Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Beyond Social Media 101: Meeting Member Needs & Facilitating Communications

In the Spring, members of the CSAE Marketing & Communications Group met and held a roundtable to discuss how to use social media tools in a more focused way to support organizational communications objectives and meet specific, defined member needs.  Here are the highlights of the discussion:

  • Everyone noted that finding out what member’s needs and wants from their association is not an easy task.  It’s difficult to know if we are reaching the opinion leaders among our members, particularly for those with institutional membership rather than individual.
  • It was suggested that, despite the prevalence of electronic communications, old-fashioned paper and phone surveys might still be necessary in addition to email and social media, in order to obtain an accurate representation of member wants and needs.
  • Draws and contests remain a good way to evoke a response from otherwise un-engaged members.
  • In the absence of good data about member needs, most association communicators are simply trying to build audiences on the “big three” social networking platforms: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, on the assumption that if we want members to talk to us, we need to provide multiple opportunities and meet people where they are.
  • At minimum, associations should maintain a “placeholder” presence on these three platforms, lest their name and identity be used by someone else.  For example, one association has been unable to register a LinkedIn group under their name as it is already in use by a similarly-named group overseas.
  • Once established, these networks can be used to seek input from members regarding what they want and need from their association.  This is particularly important for associations with non-mandatory membership.
  • Although these sites are free to use, the cost of staff time must be taken into account, and communications staff do need to monitor traffic and remain regularly responsive to members who communicate with them via these platforms.

The goal for everyone, it seems, is to move from pushing information to asking members what they need and then seeking solutions to fulfill those needs.  Social networking could provide the answers in some cases, but perhaps other needs can be fulfilled by more traditional means.  We won’t know until we ask.

This post was originally featured in the April-May issue of the CSAE Ottawa-Gatineau Executive, and was written by Alison Larabie Chase, Communications and Membership Coordinator, with the Canadian Association of University Business Officers.

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