Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Question Today: “How do you get your association members from snailmail to twitter?”

Seriously, that is the question a colleague of mine was asked during an interview to be the CEO of a local association here in St. Louis.

Here’s the email I received from my colleague:
 “The question of the day...How do you get your members from snailmail to twitter??????? I was asked this in an interview...I'd love to see some of the answers to this.”

As I probed, my friend says the organization is eager to get younger professionals to join the association.
 “They are thinking Twitter but what they need is a strategy to get young professionals to join. They aren’t coming to meetings because some of the older members aren’t even using email.”

My first response to my friend was:

 “Why do they want members to migrate to Twitter? Perhaps Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest makes more sense for your membership?”

As I reflected on this exchange, I’m astonished that a board of directions would really think they’ll get younger professionals to join if they just discovered Twitter. Seriously, this is really flawed thinking on a whole host of levels:
1) The board is focusing on organizational needs rather than the needs or desires of prospects.
2) The board assumes all young professionals are on Twitter.
3) The board has forgotten that relevant content is more important than tools (Twitter, etc.).
4) The board doesn’t seem to understand that millenials (in far greater numbers than Boomers) expect value for their dues. Unlike the previous generations, millenials expect deliverables for their time and money.

Depending on the membership, perhaps the association should shift its focus. Rather than focusing on “how it can use social media” to connect with the association, perhaps the association should consider hosting “social media sessions” to “teach” prospects (and members) – regardless of age – how to connect with clients/patients/customers with social media tools. Now, it becomes a “help grow your business” session that is more member focused than association focused. Perhaps some of the younger members – if they are using social media to connect with their customers – could be “trainers.”

The National Christmas Tree Association, professionally managed by AMR Management Services, did a lot of social media training with Christmas tree farmers … to help them learn how to connect with younger consumers. It was gratifying to see them use these tools. NCTA had the Constant Contact folks come in and do a session on how to use email marketing.

The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, professionally managed by the Association Management Center, offered one-on-one training this year to anyone that requested it (either on the phone or on-site). AAHPM also had several members who identified themselves as Twitter pros and offered to train members during the Assembly. Christian Sinclair was a plenary speaker and the Twitter Pros sat in the front row of the session, tweeted throughout and then stayed after the session to talk to those who were interested.

Here’s an example of how Twitter can help your members. Back in December, I spoke at a leadership development program for golf course superintendents. During the marketing discussion, we talked about how they might use Twitter for the courses. Here’s what I spotted earlier this month from one of the participants:
Tweet #1 this morning:

Tweet #2 this morning:

Clearly, Twitter is not for everyone or for every organization. The golf course superintendent could have (and/or should have) posted this information to Facebook.

My main point, however, is focus first on the strategy, your audience (both members and prospects) and the message. Then, determine which tools (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) will engage your members (and prospects) with your organization.

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