Sponsored social media content is often poorly done and can result in alienated followers. The National Student Speech Language Hearing Association figured out a way to bring in revenue from sponsored posts while also maintaining content that was authentic to their audience.
As 2020 progressed, we at the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) acknowledged that our membership numbers for the year would most likely be lower than previous years. That was primarily due to 20 percent of our membership coming from student attendance at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) annual convention, which was canceled due to COVID-19. With that loss of dues revenue, we needed to find new opportunities to increase our nondues revenue.
Previously, we had dipped our toes into sponsored social media content as part of promo packages for our in-person events at ASHA conventions. So, it was a no-brainer for us to expand upon these types of opportunities. Our primary goal was to create sponsored social media content that not only remained authentic to our audience and highlighted our sponsors but also kept an increase in staff workload to a minimum.
We used two approaches to incorporate sponsorship opportunities into our social media strategy:
- Add sponsorships to content we were already creating.
- Create new content opportunities.
Adding Sponsors to Existing Content
The expansion of our sponsored social media opportunities started with low-hanging fruit: content we were already posting. But we needed to be careful. We didn’t want to sponsor all of our current content because it would make the NSSLHA brand feel inauthentic. We knew our members would be turned off and might disengage if they felt NSSLHA was overly commercialized. And frankly, people can spot sponsored content a mile away. Instead, we found content that could be sponsored authentically.
Each week, NSSLHA shares “What’s This Wednesday” posts on Instagram. These Praxis prep-style questions relate to the audiology and speech-language pathology topics our student members are currently studying. To keep this content authentic, we approached potential sponsors who have expertise in these topics and found a natural fit. To acknowledge a sponsor, we added its logo to the image and tagged their Instagram account in the caption.
We also developed a robust promo package as part of our new virtual event opportunities. Sponsor logos and website links are included in event-specific webpages; email broadcasts; monthly e-newsletters; Zoom registration and confirmation pages; social media posts on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; and within presentation materials. While executing virtual events was new for NSSLHA, the promo packages were not. We could easily incorporate them into our workflow, which allowed us to increase the value of our virtual event opportunities.
Developing New Social Media Content Opportunities
Instagram is where we see our highest engagement rate, so we created a new set of sponsorship opportunities on this platform with a monthly Instagram sweepstakes. These sweepstakes allowed us and our sponsors to interact with students in a fun and engaging way when they were really struggling during the pandemic. Both NSSLHA and our sponsors saw an increase in followers and engagement. During one sweepstakes, a sponsor offered a $250 Uber Eats gift card to five winners.
The best part? We only create Instagram sweepstakes when we have a sponsor. There’s no expectation to continue them without sponsorships, which means it’s ad hoc and there’s no overall increase in staff time on a regular basis.
After a year and a half of incorporating more sponsored content into our social media strategy, NSSLHA was able to offset our 2020 membership dues loss. We’ve developed strong relationships with several sponsors who are ready to continue (and even increase) their financial investment in NSSLHA. Not only were we able to excel during the pandemic, but we’ve also set ourselves up for continued success for years to come.