To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question many associations grapple with when trying to communicate with members and the public at large. I have written about social media in a previous blog, in this article share a real life example of one of our association management (AMC) clients successfully used social media to connect members and non-members for the common good.
Our client, the Entomological Society of Canada, received an email request from the mother of an eight-year-old girl who was being teased and bullied at school for having an interest in bugs. The mom was essentially looking to the Entomological Society of Canada to find support for her daughter’s interest in bugs and how it can turn in to a career. She was looking for a pen pal so that her daughter could connect with people that understood her interest and could encourage her love of bugs so she didn’t feel like she was different.
Our staff directed the email to the social media volunteer for the society asking them to reach out to members to find a pen pal for the girl. The email was posted on Twitter the day it was received and things took off from there.
The Power of the Re-Tweet for Associations
The tweet, with the image of the mother’s email, was sent with the hashtag #BugsR4Girls. Within a few hours the story was picking up traction. Entomologists, graduate students and even a celebrity who all have an interest in science started tweeting and re-tweeting in support of the girl who loves bugs.
The awareness and support that developed for this young girl was fantastic. Within five days the number of re-tweets had exceeded 1,000 and the overall reach of this story was at 100,000 plus. BuzzFeed Canada, the National Post, UpWorthy and Today.com all picked up the Twitter feed and pushed the story out.
The mother and daughter were completely overwhelmed by the response from the entomological and science community. They could not believe how many people were reaching out to support a young girl that was struggling with pursuing her passion and having to deal with kids at school who made fun of that passion.
The Positive Message from Social Media for Associations
This is a good illustration of the value of social media for associations. This story is situational and pulls at many of our heartstrings. Bullying is bad and a young girl is being discouraged so people rallied around to combat the problem. Many of the respondents noted in their posts that they could relate to the young eight-year-old and felt a common bond with her situation. The entomological community makes their living on the study of bugs and many were teased for their interests when they were younger so they related strongly to this young enthusiast and wanted to encourage her to continue with her passions and interests.
The overall message here is that Twitter proved to be an effective tool in getting the message out and connecting a community of people. These individuals all related to the issue and one tweet gave them the chance to connect.
The goal of any association is to determine those topics that will bind and create a common, unified or controversial aspect around the profession that the association represents. Note that associations must also be aware of the potential for a negative reaction that could arise from a post on social media, and know how to handle it.
In this example the volunteer responsible for posting this request didn’t know that it would take off the way it did. He became very passionate about the situation that the mother and daughter were experiencing so was able to commit some time to staying on top of things. Based on the potential this demonstrated, every association needs to look closely at the resources they put toward social media like Twitter because continual posting and updating takes time and talent from people within the association.
Even just one tweet can take tremendous resources to stay on top of its impact on your association.