3 min read

Association Marketing Trends of 2018

Association Marketing Trends of 2018

Associations looking to retain and grow membership are preparing for 2018’s marketing trends.

The most important takeaway from 2017 is the increasing costs of social advertising. Associations can no longer rely on free exposure to drive organic growth. The number of people who see an Association’s Facebook posts are at an all-time low. Facebook’s algorithms value one thing: Pay to play, baby.


Association marketing is changing.

Fresh marketing tactics for 2018 include:

  • Video Content Marketing
  • Big Data / Open Data
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Stay ahead of the curve. Implement one or more of these marketing tactics in 2018. It could mean the difference between your Association standing out or getting lost in the crowd.


Social Media Advertising: The Free Ride Is Over!

Social media marketing costs increased an average of 12% this year and are increasing. Mainstream marketers understand social advertising is hugely cost-effective. This drives up competition for keywords and prime placement.

The cost of Facebook ads, for example, increased 74% year-over-year, according to Nathan Mendenhall at Social Media Today. He writes:

A recent study shows that in the last year, the average CPM on Facebook has risen 171%, and the average CPC has increased 136%.

If you don’t plan on having or increasing your social advertising budget in 2018, consider yourself already behind your competitors.


How can association marketers gain an edge? Three technologies stand out for 2018:

1. Video Content Marketing

Content marketing has been around for years. What’s different now is the cost of video production. The costs for full-scale production are dropping. Even smartphone editing is improving for sharing short clips. (Here’s how to edit video snippets on an iPhone.)

The American Marketing Association (AMA) has been in the YouTube space for years. Now, video is more accessible to small marketing teams or individuals. This changes the game.  

One example is the rise of online courses. Associations can develop and distribute online video coursework easily. Marketing plans can structure content to offer members new skillsets or keep them abreast of industry changes.

WebCourseworks offers tips for associations distributing video content. Among them: offline marketing. Knitting together online and offline marketing activities is an effective strategy moving into 2018.

2. Big Data / Open Data

Associations have access to a wealth of data. Historically, associations have guarded this data as proprietary. However, this attitude is rapidly changing.

So-called “big data” includes all the data your organization and its members collect. Open data is scrubbed of personally identifiable information and distributed freely. Open data is offered to the public for use or examination similar to Creative Commons copyright licensing - perfect for associations with tight budgets and social missions.

Data is a unique asset. Association data can be beneficial to marketing:

  • Graphical representation of data displays an Association’s history, goals, and growth;

  • Open data sets allow anyone to examine, share, and remix data, promoting the association along the way;

  • Proprietary data distributed for commercial and non-commercial uses.

Data can reveal specialized trends and be used for market differentiation. Many online tools exist to harness data in a way that is valuable to you and your membership base.


Some ideas:

  • Data as the foundation for marketing images. Whether static, animated, or embeddable, sharing data as images can be a boon to conveying an association’s mission.

  • Data released to the public for public use. Releasing open data can yield powerful public awareness and press potential.

  • Data repackaged into other content assets. Association data can be valuable to people outside of your membership. Opportunities exist to monetize this data.

3. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

“Select the SINGLE marketing activity that you think will make the largest commercial impact in 2018 for your business (or your clients)” according to Dave Chaffey at Smart Insights.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning ranked number three.

Wait - whoa! Are we talking 2081… or 2018?

Many Associations are -- for the moment -- put off by machine learning technologies. “They think the costs, talent, data requirements, and risk of failure is too high,” writes Dr. Josh Sullivan, senior vice president at Booz Allen. This attitude is shifting, and the change is brisk.

Some ideas to incorporate these technologies into your 2018 marketing plan:

  • Use Sailfish or Microstrategy to explore your data - no expertise required. Sailfish is a platform tool by Booz Allen to find, share, and analyze data. A free alternative is Microstrategy, no data science degree required. The Booz Allen Healthcare case study could be applied to similarly-focused associations, such as hospital associations.

  • Incorporating “smart” tools into marketing tasks. One “example [is] copy for an ad that is hyper-personalized to a buyer based on millions of AB tests performed by a machine,” writes Barb Mosher Zinck in Diginomica.
  • Experiment using open source resources, such as data.gov. One challenge moving forward is finding the open source solutions to explore and understand data. The federal government provides 200,000 open data sets for experimentation without risk.

“AI is also used in marketing automation, digital advertising, content management and digital experience management, e-commerce recommendation engines, analytics solutions and more,” writes Zinck.

Smart marketers will look to these and other emerging technologies to maintain a competitive edge in 2018.



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