Sunshine and Social Media: Banfield-Seguin at the IABC Leadership Institute in Scottsdale, AZ

When I was asked to present on a topic I love (social media) in Arizona in February, I definitely jumped at the opportunity. The event was the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Leadership Institute—an annual gathering of IABC board members from chapters around the world to share ideas and knowledge while developing leadership skills.

More specifically, the topic of my session was Optimizing Social Media: Tips for Integrating with your Chapter’s Communications Strategy and I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Preston Lewis, President of IABC/San Francisco. While the content was tailored to IABC Chapters, the advice and insight generated is transferable to many organizations using social media.

The format was interactive—we started by asking attendees what they hoped to gain from the session, which Preston recorded on flip charts. Next we presented examples of well-executed social media tactics from various chapters around the world.

We finished with an in-depth case study about IABC/Ottawa and IABC/San Francisco to dive deep into the strategy and planning behind two chapters successfully using social media. Participants chimed in with questions, suggestions and comments throughout the presentation making for an interesting and engaging discussion.

To summarize the outcome of the session (including information we presented and some great tips that came from the audience), here are five social media takeaways for organizations:

Five organizational social media takeaways

Have a plan – and if you don’t have a plan yet, it’s certainly not too late to start one. For various reasons, many organizations leap into social media before fully fleshing out a strategy. Fortunately it is fairly easy to take a step back and assess where you are and where you want to be and develop a plan to get you on track. The added bonus of this approach is if you’ve already established channels and have been using them you can easily create customized benchmarks to measure future success.

Tie success back to organizational objectives – The objectives of your social media plan should tie directly back to your organizational objectives. In the excitement of social media we get caught up on points like “let’s get more followers” or “we need more engagement.” Obviously these are important components of social media use but they are not what you are ultimately working towards. If your organizational objective is to increase membership than your social media objective might be to have X new members who learned about our organization through social media channels. (You can measure this by placing a “how did you hear about us” in your membership application form.) With this objective, getting more followers is still very important but it shifts the focus to quality and not quantity , It guides your efforts towards followers who are more likely to be potential members.

Be provocative – Social media love controversy. You likely don’t want to be controversial as an organization, but if it aligns with your brand you can introduce a bit of provocation. Take a stance on an industry issue, (respectfully) disagree with someone... Conversation is not always warm and fuzzy and you likely may benefit from being an authentic social media presence. Disclaimer: I think this is a GREAT tip to present to a room full of communicators who understand the distinction between being provocative and controversial, but if you want to recommend this within your organization make sure that distinction is clear and you’ve thought through the consequences of provocation gone wrong.

Social media to support a specific need or audience – Your social media plan need not support every single business objective you have. There may be a small area or focus within an audience that could be greatly enhanced by the use of social media. Sometimes starting small or looking at a pilot project is a great way to dip your toes in social media without committing a lot of resources. For example, Aa representative from IABC/Toronto had a great tip for using social media specifically to engage its student population since it finds that many of the Facebook fans are students and students are keen to interact on Facebook. Review your communications strategy and see if there’s an underserved audience or need that social media may be ideal to support and use that as a starting point.

Introduce local flavour – If your organization is regionally based, consider incorporating a local flavour into your social media branding. The visual cue will help local audiences immediately identify with you, while also demonstrating outwardly a sense of pride in your location. It’s easy to forget that social media is accessible on a global scale but often you are trying to reach people closer to home. Take pride in your locale and use social media to show it off.

A sample of the tactics ideas recorded by Preston. 
I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend this event and bring back valuable insight. Thank you to my colleagues at Banfield-Seguin for always supporting and encouraging of my involvement with IABC.

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