The power of social media is undeniable. When used properly, social media is a great tool to increase awareness, promote membership, advertise and facilitate upcoming events, and connect members with similar associations or groups. Although the benefits may seem obvious, not all associations are keen to jump on the social media movement. If you work with an association that has been slower to adopt social media as a business strategy or promotional tool, it is crucial that the medium be introduced in the right way.

There are a number of reasons that an association may be resistant to social media: members may not see an obvious benefit, there might not be someone available to manage the various platforms on behalf of the association, or members may be unfamiliar with social media making the thought of it overwhelming. Whatever the reasons, if the association has been slow to buy into the idea of social media, then its introduction needs to be well thought out and implemented.

Association Social Media First Steps

The decision makers of your association have given the approval to start using social media, so now you need to make members aware. The announcement of social media within an association needs to clearly outline which platform is being used, why it is being used, and how members can participate. You need members to “buy in” to the idea of social media so that it becomes an active forum rather than a page with a few sporadic posts. An inactive social media page can be more detrimental to an association than no social media page at all. If members are supportive of the platform because they have been made aware of the benefits and are informed of specific goals, then they will be much more likely to participate online. Membership participation is the key to growing your association’s social media presence.

Association Social Media Upkeep

In order for a social media platform to reach its goals and be effective, the association needs someone to take ownership. The person responsible, whether it be a specific member or someone from the association management team, needs to make social media part of their work routine. These pages need to be updated frequently to avoid becoming outdated and ineffective.

Firsthand Social Media Experience

I work with an association that has never been involved with any kind of social media. A number of members are nearing retirement and are therefore not as experienced with social media and find the whole idea a bit overwhelming. The concept of introducing social media to the association came from a number of younger members who are active in various online platforms and from members requesting a way to archive photos. The board of directors saw these requests as an opportunity to launch a social media platform.

Due to the unfamiliarity of some members regarding social media, the board decided to launch one platform at a time. An announcement was drafted and read by the president at a meeting with all members. The announcement was then circulated electronically and included in the newsletter. The announcement explained that the new account would increase awareness, resulting in greater business opportunities for existing members and help to attract new members. It would also serve as a way to archive photos for years to come. Members were instructed how to access the platform and participate themselves. The board agreed that the association management team would manage the social media account as to ensure continuity. This was relayed to members, but it was emphasized that their active participation would ensure the platform’s success.

Moving Forward with Social Media

The overall response from our association members was positive with many thinking that this was long overdue. More and more members are participating in the online community and it has encouraged the board to think about utilizing other social media platforms. The office will continue to oversee the account for the foreseeable future, however it is more than likely that a committee will have to be created once more platforms are launched. The committee will make sure that posts are frequent and appropriate in order to ensure an increase in online presence and overall public awareness.

Many members may see social media as a challenge if it is not something they are familiar with. It is the association management team’s job to motivate members to “buy in” to the social media initiative by clearly relaying the benefits to members. A motivated membership will be much more active and the positive outcomes will be realized by all.