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Are You Using Social Media to Engage Members?

Are You Using Social Media to Engage Members?
If you’re a membership-based organization and you’re not using social media to listen to members, build their sense of engagement, and measure their commitment, you may be about to trip over one of the most significant trends reshaping associations.

In the second of three white papers on return on investment from social media, Beyond ROI: The True Value of Return on Engagement, U.S. software vendor Avectra points out that the whole member relationship has been turned on its head.

“In the past, member engagement was typically transactional, such as registering for the annual conference, or responding to a holiday-themed direct-mail piece, or volunteering to work on a committee,” the company stated. “Today, social media tools and technologies allow members to connect and engage when, where, and how they want to,” and that means “the rules of member engagement have changed.”

The “exciting opportunity,” as Avectra says, is for associations to listen, adapt, and build deeper, long-term relationships based on the takeaways their members find most useful. The question is whether organizations are making the transition—and if they are, how effectively they’re measuring their own progress.

Scrambling to Get it Right

Greenfield had similar questions in mind when we produced the 2012 Pulse Report. From the responses we received from Canadian associations, we saw that more than two-thirds identified member engagement as a top priority, but many of them were scrambling a bit to get on with implementation.

  • Two-thirds of respondents’ organizations invested less than 10% of their operating budgets (excluding staff salaries) in membership marketing.
  • Fewer than three in 10 placed strong emphasis on new product or service offerings.
  • Fewer than half saw it as a top priority to demonstrate the ROI that would give members a compelling reason to renew.

Avectra’s three white papers point to social media platforms as ideal tools for building and measuring member engagement—but like any tools, they have to be used as directed.

Setting Yourself Up to Succeed

“Whether your association’s goals are higher renewal rates, better lead generation, improved member services, or meeting annual fundraising objectives, you need to optimize member engagement,” the white paper notes. And “social media offer you an opportunity to share your mission, remain relevant, solve challenges, and reach your organizational goals.”

But you won’t succeed on social media if you spend your time broadcasting your message and collecting thousands of surface contacts who have no genuine connection to your organization. “The true value of social media investment comes from figuring out how many of those followers—or fans, or connections, or private online community members—are engaged in ways that align with your association’s goals,” Avectra states. “Then, you can determine how to use these data insights to help achieve your business goals.”

In a past post, we talked about Avectra’s approach to social CRM (customer relationship management) and its philosophy of “thoughtful, strategic, authentic engagement” with members. Next week, we’ll look at how you can turn those principles into a practical plan to measure member engagement.