Social Media Makeover for SMACNA Sacramento Chapter

SMACNA Sacramento Valley Chapter won the Social Media Make-Over at the ASAE Annual Meeting as part of the Adding Power to Member Communities with Social Media session led by master CRP* KiKi L’Italien (Optical Society of America) and me.

We know that every nonprofit is looking to create a presence on the web that boosts visibility, creates a strong fan base, builds community and translates to more members, more dollars and ultimately moving the mission forward. Frankly for chapters though it’s a little challenging. For one thing, they have fewer resources at hand.

Social media though does offer a big opportunity for components – and their national organizations. The make-over offers a look at how a component can create a social media presence and work with national in doing so.

We had the pleasure of working with Kathleen Mitchell, Executive Vice President, SMACNA – Sacramento Valley Chapter and Bridgette Bienacker, Director, Business Management and Membership, SMACNA.

Starting from a clean slate
Sacramento SMACNA is one of 100 chapters of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, an trade association of union contractors with 1,944 members in the US, Canada, Australia and Brazil. The Chapter’s mission mirrors the Association’s: to provide products, services, and representation to enhance members’ businesses, markets and profitability.

SVC has 23 member companies, an operating budget around $400k and one staff member, Executive Vice President Kathleen Mitchell.

And they have a clean slate to work with – no current LinkedIn, Facebook, or other existing sites. Plus, they are launching a brand new website and they are eager to build a social media presence.

Like the chapter, National hasn’t established a formal social media presence (although we did find a rogue LinkedIn group by searching “sheet metal contractors”!) but they just launched a social networking site Sheet Metal Network which is already gaining some attention by members. They do have a two specialty listserves where members share ideas, post questions and connect.

Member Profile

Membership is by company; they are a diverse group whose common thread is using sheet metal and sheet metal products. The majority are small, family-owned businesses with the owner as the main contact. Think boomer generation … very busy owners.

We followed the 5-steps outlined in the session to create the make-over.

It’s important to note that Bridgette and Kathleen walked through these steps together – each bringing to the table valuable insight.

Step 1: Determine a Goal to Reach For … start small, think bigger. Sacramento SMACNA has three key goals:

  • Build member engagement! They need to get deeper into their member companies to engage the next generation.
  • Make it easier for member-to-member connection. Members rely on each other for advice and ideas. Right now that connection tends to be handled through a narrow pipeline.
  • Power up their local advertising campaign. They currently spend around $40k on a campaign to create awareness of value of union shops and to encourage hiring union. Great ads, good placement but the reach is still small.

Our Diagnosis: They need to start with one, so we recommend focusing on the member-to-member connection goal because members are already clamoring for it, are used to the listservs and it has a definite here and now “what’s in for me”.

Their Homework: set some measurable goals like number of members signed up, number of discussions, number of comments.

2 – Understand Your Main Audience … is they already there? What grabs their interest (it’s still about content!)?

Members are using listservs but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of play in the social media arena otherwise. Blackberry and similar devices are general practice so they are connecting to the web. A quick search on LinkedIn companies shows a smattering of related companies suggesting they are navigating to that platform.

Our Diagnosis: Some members already trust and use a SMANCA listserv so the new community should be a good place to build participation. Direct most of the effort to building the community here. Add to that a LinkedIn group as an outpost since members are drawn to this as a professional networking platform.

Their Homework: Start with getting your listening tools in place. Set up searches using (here’s an example), Google Alerts (best how-to description is from Wild Apricot). You might also try (here’s a search for sheet metal). For more on listening tools (and other social media tools), check out KiKi’s session recap Engaging Your Members With Social Media Resources.

Then work with national to identify hot topics from the listserv and use these topics to set up subgroups in the new community and start conversations on LinkedIn.

3 – Tally Your Resources … You need enthusiastic members, a good coach (that’s where the national org can come in!)

Although the new Sheet Metal Network community just launched, two chapter members have already logged on and there are at least two of the chapter members active on LinkedIn based on people search. Plus national is clearly interested in seeing the member community successful.
A big plus for the chapter is the impending launch of their new website which has a sharper look, cool members section and some other bells and whistles.

Our Diagnosis: First, tap your early adopters and those who are active on the listserv to champion the new community and LinkedIn outpost. Approach these members will a clearly defined request that includes a measurable outcome, a “what’s in it for me” and time commitment. For example:

  • Fan base builder – actively invite colleagues & followers to engage in the discussion, join the community & LinkedIn group; goal is to engage 50% of members within 4 months; time commitment is very flexible 1- 2 hour every 2 weeks
  • LinkedIn (or Community) Moderator – Watch over the activity, post regularly, encourage discussion; goal is to have weekly participation by members; time commitment about 1-2 hr weekly

Second, the chapter should be tapped as a test partner to build a chapter discussion area on the new community. National staff can help with the technology (training, maintaining) and access to member contact info while the chapter staff and key volunteers create the content, seed the discussion, promote involvement.

Third, use the launch of the new website as an opportunity to draw members to web … and the to the social media communities you build.

Their Homework:
Complete the people search on LinkedIn to id other members. Map out a first steps plan for how to begin both arenas and gather volunteers on a call (webinar preferably) to provide a walk-through on both platforms and discuss next steps. Map out a content plan for generating discussions in both arenas.

In terms of the new website, be sure to add RSS feeds on key pages (like the calendar and news pages). Add links to SMACNA’s new member community.

4 – Get in the Know … Take the time to learn the tools and understand the community

Do your homework – listen (see #2 above), learn, practice (okay it’s really play!), launch. A great place to learn is which offers a full series of short videos that explain social media platforms in plain English like these on LinkedIn, blogs and RSS Feeds. Duct Tape Marketing serves up great info on Facebook at 5 tips for Getting More from Facebook. LinkedIn For Dummies gives you a great intro to LinkedIn and then check out Hubspot’s 5 Tips to info how maximizing the group.

Our Diagnosis: The chapter – Kathleen in particular – is ready to try some things. The question really is comfort. Start by creating a chapter group within the national community and then create a LinkedIn group. On both, invite your champions in and kick a few tires. Then invite the full membership.
We’d also suggest that a national LinkedIn Group with subgroups for each of the chapters maybe a better solution. Right now there is a LinkedIn Group rouge group with one member that national needs to check in to.

Their Homework: Chapter and national staff need to sit down and walk through the options vis-à-vis the new member community and a joint LinkedIn Group, then map out a plan and proceed.

5 – Jump In … With a plan mapped out, give it a go!

One of the challenges facing Kathleen and the chapter is that this is a new frontier and her members are not early adopters. The key to success will be first answering what’s important to their members and then using social media tools to deliver it.

We’ll check back in with Kathleen and Sacramento chapter in a couple of months. Meanwhile, we’ve asked a few social media strategist to judge the make-over … so watch for their comments!