Marketing Your Association to Millennials: Make it Social

Social Media MarketingYears ago, while interning for a social media marketer, I was taught the value of social media to engage and attract business. Today social media marketing has changed from meme generation, to promoted posts and tweets, image ads, and pay-per-click (PPC)  campaigns on big name social media sites. Yet associations and organizations are slow to capitalize on these advertising venues assuming them to be unprofessional and lacking in their target audiences. So here are the facts, if you want to market your association to millennials, make it social.


Facebook has 44 million users between the ages of 25 and 34. This generation of young professionals needs the bridge skills your association provides. College may have gotten them a degree, but not the applied knowledge they need to succeed at their chosen professions. Additionally there are 56 million users between the ages of 35 and 54. A savvy social media marketer might argue that this platform is not only beneficial for reaching the millennial generation but generation x and the baby boomers as well. How do you advertise on this platform? You have a few choices.  First, you can boost a post. Doing so will give the post much greater reach and visibility. For example, spend $20 and you’re likely to get around 2,000 views. This is a great tool if your goal is exposure. Next, you can choose to advertise. As with AdWords campaigns, advertising on Facebook is a pay-per-click (PPC) option in which you’ll use targeting to get your ads on the pages of the right people at the right time. Finally, you can promote your page, like boosting a post, promoting a page will get your Facebook company page seen by more people.


Twitter users are primarily millennials with 95 million users between the ages of 18 and 29 and 54 million users between the ages of 30 and 49. Twitter offers unique advertising opportunities including promoted Tweets and celebrity sponsored Tweets. For thousands of dollars you too can have a famous reality TV personality promote your association, because nothing says professional development like a reality TV personality. Additionally, the use of hashtags allows for branding across the platform. When an advertiser uses a hashtag that is already popular or “trending” their tweet is indexed and shown with every other tweet using that hashtag. This can result in free exposure.


Instagram is a mobile photo sharing app, with 74 million users between the ages of 18 and 29 and 36 million users between the ages of  30 and 49. If your goal is to attract the younger generation, this is where you’ll find them. The key to Instagram is “cool factor.” So, how do you use it? As an association you probably take pictures of your events, certificates, and members. You can post these pictures to Instagram to  show prospective members that your association can provide what they need, in an atmosphere will appeal to them. Instagram is just beginning to allow advertising through sponsored photos or in-stream ads, but this is in its infancy and is not well established.  Like Twitter, Instagram also uses hashtags for additional exposure. Why bother with this mobile app? Because 80% of millennials own a smart phone and they are 20% more interested in photo, social networking, lifestyle, and shopping apps than any other age category.


LinkedIn is often thought of as the B2B social media platform, but as young professionals, millennials are also using LinkedIn to grow their networks and promote themselves online. What better way to reach this demographic than by targeting their professional network? You can bring your educational offerings to their attention on the very platform where they focus on building their careers. LinkedIn has 45 million users between the ages of 18 and 29 and 81 million users between the ages of 30 and 49. The career minded millennial can be found here. Like PPC ads on Google, LinkedIn allows advertisers to create similar ads that can be targeted to specific criteria and pages within LinkedIn.  Like Facebook, you can also boost a post, which shows your advertisement in people’s feed rather than as a traditional PPC ad. You also have the option of premium advertising which gives you access to larger display ads with premium locations on pages, but at premium costs. There are other methods as well, such as paid “in mail” advertising, but these are the basics.


No matter what social media platform you choose, the important thing to remember is that social media is about engagement. You don’t need to advertise on these platforms to reap the rewards of going social, you just need a page or profile. The ability to have conversations with your friends and followers, as well as to curate content that lets prospective members get a glimpse of the association’s mission, goals, and character is what social media is really all about. Social media is an engagement tool, and success is measured not by Return on Investment (ROI), but by Return on Engagement (ROE). What’s not to “like” about that?

Have questions about other social media sites? Let us know and we’ll cover them in a future blog post.


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5 Ways to Bring Contextual Learning to Your Association

ContextThen it exploded.

By itself, this sentence doesn’t say much. What exploded and was it supposed to? Why did it blow up? Are we talking about a car in an action movie, a firework, or some leftovers that were microwaved for too long? Without context the information is meaningless.

eLearning works the same way. Making your association’s learning contextual will not only help your members make sense of information, it will also help them remember it. That’s because context answers the classic questions: who, what, where, why, when, and how. Let’s take a look at five ways your association can add context to its eLearning.

1.      Provide Clear Descriptions

The first thing a potential learner sees about an eLearning offering is usually a promotion or description. That introduction should provide all of the essential information and, ideally, grab people’s attention. For instance, if you post a webinar recording the description could include the title, host’s name, date and place it was recorded, and a brief summary of the topics it covers. Even that basic context says a lot more than posting the same video and just titling it “Webinar Recording.”

2.      Use Examples

There are many different ways to use examples.  They may be the most effective and versatile tools in your context-adding arsenal. Examples provide specific details that help learners grasp general, abstract concepts. In doing so, they make the ideas easier to remember. Let’s say that an association’s eLearning explains how to fill out a specific form and stresses that it’s important to do it correctly. That’s generic. If a short story shows the consequences of filling it out incorrectly (maybe someone gets fired) that’s specific, and more compelling.

3.      Offer It When and Where It’s Needed

It might seem straightforward, but you’d be surprised how often help or learning isn’t where it’s needed, when it’s needed. Ideally, learners should be able to find the answers they need without leaving what they’re doing. Keeping an instruction manual with the machine it’s for or having a help button in an eLearning course are both good examples. Providing a contact e-mail address or phone number can also be helpful.

4.      Add Social Components

Context is all about seeing how pieces fit into the big picture. The most important context for your members is, “How does this affect me?” Discussions and comments let learners ask their own questions, look for and give advice, and share their experiences. It’s a good way to get them actively involved in their learning. There isn’t much better context than being able to ask, “But what do I do if ____?” and then getting a response tailored to your situation.

5.      Include a Familiar Face, Voice, or Quote

You want your learners to see that the information or skills in the eLearning are valuable to someone who’s accomplished in the field. Note that it should be someone they recognize and respect. Throwing in a testimonial from a random professional counts as an example, but it lacks personal appeal. You can have a quote from Dr. Smartypants that says, “Inertia is a property of matter.” But if your members don’t know who Dr. Smartypants is the quote doesn’t provide as much context. If the same quote is attributed to Bill Nye the Science Guy, and your members know who he is and like him, you’ll have their attention.

The volcano science project successfully “exploded” when the student added vinegar.

Context makes a huge difference. It can completely change someone’s understanding of a sentence, let alone an idea. Providing context for your association’s eLearning offerings will help your members comprehend the information and recall it when and where they need it. It shows how valuable the content can be and lets the learners see how it can be applied practically, sometimes even in their own lives. How do you add context to your courses? Let me know in the comments section.



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How to Prevent Member Education Burnout

How to Prevent Member Education Burn OutAfter your organization decides to increase learning opportunities, there is usually a flurry of activity to roll out some eLearning. Classes are designed, written, and posted. Then the waiting begins. Build it and they will, supposedly, come. Are people signing up? Are they completing the classes?


With 86 per cent of organizations now using some form of eLearning courses (Dixon and Overton, 2011)[1], you need to look at what you are offering. Make sure you are keeping your educational material fresh and engaging to keep your members coming back.

1.    Relevant Content

Your association is in a unique position to provide subject matter expertise that can define your membership and keep their knowledge of the field current. Curating the most interesting news stories, posting regulatory changes, and bringing experts together for annual meetings helps reinforce the association’s position as the “go to” source for information. How does that translate into course offerings?

Instead of trying to determine what your members want or need, the best approach is the direct approach.


Surveying members will give you a sense of what THEY think is relevant and interesting. Ask in multiple ways, email, annual meetings, and by picking up the phone.  This gives you a compelling reason to touch your members and shows that you value what is important to them.

2.    Clear Learning Objectives

What are they going to learn and why are they going to learn it?[2] Making sure you can clearly articulate what they should get out of the learning forces you to be clear about it before you offer it. If you don’t know what they will get out of the learning, how will they?

 3.    Engaging content

Adults retain 20% of what they read and hear, 40% of what they see, 50% of what they say, 60% of what they do, and 90% of what they see, hear, say and do (Copeland, 2003)[3]  Anything you can do to keep learning offerings from being passive experiences will help make the content more engaging and memorable. Consider adding frequent breaks so the learners can engage with the learning material.  Discussion groups where learners can share ideas and facilitate information exchange can help them see real-world applications. Games can be fun wrappers for delivering content, but they have to use instructional design parameters to reinforce the learning objectives.

4.    Embrace the reality of Interruptions

Get a group of people together and how long is it before everyone is comparing their “busyness badges”?  We all suffer from competing demands for our time and attention. Plan your learning around the fact that your learners WILL get interrupted. Package the content into smaller chunks so they can move through the material and see progress.

Knowing what to do is not the same as actually doing it.  Iterate your ideas, ask for feedback, test course content with focus groups, and don’t be afraid to try new approaches.  Not everything will resonate with all your members. Finding the right content and delivery styles tales time. But keeping it fresh, interesting, and relevant will encourage them continue to come back for more.

[1] Dixon, G & Overton, L, 201 1, “Towards Maturity 201 1-12 Benchmark Full Report”, Towards Maturity,

[2] Clinton Longenecker, Rob Abernathy , (2013),”The eight imperatives of effective adult learning”, Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 21 Iss 7 pp. 30 – 33

[3] Copeland, L. (2003). Training that rocks. Proceedings of ASSE’s Safety 2003, Denver, CO, USA.


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Education Programs Prepared With Purpose

Learning Objectives in Instructional DesignTraining can be used to help teach many different things including facts, step-by-step processes, and soft skills like team work. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are different ways to teach and assess these various types of learning. It’s usually easier to create learning offerings for the lower levels of learning, like memorizing a definition. But if you’re trying to teach something more complex, such as problem solving, putting more work into the training can definitely pay off. Either way, if you don’t address your eLearning’s purpose it’s likely to fall flat.

It’s easy to say, “Let’s match the training methods to the knowledge and skills we want our members to gain.” But what does that mean and how can your association do it? Creating learning objectives is a good place to start. Then take a good look at the action verbs you used to write the objectives. These provide clues about how in-depth each objective is. For instance, if most of the verbs are about recalling or defining, the learner needs to Remember the content. That’s fairly easy to do when compared to an objective that uses action verbs like “determine” or “judge.” In those cases, the learner needs to Evaluate the content.

There are six categories you can use to help determine the purpose of your eLearning. Here they are, from least to most complex:


Learners recall information when they need it.


Learners can explain and classify content. They make sense of instructions and can visualize how to follow them. (There is a lot more to this category but these are the basics).


Learners actively use a process in an appropriate situation.


Learners consider the parts that make up the content as a whole. They figure out how the parts are connected to one another and to the big picture.


Learners use sets of standards or requirements to judge whether something is relevant, good quality, etc.


Learners produce or build something new.

There’s a good chance that the facts, processes, and soft skills your members are interested in fall into more than one of these categories. That’s fine. Let’s look at an example. Let’s say an association wants to provide eLearning to help its members learn how to use a new piece of equipment. They could create several mini-offerings, or topics, to address the different categories that apply to this skill:


Members need to recognize the parts of the equipment. That way they’ll be able to follow instructions on how to use it. The association could create a job aid that shows a labelled image of the equipment and gives a brief description of what each part does.


The association could post demonstration videos so members can see how to use the equipment. Step-by-step written or visual instructions are also options.


Members need to be able to use the equipment once they’ve learned how it works. The association could create an eLearning simulation to let them practice. Or, a hands-on workshop might be appropriate. Instead of starting from scratch the way a full training would, the workshop could save time by focusing on practice.


If the equipment works the way it’s supposed to, this shouldn’t be necessary.

Practice problems, case studies, and discussions could be helpful if the association decides to offer additional training on how to troubleshoot common problems with the equipment.


The manufacturer should ensure the equipment meets proper standards. Members do not need to do this.


They don’t need to build the equipment, so this isn’t necessary.

You can focus on your eLearning’s purpose(s) by looking at the action verbs in the learning objectives and seeing which categories they fit in. The more complicated the material is, the more thought needs to be put into it to create effective learning. Breaking the overall goal down into smaller pieces can help your association address the learning’s purpose(s) without putting in too much effort where it may not be necessary. Will this post help you Remember the six categories? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

This article is a basic introduction to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

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Getting Started with Online Member Education

Getting Started with Online Member Education

Way back when I was just a marketing minion working in development at a nonprofit, I used to attend workshops and classes that would help me learn more about my industry. Although I didn’t  join the associations that put these things on, I voraciously ate up the content they were offering, as often as my employer would allow me to attend.

I have since moved on, from marketing minion to marketing maven, but have never forgotten the associations that taught me a thing or two. Yet, how much more could I have learned if I didn’t have to drive across town to take the course? I often lament that “if only I’d had more time and access to the tools that would have helped, I could have made a bigger difference.” In short, associations, I was your target audience. I needed your courses, and attended what I could, but if I’d had access to those courses on my time, my employer would have paid for them. I might even have joined if I didn’t have to take so much time out of my day to get to the association in question and then get back to work within the same day. Can you imagine how many other people felt like me, and how much non-dues revenue was lost because other people couldn’t spare the time? Maybe it’s time to get started with online member education.

Where Do I Start?

Start compiling a list of questions:

  • What do I need?
  • Will I need an LMS?
  • How about content?
  • Will I adapt existing content?
  • Will I need a tool to do that?
  • How many members do we have?
  • Do they take courses often?
  • Do they need continuing education credits?
  • Are we large enough to support online learning?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What will the ROI be?

These will be some of the questions you’ll need to answer to convince your board that online learning is a smart choice for your association. To answer the ROI question, use an ROI calculator. Try different scenarios and see if online learning is right for your association.

I Want to Offer Online Learning. What’s Next?

Next, you’ll need to present your ideas to the board. Contact a few Learning Management System (LMS) providers to determine which ones offer the features your association needs. Submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) outlining your association’s goals and needs. Have the finalists provide you with a demo and, if possible, a free trial so that you can answer the board’s questions about the platform with confidence. Will their LMS integrate with your AMS? Will you need a separate content authoring tool? Remember, when approaching the board, your goal is to offer solutions. What’s your association’s biggest issue: revenue, engagement, marketing? How are you going to solve those problems with online learning? Communicate solutions and ROI.

The Board is On Board. Now What?

Assuming you’ve chosen a few LMS providers to consider, you can now choose the provider that’s right for you. There are many aspects of your new overall learning program that will need to be managed and implemented.These include administrative tasks like deciding how to organize the program, choosing the objectives and strategy, and determining success criteria. In terms of content, your association will need to create a curriculum and use training goals and competencies to decide what courses to offer. The education director will probably need to address technical planning and develop a deployment strategy. You will also need to determine your target audience, figure out how to raise awareness and market your new learning opportunities, and eventually launch the program.  Choose an LMS that allows for branding and marketing integration with your AMS for the smoothest transition into eLearning. It is critical to have your vendor’s support in the implementation of your learning program. Make sure they offer some assistance and training to help you implement your new program effectively.

Getting started with online member education can provide many benefits for your association, including providing a source of non-dues revenue. Best of all, you will not only be transforming learning, but possibly changing the lives of your learners. Of course, the ROI doesn’t hurt either.


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Certificate, Certification, and Credentialing: What’s in a name?

Certificate, Certification, and Credentialing: What's in a name?Great news!  Your members spoke, you listened, and you’ve finally received approval from your board to explore creation of curriculum to support your members’ ongoing professional education needs.  What’s next?   You need to decide what type of certifications you’ll offer.  Or will it be a certificate?  Wait, maybe it’s a credentialing program you need.  Stumped already?

What’s the difference?  It all sounds the same…

Think of these different terms as a series of progressively involved educational offerings which allow your members to demonstrate their commitment to their own professional development and your industry.

  • Certificates are generally comprised of a series of learning events including classes, courses or training programs.
  • Certifications/certificates are usually ongoing programs aimed at ensuring an individual has the holistic knowledge, skills and competencies to capably perform in a professional role.
  • Credentialing is generally a multi-faceted process which evaluates the qualifications of an individual based on a certain set of criteria or competencies.

The table below provides a quick snapshot of each term and key characteristics:

Characteristic Certificate Certification Credentialing
Primary purpose Provide knowledge through training or instruction Validation of existing knowledge, skills and competencies through testing Evaluate/verify professional experience  of a practitioner
Participant Eligibility May have eligibility or prerequisite requirements to enroll Has eligibility requirements to enroll Evidence of professional standing
Purpose and scope of assessment Evaluate accomplishment of intended learning outcomes Confirm mastery of job function, occupational or professional role Comprehensive information gathering and evaluation process
Duration of program Ends when certificate is awarded Ongoing; requirements must be met on a routine basis to maintain credential (recertification) Ongoing; evaluations to occur at set intervals (i.e. every 36 months as recommended by NCQA)
Recognition of program completion No acronym or letters are used after the recipient’s name OR the letters “CH” (for certificate holder precede the acronym/letters Recipient uses an acronym or letters after their name to highlight certified status Recipient uses an acronym or letters after their name to highlight certified status

Source: Association for Training Development

Does it really matter? Yes, you should really care!

It definitely pays to do your proverbial homework when it comes to determining what type of program your association will offer.  Although certificate, certification and credentialing programs vary in scope and intent, they all require an investment of time and resources, and there’s a lot at stake.  Creating a program that misses the mark can have the adverse impacts of wasted money, human and financial resources.  Worse, it can reduce the credibility of your organization in the eyes of your most important asset – your members!  For all of these reasons, it’s important that you give careful consideration when exploring a new program.  A few initial considerations may include:

  1. Objective:  What are you trying to accomplish?  Where are there skill and knowledge gaps?  What are your members’ professional needs?  What are your industry educational, licensing and ethical requirements?
  2. Resources:  How many internal resources can you dedicate to creating the training/curriculum/program?  Is your infrastructure sound enough to support a successful program launch?  What financial resources do you have to implement your plans?
  3. Buy-in/Support:  Do your members WANT this?  Does your board support your thought process in the need for this certificate, certification or credentialing?
  4. Standards and Requirements:  Are there governmental or industry requirements which must be met? What are the educational requirements to practice in the profession?  What are the ethical requirements?  What are the compliance standards for the industry or profession?
  5. Recognition:  To what degree do your members need to be recognized professionally within your industry?  Will the scope of recognition be local, regional, national, or international?
  6. Timing:  Is your intent to develop a single learning event, an ongoing competency-based program or a process requiring participant renewal to minimum educational, professional and ethical standards?

These questions are by no means comprehensive, and every organization must create their own qualifications framework relevant to its specific industry needs and requirements.  At the end of the day, each of these programs serve to bridge a gap; identifying the end goal with respect to the existing need is a good place to start.  Finally, and most importantly, always remember to keep the voice of your members at the front of mind throughout the program development process.




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Questions to Ask Client References Before Selecting Your LMS

Selecting your Learning Management SystemSelecting an LMS can be a very involved process. First you have to understand the requirements of multiple stakeholders. What do the users need? What does the administrator need? What kind of reporting is required to monitor content use?
Once you have narrowed the list of vendors that seem to fit your needs, watched demos to see the Learning Management System functionality, and narrowed the field, then comes the reference checking.

Here are some things to consider when looking at client references:

1. Have they worked with someone that looks like you?

  •  The reference they provided – are their needs similar to yours? Do they have similar integrations with an ecommerce solution? Is there an integration with an Association Management System? Is that integration the same platform and version you are using? Do their assessments look like the same assessment environment you are trying to deliver?

A great predictor of success is past performance. If they were able to solve problems similar to yours, most likely they will have no trouble helping you as well.

2. How long have they worked together?

  •  Has the reference been through a version upgrade of the LMS software? What was that transition like? Has the functionality evolved?

Customers that have stayed with their LMS for long periods of time can give you an idea of the stability and longevity of your potential vendor. At this point in the LMS selection process, no one would be eager to have to start over if the deliverable doesn’t meet expectations. Much better to find an LMS that will act as a long term partner and evolve with you as your learning environment evolves.

3. What is the customer service experience?

  • The chances of never having a problem are most likely zero. How are problems handled? Is the customer service experience responsive? Knowledgeable? Timely? Friendly?

Even if the functionality of the LMS is flawless, your environment will always be changing and evolving. Your IT infrastructure will change, or you may add more LMS administrators. Assume you will interact with the customer service department at some point, and find out what that experience will look like.

4. What is their experience with the performance of the LMS?

  • Have there been issues with uptime? What about speed of delivery of the content? Do their users have trouble navigating?

Understand from both the learner and administrator perspective what type of experience you can expect adding content, consuming courses, and retrieving results.

5. How bumpy was the deployment?

  • Did the initial deployment run on schedule? Where there any “surprise” costs that appeared once the rollout started?
  • What was the training like? Do they feel confident adding content, creating assessments? Are they comfortable using the functionality the system offers?

Keep in mind sometimes problems are caused by the LMS, but sometimes they are caused by other issues. Make sure you understand where the problems originated, and how they were resolved.

6. Ask open ended questions?

  • What do you like best? What would you change? What has been the biggest point of frustration?

You will want to know specifics, but don’t narrow your question so much that you might miss a critical data point. Give the reference the space to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly. Better to know now than after you have made the commitment.

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