increase membership

Social Media Channels for AssociationsWith everyone from your accountant to your grandmother posting status updates, it seems like the whole world has mastered social media strategy.  But social media is more complicated that it appears—especially for professional associations who are trying to build relationships, not just follower counts.

Plus, many organizations feel like they need to play catch-up, when it comes to social media. As a result, they overreach, tackling all the different platforms at once. If you haven’t already formed a social plan, it’s important to think about the unique objectives of your association or advocacy group.  Different social channels are better suited to different aims. And you shouldn’t try to be everywhere.

Here’s a look at four popular outlets we use for our professional association clients, based on their target audiences and membership goals:


If you’re trying to get the word out in a broad, public forum, consider Twitter.  Twitter is a great mechanism for bursts of news (even non-followers can find your posts if you’re using terms or hashtags they follow)… but you need to be committed to the platform.  Many professional associations send out several tweets per day. Organizations and advocacy groups also use Twitter to draw audiences back to their websites for original content pieces and offers. If you think you’ll only have time to tweet on a quarterly basis, don’t bother.


LinkedIn is known for attracting a more professional, work-oriented crowd. Like Twitter, LinkedIn lets you post news items, along with personal or organizational announcements; but the feeds tend to rotate slower, so your items won’t disappear as quickly if you’re not constantly updating. LinkedIn also provides opportunities to start or join professional groups. Starting a group is a great way to connect your professional association members. And joining helps you access new contacts or prospects. Just remember not to spam LinkedIn groups with too many self-serving posts—the goal is to create meaningful exchanges.


If you’re trying to build your reputation for expertise, consider Quora.  Answering questions on Quora is a great way to establish thought leadership within relevant circles. And because users are required to register and contribute under their real names and email addresses, Quora offers some of the professional transparency that LinkedIn does. With questions and discussions already circulating, Quora might be the best bet for organizations that know their material, but aren’t sure how to start a dialogue.


If you’re trying to reach consumers, try Facebook.   Facebook is probably the trickiest of the social media platforms; it’s where everyone thinks they should start, but few actually belong.  One rule of thumb: Facebook works best if you actually have a face.   That is, if your organization can be personified or touches people in a personal way, Facebook is an effective vehicle for your messages.  But if you’re working on an interoperability protocol of multi-node networks, for example, you probably can’t hang with this image-oriented crowd.

Whatever social platforms you use, try to integrate your efforts whenever possible.  For example, when I answer a Quora question, I send a tweet about my response. Those tweets can also function as LinkedIn updates—a great three-for-one deal. On the other hand, because audiences and their motivations are different on each platform, it’s a good idea to tailor your language and time your posts accordingly.

Learn more about social media outreach for your advocacy group, trade association, or professional society.

Association Conference ServicesToday’s remote conferencing tools and virtual events are great for going green and reducing travel spend—particularly if your working groups, association executives, or Board members are geographically dispersed. But there’s no real substitute for in-person gatherings. When you need to unite key people in your association—for training, strategizing, or promoting new initiatives—professional conference services can help.

What’s the value of conference services? The answer depends on the type of event you’re trying to organize or attend. Here are five that we often tackle on behalf of our clients and association executives:

1.       Working Group Meetings

Email and conference calls are great, but they’ll never replace face-to-face meetings. Working groups are comprised of many different dynamics—different personalities, different expectations, different learning styles. By removing the headaches associated with venues and itineraries, conference services can help you coordinate your next working group session, so all your members are more productive.

2.       Board Meetings

How seamless are your annual strategic planning sessions? How many working hours are co-opted so you can plan for the planning session? Comprehensive conference services can support your Board members by setting the agenda, orchestrating meeting logistics, even facilitating discussions or taking meeting minutes.

3.       Tradeshow Booths

There’s a reason we’ve all experienced the tradeshow circuit at one time or another. Done well, tradeshows still work. Conference services can help you define “done well” for any event or expo you’re considering—from booth marketing to tradeshow collateral. For example, a traditional 10×10 association booth won’t get much traffic next to a display on a 102-inch OLED at the Consumer Electronics Show.

4.       Plugfests

If you’re a standards-setting organization, you rely on plugfests to test the interoperability of different products or services in a standardized environment. Conference services can help you bring together the people and tools for better technical experimentation and collaboration.

5.       Networking Events

Associations are natural “conveners.” They create safe spaces for people to meet, across industries and geographic markets. Hosting a conference or forum carries tremendous potential to grow your membership and your role as a thought leader. It’s much easier to focus on the content of your event if you’re using conference services to manage the logistics.

Remember: you don’t need a full-time events coordinator to handle your association gatherings. Conference services are available as on-demand solutions, customized to fit your association needs.




I figured this headline would draw some attention! Explosive membership growth – it’s the quest of nearly every association yet, unfortunately, the source of much frustration for most. A few years back I had the good fortune of serving as Managing Director for an association that went from 30 to 120 corporate members in less than four years. And these weren’t trivial memberships – they ranged in cost from $10,000 to $40,000. Continue reading »