For professional associations, organizations, and special interest or cause-oriented groups, influence is relative to membership.
The bigger the number, the greater the influence.
Key to this is member engagement. In the digital age, membership recruitment happens in social spaces.
That is when it becomes a derivative of influence marketing.
Here are five examples of how influence marketing works for professional associations or member organizations.
1. Your Members Are Your Influencers
No influencer can better target your audience directly than your own members. Smart marketing is using members to push and promote your content.
They do not only amplify your message, they multiply earned media.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists creates hashtag campaigns in promoting national, regional or chapter events. They push this out for their members to use.
They make available materials and promotional content to their members who are active on Twitter and blogging for sharing.
2. How Events Can Drive Influence
Events are the best macro influencers for professional associations. Macro in terms of the large audience that will be captured by a single event, as well as in terms of return of investment.
Events are venues for recruitment of members, partners and sponsors (if it applies).
Events can be a source of revenue. This is how the Canadian Marketing Association has sustained and flourished as a group.
Their members support these events because of the potential opportunities for networking, learning, partnerships, or to project leadership.
Event marketing is an art that the CMA has mastered, and it has used this to grow their influence and position itself as a leader.
3. Using Advocacy to Build Influence for Your Professional Association
With multiple types of content being created every minute, the internet is flooded with messages of all types, shapes and forms. But having a cause or an advocacy is a way to cut through the noise and capture your audience’s attention.
Advocacy instills trust in the association. When an association stands for something and/or believes in something, brand reputation is strengthened.
For professional associations, it builds an image, renders credibility, and integrity.
The National Small Business Association is America’s small business advocate. With their advocacy to protect the interests of small business owners, their influence is more effective.
With 65,000 members in every state and every industry in the U.S., their advocacy has turned into expertise on small businesses.
They used advocacy to grow their organization and become a leader representing the small business community.
Professional associations do not have to own and initiate an advocacy – they can also collaborate with advocacy groups that align with their goals.
These collaborations – especially if they’re with larger advocates – allow you to tap into macro-influencers, who can be celebrities or well-known personalities who endorse your campaign.
The Produce Marketing Association, a trade organization representing companies from every segment of the global fresh produce and floral supply chain, utilized this when it launched its “Eat Brighter” campaign.
Not only did they find macro influencers to work with – they also found these influencers to be powerful allies in the shapes of former first lady Michelle Obama, and Sesame Street.
With goals aligned to promote children’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables as part of the commitment to the Partnership for Healthier America, PMA’s community of suppliers and retailers leveraged the strength and influence of the former first lady and the Sesame Street brand.
This led to an extremely powerful and successful collaboration.
4. Building Influence Through Content Marketing
Your association’s tone and voice need not be professional or formal all the time – break that stereotype and be relatable in your content.
If you want to be engaging while still presenting the facts and information members need to know about you, storify it.
The American Christmas Tree Association, an organization that provides Christmas tree-related data to the public, is making every day Christmas with their storyful content.
It is a real challenge for ACTA to be relevant all-year round, but it has made its Christmas-tree related content evergreen with stories that start conversations, and sharing ideas about the traditions of having real Christmas trees.
Stories about the association’s members – the Christmas tree farmers, for example – also helped start an advocacy to support them.
They also piggy-backed on National Fire Prevention Week with blog posts about fire hazard mindfulness for Christmas trees and decorations.
5. Building Quality Followers to Drive Influence
To paraphrase Uncle Ben from Spider-Man, “With great followers comes great influence.”
It’s not about the numbers, but the quality – the followers who give you earned media. Whether a well-known personality or an ordinary Joe, nobody, there is strength in those followers out there who tag you.
It’s social proof of your influence, providing you with valuable earned media.
Harness follower power to your advantage. A follower is also your influencer, their posts are your earned content.
Every earned media means earned credibility. So use that power to grow your association, to influence decisions to donate or sign up, and/or promote your advocacy.
The Canadian Mental Health Association, one of Canada’s oldest volunteer organizations championing mental health, understands the power of giving back.
For an organization that is a big recipient of support, it is also a big giver of support to its followers.
For those that promote CMHA on social, it promotes them back by reposting their posts on Instagram, or – taking it further – endorses its followers and their social media channels.
CMHA is not only making their followers feel valued, but is also reaching the followers of their followers.
Reposting earned media as repurposed content is influence amplified.
Like any other business, professional or national associations and organizations need to grow, and membership engagement is key.
As awareness grows, so does your influence – use it wisely to deliver the results your organization seeks.