Everything You Can (and Should) Learn From Influencers

On social media, digital influencers often have the freedom to act and respond in ways that your organization might want to avoid. But what can you learn from them about how to make your message more impactful?

By Eric Goodstadt

You might be the center of attention at your own meetings, but it’s pretty easy to feel lost trying to drum up the same attention online.

Often, it seems like prominent voices on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube have a crystal ball that tells them exactly what is relevant at any given moment … while your association’s own campaigns struggle.

Not only are you paying more to get less, but sometimes there’s almost no engagement at all. Perhaps this is why, according to a Rakuten study [PDF], 59 percent of marketers say they increased influencer marketing budgets over the past year.

What could you borrow from influencers for your association’s social feeds? Here are some strategies to consider:

Don’t Lose Your Point of View

With multiple layers of approval and a brand to protect, it’s not always easy to maintain a sharp point of view. It is, however, easy to lose your edge—and to lose the thing most valued in social realms: an ownable voice.

Think about how social media influencers who aren’t afraid to share their opinions, like popular tech reviewer Marques Brownlee, might dish out a thought on a hot topic. There’s very little to stop him from calling it like it is. While that might be too edgy for you or others in your organization, your members are looking to you for your POV (as I pointed out recently).

So how do you strike that balance between brand safety and POV? Manifest Director of Audience Engagement Amy Linert suggests creating a social playbook that’s both clearly defined and has buy-in within the organization, especially from the leadership team.

“It should include which conversations are greenlighted, which aren’t, and how to bring a brand voice into the social world,” Linert explains. “An internal playbook also outlines appropriate engagement game plans and defines how to mitigate risk.”

She also suggests using social listening so your organization can better understand the tenor of online discussions. That way, “when a brand decides to enter the conversation, it’s in a way that balances how the audience interacts with the brand tone.”

You need to find your organization’s distinct voice—and stick with it.

Don’t Overthink It

When influencers update their audiences on social media, they aren’t necessarily looking to make a production of every post. In fact, some of their best work is off the cuff. Those moments have an air of authenticity. Brands big and small should have a similar goal.

While your organization’s audience may be more LinkedIn than Instagram, you should define how your organization can follow suit with spontaneity—especially given that so much content now found on traditional platforms tends to have a lot of extra polish. Are you spending weeks or months staging your social posts, videos, and photos—or are you trying for something simpler and mobile-driven?

Sometimes less is more. An iPhone may be all you need to share a quick video moment. Plan a less-intensive campaign around a small project and find out.

Don’t Overwhelm the Stream

Recently, there’s been a major e-newsletter trend in digital journalism in which writers send missives only once or twice a week.

Instead of having a corporate tone, these are often written by individuals and have a casual voice. The secret to their success is that they’re not in your face. They show up at specific times—say, 6 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays—and they’re as consistent (and inviting) as your morning coffee. Some, in fact, appear only once a week or once a month.

This allows your audience to step back, digest, and take in even more information. It makes the impact stronger.

Compare that with what you might see on Facebook, where organic reach is just 5.5 percent, according to Hootsuite, or on Twitter, where HubSpot says the average post has a life span of just 18 minutes. Many brands, including associations, have responded by flooding the stream with content. But this wears down your messaging and your overall resolve. When you’re posting 20 times a day, how can you expect to stay consistent and reliable?

It’s too easy in a digital world to be part of the noise. Don’t overwhelm your audiences on social media. Make an impact at just the right moment, when they’re likely to be receptive.

Be their ally through your engagement strategy—by staying relevant rather than offering another distraction. It’s why they’re your members—or thinking about joining.

Eric Goodstadt, president of Manifest, has more than two decades of experience in the agency world, serving clients in diverse sectors—including associations, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies.

(ALLVISIONN/iStock/Getty Images Plus)