Social Media have been the subject for much of research in the past years, especially in sectors focusing on customer and membership services. For associations, progress has been somewhat slower but, nevertheless, important steps in the development for social media apps and general communication via established platforms have been made. Today, more and more organisations of the not-for-profit sector are investing in being ‘social’ online.
While some are mainly focusing on delivering information on their services to members and communicating their events, largely via their websites, others are employing social media apps for more transactional operations and are engaging with members on a more individual level.
Also the ESAE has invested much time in recent months to improve its own operations in this field and to become a resource to its members. Ahead of all, the new association platform, where members can register and sign up with a personal profile, engage in discussions and even share documents. More in the background, but nonetheless important, for the efficient functioning of the society are social apps that are running in the background for event management and newsletter creation, and very recently even for financial management and invoicing. Without such technological developments, much of our work today would still be manual to a large extent, keeping everyone unnecessarily busy with administration rather than focusing on members’ needs.
According to firms working in the sector of social technology there are 5 key trends why social media apps and technologies should be used also by the association sector to better engage with members:
1) Image, branding and reputation management
Communicating your image via online technologies is in today’s world an indispensable way to show what you are all about. The more activity you show in the online public sphere, the better the perceived value of your organisation in the eyes of your target groups. Communicating actual valuable content will exponentially increase your online reputation as well as your overall reputation capital as an organisation.
2) Membership services
Social media apps enable an organisation to personally engage with members of an organisation. A down-sized version of a CRM (customer relationship management) system and social media apps are a financially efficient way to provide a range of membership services, from the creation of individual invitations to your events to the management of you invoices and payments.
In addition, many platforms offer ways to engage with members personally if they have questions or wish to engage in conversations with the organisation. Again, this is a feature greatly assisting you to improve your membership engagement and provide personalised services, which in turn would count towards your overall reputation capital.
Keeping your members informed and immediately reaching a maximum of recipients of your message - social media apps offer easy ways to quickly post an update without having to resort to the creation of a newsletter or write impersonal mass-emails.
4) Showing a more individual service
Social media apps can be easily integrated with your existing contact database - it has to be said that depending on your system, this might actually take a bit of an investment in time from your end, at the ESAE we made that experience, given that our systems were fairly outdated for a long time.
However, once you have the various systems up and running and connected, the fact that you are able to reach a large number of recipients with a personalised message will give your organisation the upper hand in communicating. Your messages will be received with a personal tone and - depending on your personal way of communicating - also show a very ‘human’ side of your organisation. The perception of ‘caring’ and a ‘hands-on’ approach must not be underestimated and counts towards your organisation reputation again.
5) Targeting of membership groups
Most of the apps ‘out there’ offer the possibility to segment your target groups. This is particularly important for occasions when you need to inform part of your membership about news happening in a particular location, for example. Say, you have chapters in various countries and organise events in these countries. Naturally you would not want to send out an email invitation to all of your members each time you organise an event in a particular country. Targeted communication contributes to the personal look and feel of your organisation and makes it ‘customer-friendly’.
To cut a long story short, as an organisation you will not get around investing in social media, if you decide to ‘go social’. Managing social media apps still requires time and the better an online presence of an organisation, you can be sure that there is a person behind of it all that thought the processes through and feeds the various platforms. Of course, technological trends are enabling us these days to interconnect many apps online so that you will often only have to update one channel to have your message distributed via all of your active platforms. Nonetheless, social media is nothing an organisation can have running ‘aside’ from its other activities. It is worth looking into recruiting a person, at least part-time, to keep an eye on your online presence and develop new ways to help you engage with the people that are important to you.
The ESAE is currently using a range of social media apps, aside from having invested in a more interactive website with a separate membership section. We are currently on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to communicate our social life. Furthermore we are employing Jotform for invitations and event management, Stripe for invoicing and credit card management, and MailChimp for our newsletters. Most of these apps are free of charge, if used within certain limits (that still enable us to do all we ever wanted!).
If you have any questions on this topic or in relation to any specific platforms, please do not hesitate to contact us. In the case where we would not be able to help you ourselves, our network will. Being socially engaged helps you to find answers to your questions very quickly.
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