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Social Media Etiquette: How to Plan an Effective Online Strategy

Social Media Etiquette: How to Plan an Effective Online Strategy

Social networks are one of today's most popular forms of online communication, as utilized daily by billions of users worldwide. So, it is no surprise that many organizations and associations have also jumped on the bandwagon. However, it is important to note that, from a professional standpoint, observation of certain rules of conduct (and best practices with regards to corporate communications) are a must when conducting outreach via these mediums.

Planning an effective social strategy does not have to be difficult. Following, you will find several hints and tips that can help your non-profit or association lead, succeed, communicate more effectively via high-tech channels, and generally put your best foot forward online.


Effective Social Media Management is Often a Full-Time Job

Association members (and the general public) will expect the dialogue to flow both ways but also be timely and frequent. Allocate resources, time and manpower accordingly. Ultimately, maintaining consistent, running conversation is key, as is regularly making a note of and responding to incoming dialogue.

Properly utilizing social media necessitates consistent and frequent commentary, and posts that reinforce your expertise and thought leadership. Figure out what level of response (and response time) works best for your organization and commit to it, allocating time and resources accordingly.


Maintain a Consistent Posting Identity

Corporate posts do not have to be made by the same individual every time, or an officer of the organization. However, all posts should maintain a consistent personality, tone, and level of value creation. Always be thinking of how you can contribute positively to public dialogue, and add information or insights of worth to social network connections.

Be sure that all representatives of your organization who do post are courteous, respectful, and audience-focused, as well as cognizant of brand and style guidelines.

Audit Social Media Resources and Audiences

Before launching any social media campaign or presence, make a detailed study of the sites, platforms, and services where your desired audience is found. Identify the audience and resources that best align with your association's long-term goals and objectives. Focusing attention and presence on these sites will help you maximize outreach efforts and user engagement (and use time and resources most wisely). Otherwise, you can become spread thin and participate less effectively across a wider range of vehicles.

Frequency and reach are basic marketing principles, as is audience targeting. Concentrating your aim makes it easier to hit your target rather than employing a shotgun strategy.


Schedule Time for Social Media

Make sure you or your staff have allocated and scheduled enough workday time to respond and engage with your various social media communities. If you cannot post content or respond promptly, your audience may come to believe you are not listening to them. Not responding to a tweet or a Facebook post can be viewed as the equivalent of not returning a phone call or email. Moreover, while you cannot always address all social media, you can at least make efforts to speak to larger trending topics in public forums. Doing so helps assuage the broader user community's concerns.


Know the Differences Between Social Media Communities

Remember that each social network has its own features, personality, and community. Study the outlets you participate in, and understand the different nuances so that your message is not simply carbon-copied across each forum in the same way. Audiences differ, as do consumption models across social media vehicles. A one-size approach will not work here.

Although the capabilities and audiences of social vehicles may vary, make sure your message and brand are consistent and cross-promoted across the different social media channels. Establishing a style guide and dedicated social team or member can be tremendously helpful to helping maintain consistency of tone, image, and overall user impression and take away.


Is Your Content Engaging?

The more compelling and meaningful the content you share via social media, the more your audience members will engage with it.

The key question to ask yourself at every turn is "What's in it for the audience?"

Encourage people to communicate, comment, and interact with you. One example might include placing a call to action (i.e., a request for viewers' thoughts and feedback) at the bottom of every post. Incentivization is key here. Think about the action steps you want readers or viewers to take, and what would drive users to take them. Create a two-way conversation that encourages your members to want to help you promote your message. Simply blasting information out to them is less effective than soliciting their commentary and input.


Know Your Audience

Listen to your audience to discover its likes, needs, and interests. Next, provide insights and information to match. The more you help end-users, the more they will become advocates.

Loyal and passionate fans should be responded to and engaged with. It is vital to find ways to reward and spotlight your community. The more you extend the hand of friendship to end-users and acknowledge their efforts, the bigger fans they will become and the more goodwill you will have the opportunity generate.

The key is to always be up-front and genuine with your audience. Afford your audience the same respect and standing that they provide your business and brand.


Deliver a Valuable Resource

Make sure your content is useful and informative – become a go-to resource. Give your audience tips, links to helpful articles and sites, and other pertinent information. Likewise, don't be afraid to shout out or partner with outside organizations, individuals, and influencers who share common philosophies and interests. Win-win is always the way to go.

Always make sure your content and outreach initiatives are relevant to, and create value for, your audience. Doing so necessitates looking at promotional efforts from new angles so that the focus is on them, not you.


Set Standards for Your Content

Make sure your organization's messages meet specific base criteria before posting, including:

  • Is it fun and imaginative?
  • Is it energetic and enthusiastic?
  • Does it draw attention with cool and exciting details?

The goal should be to make content inviting, interactive, and accessible. Frequently deliver a great deal of small, bite-sized items while encouraging others to interact with you around these pieces of content. Ask questions, start conversations, and otherwise encourage your audience to share and participate in the dialogue.


Develop and Stick to a Strategy

Be cognizant of your organization's voice and messaging strategy, and make sure you standardize posts with them in mind. Have a standard messaging cadence as well, and make sure you supervise it, noting that it can always be modified.

Keep in mind that social marketing campaigns are based on the idea that you are continuously optimizing, and oftentimes on the fly, as you never know when a specific piece of content will begin to trend. If a post does start to take off in terms of user awareness, be prepared and have a second post with further information ready to follow to keep the conversation running.



Award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today's best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital World, Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty and Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap. The founder of Select nightlife magazine, and host of Next Up on NewsWatch, his website is www.AKeynoteSpeaker.com.



You can learn more about social media, associations, and events by attending Randall Craig's upcoming webinar, CAE Webinar: Driving Event Attendance and Engagement with Social Media.




Marketing, Scott Steinberg, Social Media, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin


Marketing, Guest Contributor, Web / Technology



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