5 Trends Impacting Association Social Media in 2014

Even though I'm not working in the association space right now, I still have strong emotional ties to the association world and am happy when I have a chance to step back into that world. Last Friday I had one of those chances, moderating a panel about association social media at an Association Trends Live breakfast

I gave a quick presentation about the top 5 trends impacting association social media in 2014. IMO, those trends are: 


A huge trend this past year has been the rise of visual content. As social media platforms and the internet as a whole have become more and more crowded with “content,” photos and images have started to dominate. They’re easy to digest—easier than reading--stand out in a sea of words.  As the popularity of mobile devices has continued to increase, almost everyone has a camera with them constantly and it takes only a second to snap a photo and share. People are drawn to visual content and platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have become increasingly popular. Instagram passed Twitter for daily active mobile users in 2012—an 8.5 fold increase in 6 months. Photos on Facebook generate more interest and Pinterest is the fourth largest driver of web traffic worldwide.  Adding images to your content and making them part of your social media strategy is a given now.  I think associations are going to start seeing more Instagram use around conferences and in-person events—so monitoring like we monitor Twitter now might become more of a priority.


  “Content marketing” is this year’s biggest buzz word just like “social media” was five years ago. This is great for associations because most associations know a lot more about generating “content” than for-profits—we’ve been publishing magazines, books, brochures and other content for years—plus we have dedicated volunteers willing and able to create it for us. Most associations have dedicated pubs departments. However, this new focus on “content marketing” can be a challenge for associations and their silos—who “owns” content? It used to be pubs or web, now is it marketing? The same way social media brought up interesting turf issues and challenges for associations, so does content/content marketing.


 If there’s a buzzword more popular this year than “content” it’s data! Big data, data-driven, data visualization….it seems that those who are not focusing on content are focusing on data. Social media generates a ton of data--both in terms of analytics about posts on social media channels and in terms of what members and potential members are posting about your association and the profession it represents. Each social media platform has it’s own analytics, then you've got Google analytics for your association's website, then if you’re using third-party tools, that’s more data and reporting possibilities. Add to that data visualization—not only capturing data but displaying it in a meaningful way and way that’s shareable within your organization and with your board of directors. The good news—there are lots of potential insights available from all this data—it’s a matter of figuring out what your social media goals are, what data maps to those goals, how to capture and display it, how to map it back to AMS, member engagement, etc. Rather than just producing a data dump of every Tweet or Facebook post from the previous month, social media reports should frame data in an easy to understand, actionable format.

Social = Paid?

Over the past year, Facebook did a huge bait and switch on all brand pages, but it’s affected nonprofits and associations possibly the most. Associations spent time and money building a Facebook presence—driving people to the org’s Facebook page, getting people to “like” their page, building in custom functionality like Capwiz for advocacy or career center tabs for Facebook pages, etc. Then Facebook pulled the rug out and made it so that only a fraction of a page’s followers even see their updates without paying. If you go to a Facebook page now and post an update, it shows how many people will see that post organically, then offers you the ability to “boost” or promote a post. For brands, paying to boost posts and for ads/promoted posts is a given, but for associations and nonprofits that don’t have ad budgets for social media, this is an issue. This trend is starting to spread across other social platforms as well: LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest—all offer paid features now. For associations that had considered social media “free” this is a big shift and something that might change use of platforms, especially Facebook. Those who know me know I have no love for Facebook, and would encourage associations to start looking at other social media platforms and focusing resources there rather than paying to promote Facebook posts unless Facebook is working well. And if you are paying to promote posts or content, I'd carefully track results and evaluate whether it's worth the investment. 


So many social platforms, so little time! With the rise of new visual platforms and newer anonymous or short-term platforms like Yik Yak, Snapchat, Fade…it’s simply too much to be everywhere for most associations. Most associations are using social media in at least some capacity now, so where five or even two years ago, the question was still “should we be using social media”….that question has become “which platforms should we be using?”  Identifying where your members are, where your next generation members are, what’s driving traffic to your website, where people are sharing your content already—those are some things associations can do now to help determine where to focus their efforts. There’s no one answer for which platforms fit best for associations—for some, Pinterest is a slam dunk; for others, it may be LinkedIn, and for others, Twitter. It’s worth doing an audit of your social media strategy and what your goals are across marketing, communications, advocacy, etc then mapping those goals to the right platforms rather than trying to be everywhere.

Here's the link to the (sort of worthless without the notes, but featuring Lil' Delicious, so there's that) preso on Slideshare: