What is most critical
to your association’s success in social media?
By Cathy McNamara
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, QR codes—where do you start,
and which type of social media does your association really need? These
questions and many more were answered during Association Media & Publishing’s
day of learning on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011, held in the American Dental
Association’s Hillenbrand Auditorium. Titled The Business of Association
Publishing, the day hosted a variety of courses, one of which was "Social Media
for Associations: How to Engage Your Members Using the Latest Technologies.”
The talk featured a panel of experts, including Jean Lynch,
director of marketing/communications at the American Association of Medical
Assistants, and managing editor of its CMA
Today; Edward Bury, director of marketing/communications at Building Owners
and Managers Association of Chicago; and Andy Steggles, COO and social
strategist at Higher Logic and author of Social
Networking for Nonprofits.
Lynch spoke of her experience launching her association’s Facebook
page in September 2010. She emphasized the importance of committing to a
regular posting schedule before you even consider any type of social media launch.
After all, she noted, regular postings and interaction are essential to building
and maintaining an audience. Second, she said, it’s imperative to create a
content safety net. Brainstorm with staff so that you have content at the
Which types of content should you be stockpiling? Think of
association news, industry news, and items of interest to your particular
membership. Establish content for postings that will elicit a reaction from
your readers. "Have fun with it,” advises Lynch. "On Columbus Day, for example,
we focused on ‘discovery’ and how our membership [of medical assistants] might
relate to that theme. With that in mind, on our Facebook page, we posted the
question, ‘What is the most important medical discovery to date?’ We had a
Member-directed content will engage your audience and elicit a response,
and that’s the kind of interaction you are looking to create with social media.
In fact, the panelists note, member engagement is critical to the success of
your association’s social media efforts.
Lynch says that she utilizes Facebook advertising to draw
attention to her Facebook page. "By advertising in Facebook, we boosted our new
‘likers’ from an average of 14 a day to 63 a day!” she says.
The panelists offered good take-home advice about utilizing
a variety of social media, including LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogging. They
discussed the pros and cons of mobile apps. But probably the biggest message
from the hour-long session was that association executives must think about the
Social media is not simply Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. It’s
not about whether you should or should not be launching a mobile app for your
annual session. Instead, it’s about all of these things collectively and more. If
you want your association to succeed with social media, the panelists stress, you
need to think about your specific social media strategy.
So, as your association works to incorporate and/or build
its social media holdings, the panelists advise that you keep the following in mind:
Which types of social media will best reach and
engage your members?
How will you integrate your messages across
How will you use social media to educate your
membership and drive them to your website?
How will you use mobile media (apps, QR codes)
to drive engagement within your traditional media?
And perhaps most importantly, how will you use
social media to continue to engage your current membership while converting
followers and fans to new members?
It’s a lot to think about, and it all comes down to
strategy. Want to learn more? Check out the upcoming programs and events from
Association Media & Publishing at www.associationmediaandpublishing.org and keep on learning.
Cathy McNamara Fitzgerald is director,
communications, at the Academy of General Dentistry and a member of the
Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee. Association
Media & Publishing thanks her for covering this event for our members who
were unable to attend.