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Social media isn't just for wasting time online anymore. These days, social technologies, including video and other media, are being used by professional associations and organizations to reach out to potential members and retain current members. In fact, a recent study, conducted and published by association management company Kellen, has revealed some surprising news about how professional associations are utilizing social media.
Associations Are Branching Out to Different Platforms
Although Facebook and Twitter expectedly still made up the vast majority of social media usage by associations, Instagram and Pinterest saw an increase in the study. Instagram saw an increase from 2014, rising from 19% to 29% utilization, while Pinterest utilization rose from 21% to 24%. These two sites focus heavily on visual images, and they are wonderful platforms for associations to reach out to potential members who process information visually. In addition, the Social Media Impact Study revealed that YouTube utilization by associations rose from 64% to 73%. This data shows that associations are beginning to see the real potential in social media outside of Facebook and Twitter.
Associations Are Not Seeing the Numbers They Hope to See
Unfortunately, even as social media use has risen, associations say they still aren't seeing the recruitment rates they'd like. The Kellen study found that associations find it difficult to recruit members and influence key opinion leaders. Part of the problem for this may be strategy. You simply can't put up a YouTube account and expect people to find it, view it, or subscribe to it. Likewise, a Facebook account for your association does no good if you don't market it and encourage engagement.
Awareness is the Key
Along with the above, the Kellen study also points out that associations feel that awareness is the key to using social media. Study participants stated that they were confident that social media could be used to gather information and communicate with current members. What needs to happen next, however, is that associations who use social media for these purposes should encourage sharing among friends, families, and colleagues of members on social media. Your current members already recognize the benefits of belonging to your association, so they would be the best spokespeople. They also likely know others who would benefit from membership, so by encouraging sharing of your content, you're getting virtually free marketing from people potential members already know and trust. Social media is essentially digital word-of-mouth.
The Future of Social Media Utilization for Associations
Finally, the Kellen study predicts that social media usage by associations will not only continue to rise, but it will become easier to see when, where, why, and how a social media investment is paying off. Social media companies are increasingly providing users with analytics tools that can show the effects of certain posts and content. These insights will also likely be used by associations to predict behavior or to predict certain trends shortly before they happen, providing more opportunities to get a specific message or piece of content in front of potential members.