The State of Social Media in Membership Marketing

Each year, Marketing General puts out a Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. And of course, each year I read the report from the social media/community management lens. Here are some social media highlights I pulled out of the 2013 report:

  • One of the top challenges cited by associations is difficulty attracting/maintaining younger members
  • 74% of responding associations indicated that increasing member engagement is a top membership goal
  • Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the three most common social media sites used by associations for the past four years
  • Twitter tends to be used over Facebook to promote or discuss specific sessions at events
  • Facebook is used more often than Twitter for soliciting new members and promoting membership
  • The majority of associations responding (52%)  report that the communications department is responsible for social media sites, with marketing second at 44% and membership third at 31%
  • One of the primary reasons associations give as to why members join associations continues to be networking
  • Among top three reasons cited for members not renewing is lack of engagement with organization
  • 85% of associations use Facebook (down for the second year from 2011 high of 91%)
  • 76% use Twitter
  • 54% use Linkedin
  • Trend data show a steady increase in the percentage of associations that use a blog
  • Associations with an annual operating budget of over $5 million are significantly more likely to use a private social networking platform than associations with smaller budgets (makes sense as those platforms cost money)
  • Facebook is used more often than Twitter for soliciting new members and promoting membership
  • Linkedin is used for harvesting contact information for recruitment efforts (not sure what "harvesting" means, as LinkedIn states "In order to respect the privacy of group members, it's not possible to export a list of group members and their email addresses."

My takeaways from this report are that engagement and attracting/retaining younger members are of key importance to associations--and, at least to me, social media and online community are key elements in both these areas. According to the Pew Research Project [PDF], 83% of internet users ages 18-29 use social networking sites. If that's the demographic you're trying to attract and retain, doesn't it serve to reason that social media should be a key tactic? Yet how many associations are using social media well and have staff with expertise in social media or community management, as opposed to just tacking on social media to someone's job?