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It’s essential to create useful content to keep your audience engaged with your brand, but that’s more complicated when the majority of the working world is at home because of the coronavirus. Engagement is what brings someone from an interested spectator to a dedicated advocate. So, what are some of the ways we can improve our virtual experiences and get people more involved with our organizations?

We asked engagement experts Craig Johns, Haley Correll and Greg Hawks to share their ideas with us during our SURGE Connect virtual conference, and we’ve got three of their suggestions below. But you can hear the rest during SURGE Connect if you register now for our June 9-11 event. 

Tell a story with social media.

Correll, the social media manager at the American Red Cross, suggests that social media should be more than just a platform for organizations to push out their own information.

“I’m a big advocate for using social media as a storytelling tool, not just as a tool to push out your message,” said Correll. “There are a lot of ways that you can do so: tweet threads, Instagram stories, go live on Facebook. Share a photo but really tell the story behind it, and don’t be afraid of long captions.” 

Correll talks about the importance of unfolding a story versus just asking a meaningless question for the sake of engagement.

“If it’s a good, well-structured story, then people are more likely to stick around and have something to say about it,” she said.

Social media provides such a powerful way to engage with audiences. Being personal and demonstrating the real lives of the people behind your organization can go a long way. It’s a relatable and impactful way to drive natural engagement to all your content.

Use analytics to inform your content creation and your engagement strategy.

No matter how hard you might try to escape them, analytics are a valuable resource. Use your analytics to inform the kind of content your organization puts out. Weekly and monthly reporting is necessary to learn what kind of content is receiving the most engagement. Use this to not only inform your social media content but also your blog, newsletter and the kind of conversations you’re choosing to get involved in as an organization. 

At The Red Cross, Correll noticed an influx of interest in mental health due to the coronavirus.

“Anytime we would share something like a mental health tip, we noticed it would get a lot of shares, a lot of engagement, a lot of really good conversation in our comments section, so that’s a cue for us. This is what people are concerned about right now” she said. 

The Red Cross chose to respond to this by starting a mental health series that included positive news stories and mental health advice. 

“Just looking at the analytics and seeing that kind of content was doing really well for us really changed the way we thought about our engagement strategy,” Correll said. 

Find creative ways to bring people together.

Two of the major values the association world brings to its members are networking and physical experiences that inspire innovation and new ideas.

“A lot of associations look to their annual conference, they have this physical component. We get together, we have lunch-and-learns, we share with each other,” Hawks said. So how do we create this level of engagement in a virtual setting? 

“The opportunity for virtual is so different. We’re not trying to replace our physical conference but we’re trying to create a resource that serves our members so that their takeaway is something that really helps them,” Hawks said. 

Some great ways to create a virtual experience are to host a virtual conference, host Zoom meetings, teach a class on Instagram or Facebook Live, find ways to bring people together in a way that they have the opportunity to interact with each other. Because virtual engagement is a newer way of operating, there is so much room for creativity and innovation. Look to other organizations to see some of the ways that they are engaging with their members, and see how you can improve upon it. 

The question we need to focus on is “How do we offer an experience that meets our needs and accelerates our interactions?” Hawks said. 

Ultimately, going virtual was an inevitable step that many organizations were bound to take. The coronavirus forced associations and companies to innovate and be creative virtually. This has only added a layer of possibility for how organizations interact with their audiences. 

To learn more about how you can get creative and create more impactful virtual engagement, check out our SURGE Connect session on virtual engagement. Each panelist offers more detail about how we can create more online connections and add virtual to your resource toolbox to create greater change. 

Post by Chloe Blair
May 21, 2020