The Ugly Truth: What Social Media Can And Can’t Do For Your Organization

Everyone wants a simple solution to complex problems. It’s the dream peddled by nutrition scam artists who claim one pill will make you lose weight and feel amazing and science fiction literature that conjures up a single vaccine that will cure all the world’s ailments.

In reality, living healthy involves exercising, eating right and a myriad of other daily necessities while preventing and treating disease and illness falls into the same multi-faceted category.

Social media often falls prey to this idealistic thinking. Many organization, whether its an association craving more members or a small business that needs to get the word out, think social media is the answer to all their woes and the one bright light that will lead them into a rose-coloured future.

We’re here to say, get real!

We love social media and┬áboth the numbers and anecdotal evidence has shown us that a solid social media strategy can have a hugely beneficial effect on brands. However, your organization will never get the most out of its social media efforts if it has unachievable goals and poor practices fuelled by unrealistic expectations. That’s why we’ve put together three things people often believe social media can do for them and their organizations and dismantled these myths.

Social Media Can’t…

Boost Your Bottom Line Significantly

If you are creating social media content with an ultimate goal of generating a significant amount of revenue for your organization, you’re always going to fail. Your association is never going to increase its membership by 10% or its event attendance by 20% because it’s on Twitter or Facebook. Your small business isn’t going to get a bunch of customers into the store just because it has a great-looking Instagram account. Sure, a few people might decide to go to an event or buy a product because they saw it on social media and there are rare times when a company’s promotion goes viral. However, having this as your main goal is like adopting a cat because your band needs a keyboardist and you saw a piano-playing cat on YouTube once. It happens, but you wouldn’t bank your future prospects on it.

Single-Handedly Make You Popular With Millennials (Or Any Generation)

Segmenting your audience into generations is all the rage in marketing, especially association marketing these days, and that’s great. You need to know your target demographics, their needs, wants, preferences and so on. Millennials have been the most coveted, and some say the most elusive, generation to marketers in recent years and many people have claimed that a presence on social will be enough to elevate an organization in the eyes of these young professionals. Don’t believe these people. People are complex and therefore, so are generations of people. Just because Millennials, or any audience, is online doesn’t mean for one second that simply showing up means you’ll get a second date with them.

Be Done Without Cost, Buy-in And Planning

We’ve heard countless stories from people in associations and small businesses who were given the task of social media management with little training, planning, resources or discussion from or with their colleagues and managers. They simply start a Twitter account or LinkedIn group because of a snap decision by an executive, board or themselves and are left frustrated and disappointed when their results aren’t what they thought. The ease and low-cost of starting social media accounts makes it seem like making a good┬ásocial media strategy is easy, quick and cheap, but it’s not. Just like with any part of an operation, social media needs to be well thought out, have precise goals, defined resources and support and feedback from all levels.

Social Media Can…

Be Part Of A Revenue Generating Strategy

Social media is both an intensely immediate medium and a lesson in the long game. While content can be created, shared and engaged with in seconds, the cumulative impact of your social media strategy is what can be integrated into an organization’s marketing and revenue generating plan. Social media can drive traffic to a website, so a great, user-friendly website is a must. Social media can keep your organization’s products and services in front of potential buyers until the time they are ready to purchase said product or service and think of your organization. Social media can be a powerful tool for presenting data to sponsors or investors and can get your organization some key funding. These are just a few of the ways social media is an integral part of a complete revenue generating strategy.

Be Part Of A Multi-Pronged Value Proposition Plan

Your organization’s Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account is like a stage; without a good backdrop, actors and an engaging plot, an audience won’t find much value in it. Before starting a social media account with hopes of engaging a specific demographic, you must first determine what is valuable to that demographic. Once you have decided which products they like, what kind of media they respond to, what values they hold closest, what problems they have and how they look for solutions, you will never be able to market your organization to its target demographic. Remember, social media is simply a tool to convey value and rarely the foundation of value in and of itself.

Be Done Well With All The Considerations Other Initiatives Receive

Think about it this way; you would never plan an event for your organization without carefully considering everything from a budget to a theme to the best suppliers and every other detail on down to how a room will be set up. Why then would you not plan this carefully for social media, which is a long-term marketing initiative you have high hopes for? A social media strategy has a much lower likelihood of being successful if you do not treat it like any other project your organization undertakes. That includes getting a knowledgeable person to head it up, establishing a budget and resources, discussing goals and ways to measure progress and consulting various stakeholders, such as staff.

The Role Of Nostalgia And Innovation In Social Media And Member Engagement

There are two types of members that associations should be paying attention to the most right now; those from the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations.

Yes, every member counts, no matter their age or occupation, but it’s time to face facts; these two groups make up the largest working demographics in the world and often carry the most clout. Veterans of the industry are influential, know a lot of people and hold powerful titles, while young professionals are the ones ushering in the latest and greatest ideas and changes to the industry while having the potential to be a part of your association for decades to come, if you play your cards right.

Engaging these two groups and highlighting the value of your association to them is a crucial part of remaining a strong and sustainable organization. The success of your engagement strategy has the ability to influence everything from your association’s board leadership and event attendance to its advocacy strategy.

There are many ways that social media can provide one platform to convey an association’s virtues to Boomer and Millennials alike, but one key strategy is to employ nostalgia and innovation. Having an understanding of how to use these two elements to engage industry vets and newcomers, as well as how to tie them together, is crucial to standing out and proving your association’s worth above others. The following paragraphs provide some quick tips for integrating nostalgia and innovation into your social media strategy and taking one more step towards a stronger relationship with Baby Boomer and Millennial members.

Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a wistful affection for the past, that feeling that makes you long for the ‘good old days.’ Older members of your association have been part of the organization for a long time and there’s a reason for that; they’ve associated their time as a member with success and prosperity in their personal and professional lives.

However, the cause of nostalgia is often a feeling that the present is not as desirable as the past, which inevitably means that older members may not feel like the association is as useful to them as it once was and may be diverging from the path they have known and respected for decades. When this happens, it leaves your association open to not only a few lapsed members, but the potential for these influential and respected veterans of the industry to voice their displeasure for the organization for all to hear.

In this situation, social media can be a powerful tool to help older members remember what makes the association great and how membership is still a valuable tool for them. Photos are stories are two of the best nostalgia-inducing mechanisms and social media just happens to be the perfect place for those two elements.

Dig back into your archives of photos and pick a few from a past conference or event that feature members. In the lead up to the present incarnation of the event, post these pictures on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. This will remind older members of the impact these events had on their careers, the networking, the friendships, the lessons learned, and will help them realize that a continued presence there will be beneficial. Bonus points for engaging members by tagging them or playing a fun trivia game with the picture by asking what year it’s from.

Recruit a veteran member to tell the story of their first big moment in the association, such as the first time they put it on their resume, attended an event or received the magazine. Have them also relate this experience to their present day experience with the association. Put the story up on your blog or YouTube channel and post portions of it to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. These stories tell a first-hand account of the association’s excellence in the past and present, stirring up memories of the first encounter with the association in all members and generating positivity in the present.

Innovation

Innovation is the direct opposite of nostalgia. It is the constant striving for a better tomorrow and a belief that the future will be more efficient and more valuable than what was done in the past. Innovation is what young members, those who are just starting their careers, are looking for in an association; what can the organization offer them that is new, exciting and can give them an edge?

One of the prime reasons that Millennials stay away from joining associations is the belief that such organizations take an old school approach and are happy going about business as usual, catering only to the veteran members and how they like structuring benefits, events and more. This ideology can put young professionals off your organization for years and years and maybe forever.

Social media is a great way to show young professionals that your association is interested in providing cutting edge solutions to relevant challenges and can be the step up they need in their careers.

If your association has a trade show, take that opportunity to highlight the organization’s dedication to exposing members to innovative products and services. Arrange to go on a “shopping trip” with an industry veteran on the trade show floor and document his or her’s best finds live on Twitter or in a blog post or YouTube video later on. Put an emphasis on the the newest technology or cutting edge companies.

Another way to underscore innovation at your association through social media is to create an innovation podcast or YouTube channel. This weekly or bi-weekly piece of content would seek to find people in the industry that are using new ideas or methods in the industry or who are blazing a new trail. Ideally, these people would be association members. Interviewing them and using these discussions to highlight ways in which the industry is evolving will link your association with innovation and solutions and will draw in young professionals who are seeking these elements.

What Young Professionals Really Want From Your Association And How To Give It To Them On Social Media

To Not Be Called Millennials

Young professionals are so much more than just some generalized group with a catchy generational moniker. They are students, aspiring executives, current executives, fresh faces with a unique perspective and so much more. So stop calling them Millennials, on social media and everywhere else. Your association doesn’t refer to its older members by calling them Boomers or its other members as Generation X, Y or Z, so don’t make an exception for young professionals and lump them all together.

Instead, address them by catering to the needs and wants that this young demographic seeks from your association. For example, create and post content about transitioning from being a student to working in your association’s industry or how an aspiring executive can find a mentor in the business. These words and content will be much more likely to attract the attention and engagement of young professionals than slapping “Millennials” on everything.

To Be Recognized

Think for a second about what most young professionals want at this point in their career. The first answer that probably came to mind was that they want a way to move their careers forward and a big factor in achieving that goal is to connect with the right people in the industry. Most industries are large and young professionals will no doubt face heavy competition for promotions, so give your members a leg up by recognizing their achievements and helping them to stand out.

There are so many ways for associations to use their pre-existing, captive audience on social media to recognize young professionals. Use the various social media platforms to show off your young members. Write blog posts about recent achievements, ask young professionals on Facebook about their most innovative idea for the industry or just give someone a shout out on Twitter or Instagram. Ask an influential member and association champion to share these messages and increase the impact they have.

To Have A Seat At The Table

Young professionals are often forgotten when it comes to making an impact with associations and therefore the industry as a whole. Yes, many organizations offer opportunities to get involved by joining committees and other such volunteer initiatives, but these commitments can be intimidating or too time-consuming for young professionals and will therefore not be utilized or valued by this demographic. It may be up to your association itself to create better opportunities and invite young professionals.

Social media offers a surefire way to create these opportunities that give young professionals a say and thrust them into leadership roles. For example, have a brief roundtable discussion on ideas to improve the industry, either through a Twitter chat, a YouTube video or a live feed on Facebook, and invite one or several young professionals to join. You can also create a LinkedIn group, Facebook page or Twitter account specifically for young professionals at your association and pose questions and seek feedback from this specific demographic while posting ways in which your association is acting on these responses.

To Be Informed And Entertained

Let’s face it, it’s not enough to do one for the other in this day and age. Information is crucial for young professionals trying to build a successful career and access professional development opportunities, but with the depth and variety of sources out there, they also want to be entertained with this information. Finding new and innovative ways to capture the attention of young professionals while remaining informative and relevant is one critical way for associations to boost their value in the eyes of younger members and potential members.

With that being said, it might be time for your association to look at some out-of-the-box ideas to enliven the member experience on social media. Think about how you can combine visuals, information and interactive elements when creating content to make it more engaging and appealing to young professionals. For example, create your association’s version of Carpool Karaoke where you’re driving around with a member, board member or staff member talking about the value of the association while also jamming out to some tunes.

How Social Media Can Help Your Association Attract The Next Generation Of Members

To say that ‘Millennial’ is a buzzword that’s been thrown around a lot in the last couple years is an understatement. It’s a term used so frequently that you may be tired of hearing it over and over again. However, Millennials aren’t just a trendy demographic your association should think about reaching out to, they’re the future. They are the the ones that will make up the bulk of you organization’s membership soon and for a long time after. So paying attention to their wants and needs has to be high on your to-do list.

A recently conducted survey asked Millennials what association benefits they value the most. The number one answer by a large margin was continuing education and training, followed by access to a peer-reviewed journal, expert advice, leadership experience and a magazine.

What’s The Bottom Line?

One thing it clear when looking at the areas that Millennials value most; they are hungry to learn, network and gain access to any sort of professional development. The top five responses in the survey make it clear that information is a highly sought-after commodity by young professionals. If your association does’t provide this information to the younger generation, it’s a sure thing that they’ll search for, and find it, somewhere else.

What’s Social Media’s Place In All This?

Millennials are looking to drink in all the information they can and social media is all about giving and gaining access to information. Your association is a wealth of knowledge. From its veteran members to its educational offerings and the connections to government, your organization has a mansion full of facts, data and lessons that young professionals covet.

Your social media efforts are like the keys you give these young professionals to open the doors of this mansion. Social media gives your association an opportunity to share some of its information stockpile with those searching hardest for this valuable resource, which makes your organization valuable to these people. The more valuable your association becomes, the more likely someone is going to be to invest in it by purchasing a membership and attending events.

How Can Social Media Make Your Association More Valuable To Millennials?

Millennials prize education and training above all else, according to the aforementioned survey. Use your social media platforms to promote your association’s educational offerings as much as possible. Live-tweet events, post blogs about conferences and trade shows, create a video about how best to study for certification exams and make going to educational offerings fun with Facebook contests, Pinterest boards and Instagram photos.

This will help your association strike a balance between offering some great information and encouraging non-members to check out your association for more of the same. It also makes learning easy and accessible to Millennials. These factors combine to make your association more valuable to the younger demographic.

Three of the next four most desirable association offerings for young professionals are based around the output of information. Journals, magazines and expert advice are all sources of learning and professional development. Social media is a great way to expand the reach of the expertise and content your association is already producing. By giving Millennials easy access to this information, your association becomes a valuable source of knowledge for this demographic. Once they realize the value of your organization as a way to gain information, they will be more likely to invest in the association’s other offerings to members, such as events, webinars and mentorship programs, which can be a great way to increase non-dues revenue.

Lastly, Millennials want to gain leadership experience from being a member of an association. Social media platforms are a great way to expose young professionals to the opportunities available at your organization. Blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts about committee activities and lobbying efforts allow members and non-members to see the leadership opportunities that are available as well as the influence members can have on key decisions. By highlighting the achievements of your members, the evolution of your industry and your association’s part in both of these areas through social media, Millennials will be more likely to realize the value of your organization and feel like the return in worth the investment.