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Communications That Move Members to Act

April 30, 2014

How do you choose among the many channels for communicating with members.

Some members respond to Pinterest, some to Facebook, some to texting. If you use only e-mail, how many members are you missing? How many channels can an association be expected to use?

REALTOR® AE turned to social media guru Nobu Hata, director of social media engagement for the National Association of REALTORS®, for some practical insight.

“Associations really need to treat communications strategies like their members treat lead generation,” he says. “You’re basically trying to do the same thing: get members to buy in to your association through your channels and ‘close’ them by moving a metric, for example more online engagement, higher event attendance, or more participation in calls to action. Like lead generation, go where your target audience is, make sure your content matters to them, use social media to deploy your message, get advocates (like leadership) to amplify the message, and drive folks back to a hub (your website) for action. There is no limit to the platforms associations should be using, nor should there be. The key is to go to where the bulk of your membership is, stop wasting time where they’re not, and most important, be consistent with your message regardless of platform. Don’t be afraid to repeat it if it’s important.”

Just using e-mail means you’re reaching less than 20 percent of your members by most estimates, says Hata.

To understand how associations can successfully move members to action with social media communications, RAE issued a call for submissions to our “Mobilize Your Members” competition. These four winning campaigns below exhibited innovation, planning, and consistency. But above all, the end result was that members took action.

Best REALTOR® Association Campaigns to Mobilize Members

Event: Put the R on Your Car

Washington REALTORS®, Cara McNeil, communications and publications manager

Challenge: Boost REALTOR® pride, benchmark member responce to social media outreach

Results: 658 entries into the Put the R on Your Car photo campaign

Success: “The campaign was successful in fostering REALTOR® pride throughout the state and setting a benchmark for how members respond to social media engagement campaigns. The ‘R’ sticker concept spawned from trying to provide something of value as a thank you to our members with their dues billing—something with interaction across multiple platforms. Although the bulk of the engagement was through Facebook and Twitter, it carried over to live engagement at events. For instance, when we launched the contest at our Fall business conference, we had members run out to their cars, slap on stickers and take a photo right on the spot.  We learned that campaigns of this nature work best if they can provide more than just member engagement, but can evoke a positive, emotional response in our members.”

Message vehicles: Association website, e-mail, Facebook, Tradable Bits (contest app) on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, dues bill stuffer, YouTube, REALTOR® “R” window decals, print brochure. Materials sent to local associations to promote via their social media channels.

Messages: “Put the ‘R’ on Your Car” photo contest. Take a photo of the REALTOR® “R” decal on your vehicle and then post it online to be entered into a monthly drawing for a $500 cash prize.

Time frame: 3 to 6 months

Campaign hook: Monthly drawing for a $500 cash prize

Analytic tools: Third-party app tool analytics (Tradable Bits)

Bonus: 257 more “likes” to the association Facebook page during the contest.

Education: Driving Web Traffic and Revenue

Birmingham Association of REALTORS®, Andrew Sims, communications director

Challenge: Increase nondues revenue by boosting attendance at all education events; evaluate member response to social media campaigns.

Action: 4,000 education-specific page views back to the association website, resulting in a 33 percent increase in students and a 67 percent increase in educaiton revenue.

Success: “From this campaign, we learned as an association what channels would drive traffic for us, and that we could, in fact, disseminate class listings, video, and more, organically and see very good analytics. We are now using multiple mediums to reach and grow this association. We also found that e-mails sent from ‘Susan’ (our education director) received a 15 percent increase in open rate compared to those from ‘BAR.’ We’re seeing strong responses and valuable in-person feedback from members saying they’ve never been more connected to the association.”

Message vehicles: E-mail newsletter, association website, association blog, Facebook group, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Foursquare. Board of directors and  committee members shared promotions on  their personal social media  channels and e-mail.

Messages: “Risk Management Avoiding Violations (Level 1). Sign up online.” All course promotional posts were prepared to drive traffic back to the Birmingham Association of REALTORS® website.

Time frame: 2 - 3  months

Campaign hook: none

Analytic tools: Facebook insights, Google, YouTube, and MailChimp

Bonus: Received more Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers. We also kicked off an e-mail marketing campaign via MailChimp that saw 10,000 total unique opens across five blasts.

Charity: Seniors Safe at Home

Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS®, Va., Katie Davenport, marketing and communications

Challenge: boost REALTOR® visibility in the community and involve members with charity project.

Action: Raised more than $30,000 for Seniors Safe at Home program. Increased member volunteer turnout for the hands-on imporvement projects.

Success: “Now when you mention Seniors Safe at Home among the membership or in the community, the campaign is immediately identified with the REALTOR® association. One of the key takeaways was that in order to motivate members, we must ‘show,’ not just ‘tell,’ them why it’s important to get involved. FundRazr was great in that respect because when CAAR board members made donations, they would repost on their own social media accounts how easy it was to donate and why it’s important. We kept a steady stream of information across the weekly member newsletter, two to three posts per week on social media, periodic press releases, and updates at each general membership meeting—all these worked in tandem.”

Message vehicles: FundRazr (a social media fundraising application) on association Facebook page, YouTube video, press releases, weekly newsletters, the association website, targeted e-mails from the association president, Twitter, LinkedIn, print (campaign post-cards members could mail to friends and clients)

Messages: “Yesterday it was Debbie Cash; today Pat Sury. CAAR members help Seniors Safe at Home. Won’t you?”

Time frame: 2 - 3  months

Campaign hook: Easy way for members to promote themselves on social media by promoting their contributions.

Analytic tools: Facebook insights

Bonus: Each time we posted updates about a donation or the name of a new beneficiary (see “Messages” above), or the repairs to a family’s home because of the outreach efforts, we saw a boost to our “likes,” shares, and comments across all social media channels.

Education: Seemlessly Switching MLS Platforms

Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS®, Heidi Sergel, web and graphic designer

Challenge: Prepare 3,200 members for an MLS conversion.

Action: 2,974 members completed the acknowledgement form that they knew we were switching to a new MLS system.

Success: “We successfully prepared members for an MLS conversion and, as a result, phone calls on the day of launch were almost normal. We made the campaign a game by making members complete tasks to earn a series of badges and be entered to win an iPad. Judging from our analytics during the conversion, we proved it takes more than just one method of communication to get in touch with members.”

Message vehicles: Unique association website page, Twitter, targeted e-mails, print, MLS site, YouTube videos, SurveyMonkey, monthly webinars

Messages: “Countdown to the Conversion. GAAR is giving away three iPads. Complete your MLS progress tool today to be eligible to win!”

Time frame: 6  months - 1 year

Campaign hook: iPad giveaways

Analytic tools: Website tracking, MLS sign-in tracking, completed acknowledgement forms, e-mail analytics

Bonus: “We saw more association website visitors during this campaign and more e-mail opens and click-throughs.”