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Top 10 tips on using Facebook to attract new members 

It's great for your members but what about as a marketing tool?

Having a club Facebook is as common as having a website for most of you now. 

But while many clubs use Facebook well as a way to communicate with current members and to create a sense of online community that keeps people involved, how well does it work to recruit newcomers, whether total rookies or sailors looking to get back into the sport?

At the RYA Midlands Affiliated Clubs Conference in November, Social B ran a fab workshop on just this and here are 10 top takeaways to help you use Facebook to promote your club.

1) Page v Group

Closed or secret Facebook groups, where you have to ask to be excepted or invited to join, are great for communication and sharing amongst current members but they don't work for promoting your club externally, as only member of the group can see what is being posted. For wider, outward facing promotion you will need a page; that way anyone can find you and find out all about you.

2) Make a plan

Its informality makes social media work, but a bit of formal planning at the start will help clarify exactly what you want to achieve from your Facebook page. What do you want to use it for? Engage new members? Get people to events? Who do you want to target and connect with? Who is your audience? How has your club become successful to date? What does success look like to you? In reality you will probably want your Facebook page to do many things, but knowing that is key. Building an engaged audience takes time - three to six months is realistic for a volunteer run page - but get the snowball rolling and it becomes self perpetuating. 

3) Use the free Sport England Market Segmentation tool

Sports Market Segmentation is a web-based tool developed by Sport England to help all those delivering sport to better understand their local markets and target them more effectively. It will help you identify and understand the demography in your local area and, it shows the sports that segments have a propensity to play (or would like to play) as well as other characteristics, such as sporting behaviour, motivations and barriers to taking part in sport what these people like to do. It is a brilliant way to start to identify a target audience for your Facebook page campaign (and all your other marketing too). Amy from Social B said no other world has such a resource available to help identify potential targets so take advantage of it.

4. Quality posts are vital 

Facebook isn't a one-way conversation, used to simply as a sales tool telling people about what you're doing and what you want them to 'buy' from you. Because the content drives engagement and the numbers of people who see your posts (more on this in a minute) what you post has to be interesting. In fact the general rule of thumb is that as much as 80% of what you post shouldn't be about you at all, rather wider things that are related to the stuff that you as a club are about. The other 20% can then be used to promote specific activities, events and courses etc, without people getting turned off. Google Alerts are great source of free stories/content on the wider subject.

5. Building an audience 

The more someone interacts with your posts, either liking, sharing or commenting, the more frequently your posts will appear in their timeline. The more frequently you appear in their timeline, the more they are likely to react to things, and the more people will see it, most notably to start with their family and friends because if you are tagged with the same people frequently what you're interested in will be promoted to them too.Your sphere of influence gets bigger without you having to do anything extra.

This is why having posts that encourage engagement is so important. Photos get 53% more 'likes' and 104% more comments than the average post, video is also massively impactful and you don't need more than a minute of something that can be filmed and uploaded direct from your phone. Share relevant blog posts / articles / expertise, start discussions and ask questions, offer Q&A sessions with club experts. Basically just give people a reason to want to get involved with you, then create a call to action - what do you want them to do? Your members are key to getting this ball rolling so ask them to like, share and comment on your posts. 

6. Keep it regular

You are keeping with EVERYTHING else on Facebook. With 1.5 BILLION monthly active users worldwide that is a lot of noise you are trying to get heard above, so regular posts are crucial. As part of your plan, creating a content calendar, which can include posts about interesting/relevant international sailing events, half-term holiday activities, RYA events etc, will help keep your audience interested and use Facebook's scheduling facility to plug all this in in advance (maybe in three month cycles) so you don't have to keep remembering to post. Less is more, so you don't have to post everyday, but two to three times a week is good. Even something simple like changing your banner image every couple of months or adding an event will attract likes.

7. Use Facebook Insights

Understand exactly what posts are capturing people's imaginations and when people look at your pages so you can better tailor your content to the audience you are building and posting at times they are most likely to see them. There are loads of other really helpful things you can do here in Insights too so have a look. 

8. Advertise or boost/promote post

Once you know who is engaged with you, or a specific demographic you want to target to engage with, you can pay to boost/promote specific posts and/or do some Facebook advertising. The key thing about this is it's not expensive. We're talking as little as £4 to reach over 1,000 people over three days potentially and you can set up the post/ad to reach a very specific target group based on age, gender, distance from sailing club, their current interests etc. Facebook rewards relevance not generality so set a budget, identify who you want to hit and what you want to tell them. This function is good to promote open days or learn to sail courses.

9. Avoid PR speak

Because people don't want to be preached to Facebook, chatty, authentic language wins every time. Avoid sailing jargon at all costs and be open. If people comment on your posts, reply to them as relationships can form very quickly on social media and you could hook a course place sale very quickly just by being helpful and friendly. Transparency is important too. People will very quickly see through it if you're club isn't actually what you're selling it as.

10. Don't be afraid of it!

Just the word 'Facebook' can strike fear into some people as they might be personal users but try to get their heads around using it for something else and it all becomes a bit daunting. Hopefully this article has helped alleviate some of these fears and most importantly, get a few of you approved as page managers/admins so there isn't just one person taking on the Facebook burden.

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