Over the past few weeks, I've spent quite a bit of time talking face to face with chamber of commerce executives, both at the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) Convention and the Western Association of Chamber Executives (W.A.C.E.) Academy. We've talked about improving retention, increasing new members sales, generating non-dues revenue and more. But by far the hottest topic has been social media.
I find it puzzling that so many chambers of commerce are still "holding off" on using social media because they want to "get our strategy figured out."
Sarah Hubbard from the Detroit Chamber of Commerce says to not "overthink" your use of social media. Jump in and start learning! See her post where she explains that you need to be familiar with the tools before you can determine a strategy for using them.
Let's think about social media relative to your other communications tools for a moment.
What is your strategy for your newsletter?
For your events?
For your emails?
For your website?
I'll guess that your strategies for these items involves providing relevant and useful information to your members regarding local business issues, government affairs efforts, chamber programs, benefits and policies, your events and community topics. Do the same thing with social media!
Social media allows you to do all the things you're already doing, but with more immediacy and frequency! And, your members get to participate!
Aha....that last bit scares many chambers. How do you handle the "wild card" of your members?
As a rule of thumb, don't say anything on social media sites that you wouldn't say in front of a group of 50, 200 or 500 members. Sure, you'll get some people who disagree you. Take that opportunity to engage in a healthy discussion....be social! See The Pitfalls of Social Media for additional thoughts on this.
Yes, I know I'm simplifying the process here, but my point is that it doesn't need to be hard! You're already using a variety of other communications tools - simply add social media to the mix.
But, who will "control" the social media for your chamber of commerce? My suggestion is to let the same staff who manage your website, email, newsletters and other communications. They're already used to crafting your chamber's message - let them start using additional social media tools to tell your stories.
Jump in! Don't worry about being a social media expert. Use common sense. Learn from others. Adjust to fit your other communications strategies.
And, have some fun, too. The Asheville Chamber of Commerce does a great job of using their blog and Twitter accounts to provide information to their community and promote their members. Recently, they also share a security camera video of a bear that had rummaged through trash cans in their parking lot. It had no direct correlation to business in Asheville, but it was unusual and kind of fun. I've seen other chambers share funny stories of things that happen in the office, too.
These "real life" stories help build relationships with your members and followers. While they want and need the information that can help them run their business more effectively or generate new sales, they'll also appreciate the fact that there's a real person (or people) behind all those great updates from your chamber.
And regardless of your social media goals, building relationships will certainly be part of the strategy.