strategy: Engage, Provide Value, Get Members!

Frank J. Kenny

Winter 2012

Did you know that only about 17 percent of your chamber’s Facebook fans see your posts? Some studies suggest the percentage might be as low as 3 percent. That means that even if you are doing well growing your fan base, the actual number of people seeing your posts is probably much lower than you think. If your posts aren’t seen, your social media strategy will suffer.

Engage Your Fans

Take a look at your chamber’s Facebook Page. Do you see a long list of posts with only a few comments, likes, or shares? That’s a problem because it informs Facebook that your fans lack interest, and generally have a weak relationship with your page. Facebook has an algorithm known as EdgeRank, which decides if a post should go into your fans’ newsfeeds. If EdgeRank decides that your post doesn’t cut the mustard, it won’t show up. The way to get more of your posts seen by your page’s fans is to make sure that Facebook can tell that their relationship to you is strong enough to warrant putting it in their newsfeed.

There are strategies that some chambers use to tell Facebook that the relationships they have with their fans are strong. One is to post the kind of content that more people chose to comment on, share, and like. What to post? Photos, especially images of people your fans know.

Did your chamber recently host an event? Hopefully you took lots of photos of your members. Post those images, making sure you tag each person in each photo. Yes, this requires you to be a Facebook friend of the people you tag, which means they have confirmed a friend request from you, or you have confirmed one from them.

Does this work? According to Rebecca Hellwig, Communications Manager at the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, “When we posted photos, our views increased from 20 to 100 or even 200.”

Another quick and easy strategy is to visit your members’ fan pages, as your chamber’s page, and engage them. Look for posts on your members’ pages that are generating interest, then contribute to the conversation. All the commenters are then exposed to your chamber’s page and have the opportunity to become fans. This kind of proactive engagement is a great way to introduce your fan page to a wider audience. Especially look for pages with high fan counts and heavy activity.

If you want to figure out your Facebook page’s engagement percentage do this: As an administrator of your chamber’s page, click on the Insights link. Scroll down until you can see the chart with your latest posts. Add up the “Reach” of the 10 latest posts. Divide by 10 to get the average. Divide that average by your total number of fans. That will give you your actual reach percentage.

Provide Value

The next step, now that your posts are reaching more of your fans, is to provide value to your members and community so that others want to be involved, to have a relationship, with your chamber through social media.

I encourage chamber executives to think of their chambers as media companies just like the local newspaper and radio station. Who sits at the virtual intersection of business, citizens, and government? Your chamber.

Because your chamber occupies that niche in your community, it provides you immense reach. That reach is not just to the chamber’s Facebook fans, Twitter followers, LinkedIn group members, e-newsletter subscribers, Google+ followers, and all the rest. Multiply those numbers by the reach of your members.

With social media, and through your members, you are now one degree of separation from everybody who lives and works in your region. Who in your region doesn’t do business with at least a single member? No one.

Put that reach to work for you and your members by sharing and re-tweeting their posts. Some chambers and EDCs, such as One Southern Indiana in New Albany, are so aware of the value of their social media reach that it’s part of their membership marketing strategy. At One Southern Indiana, says President and CEO Jody Wassmer, the chamber will soon announce this membership benefit as part of its tiered dues structure. “We’ve been tiered for three years,” Wassmer says, “but we’re going to update our offering to include benefits from the chamber’s social media activities. We’ll promote the fact that the chamber will re-post and re-tweet members’ Facebook and Twitter updates to extend our members’ social media reach. It’s another way of demonstrating that we help members with their marketing and that we’re a technology resource for them.”

The Greater Fresno Area Chamber provides reach and member value by putting a “spotlight” on members by sharing their news, giving them more visibility than they could hope to get from their own Facebook fan base, says Hellwig.

Avery Pickard, executive director of the Mount Adams Chamber in White Salmon, Wash., says, “Of the businesses new to our chamber membership in 2011, we know that about 60 percent got their initial exposure to our chamber from Facebook. We also found that while businesses value the chamber’s Facebook content, they are even more interested in our page’s capacity to triple and quadruple the exposure of content our members post to their pages with a simple “Share.” Indeed, the “Share” is now a listed benefit, exclusive to members, but visible to all.”

Remember, your Facebook page isn’t just a repository for press releases and meeting announcements. Engagement is critical if you want your posts to be seen. Then use your reach for your members’ benefit.

Convert Value to Memberships

In the first few years of using social media, chambers were rightly focused on the first two of the three main social media goals: Attention/Awareness and Retention/Loyalty. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the third goal, Acquisitions/Conversion. It’s time for chambers to convert their fans, followers, and friends into paying members. Adding new members to your membership won’t happen by chance. It takes strategy and work. But it is happening.

In California, Spencer Schluter, marketing and communications manager at the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, says he came to realize that the people who became fans, followers or friends of his chamber’s social media sites had just qualified themselves as having some level of interest, which the chamber reciprocated. Schluter collects the names of the new connections each month for a follow-up from the membership department. Membership doesn’t base the sales call on the social media relationship, but instead uses the connection to start the call or visit on a warm footing. According to Schluter, some 60 leads were generated over nine months, mostly from Twitter but also from Facebook, and several became new members.

Another conversion strategy from the Bakersfield Chamber is to allow any business to post on the chamber’s wall but when a non-member posts, the chamber replies with: “Thank you for your post. Our records show you are not currently a member of the Chamber. In addition to our Facebook page, as a member there are many ways we can help promote your organization. If you would like more information about joining the Chamber please contact us at (661) 327-4421.” This is a polite, professional, and a very public way of pointing out who is not a member while also offering to provide value and services.

The Bakersfield chamber also includes the phrase “From Chamber Member” in posts they share from members.

The Springfield (MO) Area Chamber has a thriving LinkedIn group of 1,338 members. When non-members request to join the group they are asked to join the chamber first. Chris Rozier, membership sales coordinator, believes the retention numbers for active group members approaches 100%. Rozier has found that he rarely has to cold call prospects because his chamber has built up so many social media relationships. Claire Faucett, public relations and interactive media manager, who has been active with the chamber’s social media efforts since 2008, says “The success of the LinkedIn group was actually an ah-ha moment for the chamber. From there we expanded into Facebook, Twitter and the other platforms.”

Conclusion

Chambers must engage their fans if they expect their posts to be seen. Merely posting press releases and routine news stories is sure to make your visibility plummet. Once your members are engaged, you should share, like and comment on their posts to provide value because of your chamber’s massive reach and position in the community. Next, chambers must convert that reach and engagement into new members and higher retention rates. When non-members engage, it’s an invitation to build a relationship. Those new relationships should be nurtured and ultimately converted to memberships.

Frank J. Kenny is a nationally known author, speaker, and new media consultant. A faculty member of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Organization Management (IOM), he has presented seminars on social media through the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) and the Western Association of Chamber Executives (W.A.C.E.). He recently released “2012 Social Media Survey: Challenges and Goals,” which includes the nine main social media challenges faced by chambers and their members. To download the free report, click here.

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