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Will Social Media Kill Membership Associations?

According to CNN, approximately 75% of people get their news from social media sites. This includes information about upcoming events, the pulse of business and yes, even your association.

According to CNN, approximately 75% of people get their news from social media sites. This includes information about upcoming events, the pulse of business and yes, even your association.

Should associations be afraid of social media? Does this mean your membership efforts are for naught and it’s time to close the door?

Absolutely not. Social media is not the death of your association.

So, how can you protect yourself from an early demise in an age where information is freely available and your members might check their social networks before coming to your organization? Follow these four suggestions:

MAKE EXCLUSIVITY WORK FOR YOU

Yes, your members are communicating with everyone in the free world via social media–your organization included. However, there also needs to be an element of surprise. Membership benefits and perks should not all be mass-produced and available on all of your chosen social media channels.

For instance, make your members and others interested in your association want to visit your website or subscribe to your newsletter; make these types of communication materials available only in certain areas (e.g. not on your social media channels). Instead of spreading your message far-and-wide the same way over multiple channels, limit the types of information you share on, say, Facebook or Twitter. Engage there but leave them wanting more–drive them to check you out in person or on your own online turf, too.

CAN’T BEAT ’EM? JOIN ’EM.

There are some associations that offer online discussion boards, listservs and other online communities for members. However, if yours is seeing a decline in participation, find out why. For instance, you might be concerned about members starting groups on Facebook–taking what used to be a listserv or discussion board activity to another platform.

Doesn’t surprise me. Your members are on Facebook for everything else–connecting to family, friends, the news–why not to network with other association members? Instead of mulling over how you can draw them back to you, join them where they are. You can still keep exclusivity of some membership features/benefits, but also be cognizant of the things you can’t fight or change. Listen to what your members want. They’ll tell you what you need to know.

GET YOUR LEADERS INVOLVED

Show your members that you embrace and encourage the use of social media. From a consumer standpoint, 77% of buyers say they are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media and 94% said C-suite social media participation enhances a brand image (eMarketer). One could make the argument that the same holds true for members looking at your association’s leaders.

And if your leaders aren’t involved, help them get there. Train your employees, your Board and other leaders in your organization so they are comfortable with and understand the benefits of social media.

FIGHT BACK WITH BENEFITS, VALUE

Do you have an understanding of what your tangible benefits and values are as an association? Do you have benefits for members outside of networking? Get a firm handle on your membership marketing strategies and figure out what your value is. Yes, social media can provide a lot of things, but it also does not provide 100% of your membership benefits. Use social media as a mix in your membership marketing arsenal.

Social media is not your enemy. In fact, you’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle if you’re not pursing it and actively setting goals to engage with your members there. Instead of worrying or throwing in the towel, use social media to your advantage. Be the association in your area that uses social media in new and exciting ways for your members. Showcase the benefits and value your organization provides. Demonstrate your expertise by hosting Twitter Chats or Google+ Hangouts.

The only way social media will kill your association is if you let it. Don’t go down without a fight.

Take the first step towards your future.

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