First thing’s first; social media can have a great return on investment for your association. It might not always be the traditional, financial, X-number-of-retweets-equal-Y-amount-of-revenue. It could have a money-focused tinge to it, but where organizations are going to see the biggest impact is in the formation of first impressions.
Let’s get the terminology out of the way right now. For those who don’t know what a loss leader is, it’s a product or service offered by an organization that doesn’t directly increase profit, but gets people in the door and investing in other areas. For example, companies will sell printers at a loss in order to stimulate sales of their ink cartridges. Social media can act much the same way.
Here’s the scenario; a non-member is on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/etc., and sees a colleague retweet/share/like a post from your association. The content they see from your account interests them or is a helpful resource. This may be their first impression of your association in action or their first impression of your association ever. They may connect with your account, see the value of the organization and invest in a membership, service or event. In that way, your association may bring in a handful of members through the great first impression it presents on social media. After all, people go online these days to meet information and its sources.
It’s great that social media brought new members into the fold, but let’s be honest, the revenue gained from these new members does not equal the money spent on it. However, word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. If one person has a great experience with your association, they will tell colleagues, clients or staff. This may lead to further investments in membership and increased revenue. This great experience started with a great first impression; a warm, helpful greeting as a non-member enters into your association’s house. This warm greeting is called social media.
Let’s face it, social media might be a loss leader for your association. You might spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on it every year and not see that money come back to your organization in the form of direct revenue. That’s okay. It’s a service that your association offers to help members. It’s a tool to shine a spotlight on your association and its benefits. It’s an avenue to engage members and non-members alike as well as start a conversation with sponsors and policy makers. All those elements combine to bring people into the door, to drive traffic to your website and its registration page and give your community a chance to voice their positive feedback in a public forum.
Loss leader isn’t a dirty word. Yes, it implies your organization might lose money on this particular activity, but it also implies that it’s a leader. Social media can help lead your association on the right path, it can help guide members and non-members to the most helpful resources you have and it can give a boost to other areas of your organization’s revenue strategy.