April 8, 2009

Why, Social Media? Why Do You Tease Me So?

I have gotten on the bandwagon, drank the Kool-Aid, (insert whatever similar phrase you want to here...) I love using social media tools, can completely see their relevance and positive traits, and think they are great ways to engage members and align them with an association's goals and objectives. I am on a high!

Then, earlier today I came crashing down when I took a look at a story called "Economic Strategy for Associations: A Benchmarking Report on Priorities, Challenges and Strategies" in the April issue of the Association Forum of Chicagoland's Forum magazine. The crash happened specifically when I looked at Table 2 on Page 20, and Key Finding #5.

Table 2 asks the question "How effective are each of the following methods in helping your association achieve its goals?" and has a number of goals like "Improving Member Retention" and "Engaging Younger Members" that were rated with a number of different methods like "Database Marketing" and "Member Get a Member Program". Whew - taking a breath after that long sentence!

As you'll see if you take a look at the table, the method called "Online Media" (which are really social media tools) ranks the lowest in all but two of the categories, in many cases being closer to the "Not at All Effective" end of the range than the "Very Effective" end.

I was shocked that even with the goal of "Increasing Participation Among Younger Members", online media was tied as the lowest rated method to accomplish that goal. That just doesn't jive with what I have found in my organizational use of social media tools, nor does it jive with what others have talked about over and over again at association conferences.

A couple personal examples are that of our organization's 3,800 Facebook Page Fans, probably 3/4 of them are our younger members. Of our Twitter followers, 3/4 of them are our younger members. Do these stats mean that we are necessarily engaging them in achieving the organization's goals? If we're using the social media tools correctly we are. Have we actually measured that? No we have not.

In closing, my questions to you are these - are the people who took this survey just people who haven't tried these tools yet? Are they just not using them in ways that could be beneficial to them? Or, are they actually seeing that online media tools are not effective in helping them meet their association's goals? What have you been seeing, and does what you are seeing and understanding jive with what the survey answers say?

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

-Pete said...

I think the results of this survey are skewed for two reasons.

First, as you infer, perhaps the majority of the people taking this survey have not yet "tried" to venture into the social media world. Where's the statistics on who was polled and what kind of experience they have with social media tools.

Second, I think using social media in this capacity is still in its infant stages and it's difficult to judge just how effective it may or may not be. Many companies/associations are still trying to figure out how best to use these tools.

The jury is still out, so to speak, and it's too early to judge whether or not social media is effective or not.