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How to Use Instagram and Snapchat to Grow Association Membership

‍For associations hoping to attract younger members, you’ve probably noticed a lessening of interaction on Facebook. Here's are our top tips for using Instagram and Snapchat to recruit a younger audience.

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If the only constant in life is change, then the only rule of marketing is to be ahead of the change. This is especially true where social media is concerned. Knowing where your target audience is most active is a critical component of your social marketing strategy; after all, you can’t hit a target if you don’t know where to aim.

For associations hoping to attract younger members, you’ve probably noticed a lessening of interaction on Facebook. This is due to the fact that younger generations are becoming more private with their information (and can we really blame them?), and are thus frequently turning to platforms like Instagram and Snapchat where they have more control over who sees what and how long their content stays in circulation.  But these aren’t the only draws of Snapchat and Instagram. One of the big draws of these platforms is the fact that they’re largely visual. For generations with shorter attention spans, images are a super-fast way to absorb information – and they carry the potential for deep emotional impact as well. Since a shift in people’s tendencies means a shift in tactics for marketers, the first step is to notice this movement toward the visual realm and adjust accordingly.

But, before you sign into your Snapchat or Instagram account and start trying to engage followers, you need to have a game plan. Remember, these platforms are being used by a generation that’s looking for privacy, so brazenly invading their bubbles will be a huge turn-off. Your strategy needs to be subtle yet penetrating. Let’s dig into these two outlets for some best practices and ideas for finding your target on each platform. We’ll start with the lowdown on Snapchat.

Keep it snappy: Snapchat

The main advantage of Snapchat is that images disappear within 24 hours of being viewed by recipients (or within 24 hours of posting if you’re using the Stories function), making it the perfect outlet for short-and-sweet conversations that you don’t necessarily want to have record of forever. You could say that the two most unique aspects of Snapchat are its urgency (due to the fact that images don’t remain forever) and its privacy (since you need to be added to an individual’s network in order to see their snaps).

But, how can these points be leveraged by your association?

Urgency actually is an incredibly powerful tool from a marketing perspective. It can be used to drive demand and incite action. So, when you pair a valuable offer with a compelling call-to-action, then add urgency to boot, you create a punchy, impactful campaign in a single snap. For example, your association can offer a giveaway as a lead generation tool to gain followers. You could call on a sponsor or partner to donate something valuable that you can raffle off, then ask your followers to share a snap of themselves in order to be entered into the contest. Or, you can send out a snap that includes a link to an exclusive online webinar – offering only 24 hours for them to sign up. You can even use a snap as a “teaser” for upcoming events, as in, “Stay tuned to see a behind-the-scenes with our guest speaker!”

This is where the privacy comes into play. Because Snapchatters only see snaps from friends that they follow, you can play this up by offering exclusive content. You can leverage your other networks (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and invite friends to follow you on Snapchat for access to content that can’t be found anywhere else. Video snaps of events, interviews, or random fun invite engagement in a personal, one-to-one way that can’t be found on many other social media platforms.

The nature of Snapchat as a personal and visually-oriented platform make it perfect for reaching Millennial and Gen Z audiences that simultaneously crave one-on-one connection and yet are skeptical of privacy invasion. You can build a solid, credible foundation for your association by creating a Snapchat persona that is informative, friendly, and fun – and that conveys a sense of personal connection with each of your followers.

Insta-advertising: Instagram

If Snapchat can be described as ultra-exclusive and Facebook is a wide open book, then Instagram falls somewhat in the middle. Instagrammers can choose to keep their profiles private or public, but one of the main differences between Instagram and Snapchat is that on Instagram, businesses can purchase ads to be seen by specific audiences – just like you would on Facebook. This means that instead of working to gain followers as you would on Snapchat, you can purchase ads that will be seen by your designated target audience. This is much less time consuming than trying to build a Snapchat rapport, but it also creates a bit of a breach from the personal connection. Still, once you have an Instagram following (and more on that later), this is the perfect outlet for getting creative. Share the faces behind your association, special event videos, or images of members getting involved in their community. This is the place to show your best side in an immediate, high-impact way. And if you’re familiar with Twitter, you already know about using hashtags. This technique is just as important on Instagram for helping you get in front of audiences with similar interests

.Let’s go back to the ads, because that’s a feature unique to this platform and is worth mentioning. To run an Instagram ad campaign, you actually set up your ads in Facebook, by linking your Facebook and Instagram accounts. Facebook sets up target audiences for you based on your business information and who you want to reach, linking your ads up to viewers who may find your information relevant. By regularly running an Instagram ad campaign, you expand your visibility beyond your current follower group, and route viewers back to your Instagram page. The price of running such a campaign can rack up quickly, as the more clicks you get the more you’ll pay. Be sure you have a budget in mind before you begin so you don’t exceed your campaign limit.

Getting the views

Now all of this information is completely useless if you’re not able to get a following on your Instagram or Snapchat accounts. Let’s see a few examples of how to ramp up your headcount and start reaching more viewers.

1. Leverage your current following on other platforms.

You may not have much of a following on Instagram or Snapchat yet. That’s ok. You undoubtedly have Facebook or Twitter followers, as well as an email list. Start by promoting your new social accounts through these outlets. For example, send out an email blast inviting your friends to follow you on Snapchat for exclusive news. Or, create an organic Facebook post for your current followers to check out your Instagram to get insider news and tips. It’s much easier to keep an audience than to get one initially, so start off with the friends you already have.

2. Partner up.

Does your association have a corporate partner? How about a prominent local figure who loves your work? Ask them to promote you on their social platforms, then do the same for them. This gives you both greater exposure to your ideal targets.

3. Get real.

Snapchat especially is where people expect real, raw, nitty gritty talk. Hold interviews or Q&A sessions where questions are answered exclusively on Snapchat, and promote your session on your other social media outlets. This will get people following, but more importantly, it will get them to see the caring individuals behind the organization.

4. See who’s following similar organizations.

Chances are, if someone is following an account that is similar to yours, they could be interested in what you have to offer as well. Check out the Instagram accounts of organizations and businesses that have comparable goals to your own, then take a look at their followers. These are people that may benefit from your association, so follow them or engage with them in some way to establish a rapport and get a follow back.

Be social-smart

Your social media presence is a deep and integral part of your organization as a whole. People no longer want to know just what you offer. They want to know what you stand for and who you are, and outlets like Instagram and Snapchat are the ideal platform for this kind of connection.

No matter which outlet you use, remember that it’s not all about getting followers. You need to keep your followers interested and give them reasons to engage with you. The goal is to generate real, viable leads – which cannot be achieved without consistent engagement and effort on your part.

Keep your content casual, but always consistent with your association’s goals and identity. Make sure your imagery is eye-catching, something that gets people to pause their scroll and take a second look. If your photo needs any explaining, keep it brief so that it doesn’t detract from the imagery. And, don’t forget those hashtags! With persistence and some strategic planning, your social presence can be an extension of your organization that both generates and retains members.