The Canadian Postal Workers Union is on the verge of being locked out at the time of this writing and while the average person may not feel the effect of this work stoppage, association probably will.
Associations send out and receive a substantial amount of mail every year, from dues notices, invoices, payments, event brochures, trade publications, new member welcome kits and the list can go on and on. Having this flow of printed communications suddenly stop can have a huge impact on almost every facet of an organization. When members don’t received vital mail from an association, it can turn them from a well-informed, well-engaged and loyal professional into a disenchanted, disconnected, was-a-member fairly quickly.
This nightmare scenario only serves to reinforce the importance of social media to an association’s communications and marketing plan and, indeed, an association’s overall operation. If the scenario above seems a little exaggerated, it’s because the importance of print mail has decreased immensely over the last decade due to the rapid rise of electronic communications. By this very fact, social media becomes a crucial pillar of an organization’s communication efforts. However, print mail still has an important role for associations and its disappearance can be felt even more when social media isn’t there to fill the void.
Take, for instance, a new member welcome kit that usually arrives in the mail. This package usually includes a nice letter, information about member benefits, how to get the most out of membership, where to go if the member has questions, sponsored material and more of the same.
This information can be the basis of everything from the new member’s level of engagement, the return on investment of member benefits, sponsor relations and member recruitment channels. If this package never gets there or gets there in an insufficient time or manner, it can cause all those elements to decline drastically. This is when social media can step in to fill the gap.
Take that same example of a new member welcome kit. All of the elements included in the kit can be integrated into a social media strategy and can work in different, and sometimes better ways. That welcome letter can turn into a nice personalized message sent out via Facebook or Twitter along with a call to current member to add words of advice or encouragement to a new member. An outline of member benefits can be transformed into a handy infographic blog post and a how-to video on maximizing return on membership can be posted to YouTube. Sponsors can be hyped through social media posts, such as Instagram photos, tweets or a “special vendors” section on your association’s Facebook page.
At the end of the day, what this example illustrates is the importance of social media to a diverse, engaging and targeted communication strategy for associations. A postal strike isn’t the only reason for associations to have a robust presence on social media, nor should social media be a backup or Plan B. Rather, social media should be viewed as an integral part of a marketing framework that seeks innovative ways to connect with every member in the most effective way possible.