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Social Media for Professional Associations

Social Media
In September 2011, I attended the CSAE National Conference and Tradeshow in Saskatoon, SK.  One of the sessions I attended and that I retrieved the most valuable information from was “Social Media – Two Years Later… What have we learned? Where are we going?” presented by Larry Mogelonsky, of LMA Strategic Marketing & Communications.

Here is a quick snapshot of the statistics Larry used when showing how Social Media has grown:

Social Media Site
Two Years Ago
Today (as of September 2011)
% increase
Facebook 250 million users 695 million users +278%
YouTube 0.9 billion views per day 3.2 billion views per day +355%
LinkedIn 42 million users 150 million users +357%
Twitter 12 million tweets per day 140 million tweets per day +1166%

A quick summary:  Social Media is not a fad – it is here to stay, and we better know how to use it effectively.

This statement is what concerned many in the room – association leaders know it is important, but they don’t know either how to use the various sites, or how to integrate it in their communications strategy.

Before, you would have had to pay for advertising (via magazines, ads on TV, etc) – and while these are still important channels to market your organization, Social Media has created a free way to get your message to your audience, who in turn, have the opportunity to freely share it with their connections & followers.  In short: your members can now be your marketers.  If you create ways for them to do so.

Here are some of the key tips I walked away with from the session:
  • Give people what they want – and only what they want.  Larry advised that the information that you are sharing should be relevant to the members and non-members of your given industry.  Ask yourself before you post “Would I find this interesting?” 
  • It is a forum for personal interaction – to share ideas, information and shared values with your members
  • It is not just a marketing function.  Social Media should be fully integrated into your overall communications strategy – not just an afterthought.
  • It is a forum to actively engage in discussion that furthers the learning process for all.
In addition, here are some of the questions that organizations should ask before embarking on the Social Media journey:
  • What are you trying to accomplish with Social Media? (Are you building awareness?  Are you providing valuable information?   Are you showcasing or building your industry’s influence?)
  • How will you accomplish these goals with Social Media? (How are you going to deliver value to members and non-members?  Will you be beta-testing to user groups?)
  • What tools will you have at your disposal? (Will you have a Fan Page on Facebook, an official Twitter account, create a private group on LinkedIn, post videos on YouTube?)
  • How will you execute your Social Media strategy? (Will it be someone currently on-staff?  Will you need to hire? Will you be outsourcing?)
  • Does your website currently have an area to post timely information? (Do you have a blog or an area to post research papers/articles?)
  • Do all decision-makers within your organization understand the costs that will be associated with your Social Media strategy? (While these sites are free to join, it costs to manage or outsource)
But the main point is that social media IS here to stay.  As younger cohorts enter the workforce, membership-based organizations will be forced to accommodate how they wish to communicate.  And this increasingly includes social media.  How will you take on the challenge?