Since Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook as a website meant for college students in 2004 the world of social media has blossomed into a global phenomenon encompassing a wide range of services and appealing to audiences, both large and niche. Social media is an ideal marketing tool for associations since most of the popular services are free, easy to access, and already commonly used by some portion of your target audience. However this doesn’t mean that every service is the best fit for every association. Volunteer and staff time and talent are valuable resources that should be used on the tools that are best for your association.
We’ll briefly explore some of the most common ones and why they may or may not be right for you.
Pros: Free to join, ability to create events; ability to create pages that allow for discussion, posting of articles, and photo galleries that allow you to tag members on Facebook. With an active user base of 1.86 billion users odds are high that many of your members are already on Facebook.
Cons: Facebook is constantly making changes to their algorithms and many of them have impacted the ease in which page information appears on user’s feeds. Users that frequently interact with your posts will see them but new members or new Facebook users may struggle to find you. If you don’t mind paying they do offer the ability to purchase advertising and/or boosts to your posts. Additionally, it’s difficult and sometimes impossible for non-Facebook users to access your posts or photos and should never be your primary marketing tool.
In conclusion Facebook is your best bet to reach the majority of your social media using members but it can be tricky and costly to get your message out to them.
Pros: Free to join, searchable hashtags are a great tool for advertising your event and posting live from it, many websites offer Twitter plugins that allow your tweets to be displayed on your site
Cons: The 140 character limit doesn’t make it the best tool for getting detailed information out, unless you have a private account you can’t control who is interacting with you or the members that reply to your tweets
In conclusion Twitter offers a great way to quickly and briefly get the word out but doesn’t offer the intimacy and detailed conversation tools that other services do.
Pros: Free to join, THE social network site for professional and organizational interaction. LinkedIN groups offer a great way for members to find each other and engage on association and industry related matters. Like Facebook it offers the ability to create posts and share articles and let other members comment on them
Cons: It’s audience isn’t as large as other sites and if the industry related to your association doesn’t have a strong LinkedIN presence it’s not as effective in creating a community or advertising
In conclusion LinkedIN is the ideal tool but only if your audience is already there.
Pros: Great way to share photos of your events and meetings, provides the ability to tag members who are on Instagram, offers searchable hashtags, offers a variety of filters and editing tools to give your photos that professional look, many websites offer plugins that allow you to display your feed on your site
Cons: Instagram isn’t for you if your audience responds better to text than visual. While it does have a browser interface it’s designed to work best in the smartphone app.
In conclusion Instagram is best if your audience if your audience responds well to visuals and is smartphone savvy.
If you’re looking to create a social media presence for your association the best thing to do is research and survey your members to find where they already are and what they respond to best. If you are on social media but not getting the response you want, do some research and make sure your members aren’t the sort to prefer lengthy discussion on LinkedIn instead of tweets or vice versa.