Why should trade associations attempt to scale the social media mountain? The short answer — beyond the mounds of metrics, statistics and analytics available — lies in the mantra of mountaineers: “Because it’s there.” Social media is there, it’s soaring ever higher, and it has become an expectation for businesses of all stripes, including trade associations.
If we aren’t already ascending up the social media mountain, we risk being overshadowed by our competitors who are. And yes, trade associations do have competitors. No matter how specific our niche, and regardless of whether we cater to organizations or individuals, trade associations compete daily for the time, attention and loyalty of members we serve.
Of course there are potential roadblocks. For trade associations, particularly for state trade groups, the social media concerns of security, messaging and logistics loom extra large against the backdrop of stretched-thin budgets and maxed-out staffs. The solution is to tackle social media as a mountaineer approaches a climb: with preparation and a plan.
And take heart that it is possible for state trade associations. In fact in Indiana, state trade groups are trekking along well. As of late September, the websites of 50 Indiana trade associations revealed that:
- 34 offer Facebook;
- 28 have Twitter accounts;
- 11 are on LinkedIn;
- Eight offer YouTube;
- Three have Google+.
Additionally, myriad other social media options are available. Key to the social media ascent is that each social media pathway offers distinct messaging advantages. Picture-friendly Facebook, for example, can showcase community outreach, whereas quicksilver Twitter might attract the attention of reporters via pertinent information. Whichever avenues are chosen, it is important to chart a course for each by tailoring messages to the medium, based on each pathway’s vantage point. To retain focus, establish “like” and “follow” goals for each route, and take weekly compass breaks to track progress.
Following are some noteworthy samplings of social media approaches from the Indiana trade association community:
- Facebook – The Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging posts community-friendly information, such as tips for preventing falls and examples of corporate support of senior services.
- Twitter – The Association of Indiana Counties posts updates on newsy topics, such as gasoline taxes and road funding, of interest to a fairly wide audience.
- LinkedIn – The Indiana Commercial Board of REALTORS® hosts a LinkedIn group, providing members easy networking access.
- YouTube – The Indiana CPA Society has assembled a cache of videos, organized by topic for quick review and research.
- Google+ — The Indiana Society of Association Executives blends graphics with information on topics ranging from strategic planning to value propositions.
As for varying social media paths within a single organization, pardon the personal reference as I turn to the one Association I can speak for, the Indiana Bankers Association (IBA). At our organization, we differentiate social media channels as follows:
- Facebook – IBA Facebook highlights member-bank community outreach.
- Twitter – IBA Twitter shares financial literacy tips from the websites of member banks.
- LinkedIn – IBA LinkedIn posts banking news and articles from associate members and member banks.
- YouTube – IBA YouTube offers general tips, information and thoughts from members.
- Blog – IBA Desktop blog publishes political issues, current events and commentary.
Each route is slightly different, but all aspire toward the common goal of focusing on members.
In the end, members are at the pinnacle of everything trade associations do, and social media gives us an ideal opportunity to engage more fully with them. Though at times social media may seem insurmountable, ultimately it is like climbing a mountain — one step at a time.
Author: Laura Wilson, Indiana Bankers Association
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE).