With 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.