Social Media for Driving & Retaining Membership

John Hope-Johnstone

Bon jour! This post is all about how to obtain and retain members with the assistance of social media. Obviously this post is more important for membership based organizations such as Associations, Chambers of Commerce, Destination Marketing Organizations etc.,  however it also pertains to organizations wishing to maintain good customer relations or charities and not-for-profits wishing to maintain or increase their donor base as well.

Membership based organizations exist to serve their members. People join membership based organizations to gain professional status, update their education, network with others, grow their business and to monitor and promote profession-related policy positions that could effect their business.

All of the above reasons for joining a membership based organization depend on the sharing of information and the building and maintenance of networks. With the aging of the population and the old guard slowly leaving the workplace and new blood rare to find in some membership organizations, it is interesting to find that while Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most commonly used social media tools, they are not necessarily considered the most effective in reaching membership goals. In fact, the most effective social networking tools are considered to be those that are basically housed within the organization itself, namely listserv (50%) and/or a private association social network (39%). It is difficult to know if this response is due to entitlement in these platforms, because, except in rare cases, I have rarely found in-house listserves or social networks to be well used.

Approximately two-thirds of Associations respondents report still using snail mailed welcome kits, admittedly a decrease from the 2009 study of 15 percentage points (68% in 2010 vs. 83% in 2009). However, findings indicate that associations with greater than 80% renewal are significantly more likely to use the mailed welcome kits (75% vs. 58%). The question for some associations might be, if your membership is aging and no fresh blood is coming in, are you fishing where the fish are? Perhaps they are engaged on social media?

First, let me say in a loud voice that I am not advocating giving up tried and true methods of recruiting and retaining membership or donors. I am suggesting that Social media, done effectively can increase the satisfaction level of present members or donors by increasing the perceived value and hence increase the potential of membership or donor renewal and referral. It can slowly become part of your membership services campaign but should, like the other methods of recruitment, be monitored and gauged for its effectiveness.

Here are 10 steps to developing and retaining members using social media:

  1. Assess what is working and what is not by actual number of members each social media platform brings in. Do the same exercise with old methods of membership solicitation and don’t allow sacred cows to remain just because some board member ten years ago had the idea.
  2. Begin your foray into social media for membership building and retention with a poll to see which social media platforms the majority of the present members reside. Is it facebook? (most likely) or Linkedin. Do they tweet? Blog?
  3. Go for the low hanging fruit. This would include your lapsed members and your non-member users. They’ve already expressed an interest in your organization, so
    now is the time to convey how important membership is for their own success in a difficult economic environment. Search for them on social media sites through use of a CRM system such as that will allow you to see which social media platforms your prospects are using.
  4. Once you locate a lapsed pilgrim on, say Linkedin, then see who is connected to him/her who are still active members and have them contact the lapsed member via the social media platform in a social manner and bring them back into the fold.
  5. If you decide a facebook fan page is in your future, then ask the question WHY?  Why would I go to this page. What are you going to offer that is special and will drive me to visit that page? What special information is going to be on it to make members go? Also, don’t forgo just your own or other staff members regular facebook profile pages. I gain far more social capital and conversations from my regular facebook page than my business fan page. That doesn’t mean you overload your profile page with business stuff, you keep it social. Let people know who you and other staff (who want to) are and what you are like.
  6. Twitter is a “news agency” and it works best for informational purposes. It is great at conferences to help people find people and to update any changes in program and to point members towards special information you are putting out about the conference. A hash-tag is a great way to get groups together.
  7. Don’t forget about YouTube . Short video clips about presentations at a conference are a great way to remind people who didn’t go what a great time and a great educational opportunity they are missing. Also pulling the videos into your Web site  is great content. Give your members faces that they can relate to.
  8. Don’t forget good social media is all about the quality of your content and information. If you just blah blah blah then people will shut down. If you give them key information or point them in the direction of good content via a link they will come back for more.
  9. It is about getting people involved and not feeling that an organization is elitist, especially young prospective members who may think its just an old boy/girl network and that they will not feel welcome.
  10. It is about giving your organization “a face and a voice” and by that I don’t mean one face but many.

Thanks for reading this post. Hope it had some information you found useful about social media and membership. Please leave a comment. Follow me on:

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  1. Jennifer Cox says:

    Great information, John!
    Perfect for me in my new MPI role- VP of Membership!

    Thank you!

  2. Thanks Jen, congrats on VP membership. You do such good work!! MPI is lucky to have you.

  3. It certainly is a challenge to chagne people’s minds about how solcial media can be used within a busness. I am trying to integrate it into a new product offering we a launching at work, unfortunately the offer and ’employee beneift’ doesn’t seem to have a history of being marekted through social media so this is new ground.

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