To bring in more millennial members and recruit the Gen-Z young people who are following them into the workforce, you’ll need to evolve your communications strategy and test new platforms. And, yes, that means you better be good at social media.
When it comes to recruiting the next generation of members—whether you’re continuing what’s probably a well-established effort to bring millennials into the fold or you’re looking ahead to future prospects in Generation Z—many associations are investing in high-impact digital acquisition campaigns where they can follow the ROI.
What exactly does that look like? That varies, of course, but there’s probably a lot of social media in the mix. It might mean testing out a promoted post on Instagram or trying a new marketing technique, like Facebook’s lookalike campaigns.
In the September/October issue of Associations Now, Kerri McGovern, director of membership at the American Society of Interior Designers, sheds some light on how ASID targets new members through social platforms. Her Instagram campaign recently wrapped up, and so far ASID’s “belong page,” where new members can sign up, has seen about a 10 percent increase in referral traffic.
“Instagram was a success for us because it drove a lot of impressions,” McGovern says. “But on the flip side, our promoted LinkedIn campaign helped get us more qualified leads. . . . LinkedIn brought us leads, whereas Instagram really drove awareness.”
ASID is just one example of an association rebuilding its communications strategy for next-generation members—young professionals who McGovern says are hiding in plain sight.
According to this year’s Association Communications Benchmarking Report [PDF] from Associations Adviser and Naylor Association Solutions, membership teams have a pretty big challenge on their hands. They not only have to cut through the clutter of an inbox, but they also have to communicate member benefits quickly and effectively.
On Instagram, that means using compelling visuals that stop a user from scrolling on by, McGovern says. It also means crafting a quick and compelling message, like: “You’re talented. Get noticed.” and “You belong here.”
ASID is continuing to learn as it goes with Instagram. One of the biggest challenges so far is the time it takes to analyze metrics from an Instagram promoted post and connect them to hard data on members who joined.
“That’s a harder number to get at because you can’t see the person who’s coming from Instagram to your page and then joins,” McGovern says.
Even without this knowledge, she says, ASID deemed the testing successful simply because it raised the organization’s visibility. That’s something many associations seem to struggle with.
More than half of respondents in the benchmarking study said it’s challenging to engage young professionals and custom membership segments. At the same time, few were trying out nontraditional communication platforms to reach these prospects. Only 19 percent said Instagram was perceived as very or extremely valuable (although this was a 9 percent increase from 2016), and only 6 percent said the same about Snapchat (a 4 percent increase).
If you’re new to social media marketing, McGovern suggests dipping your toes into the water carefully. ASID will spend about 15 percent of its recruitment budget on social media marketing this year and will increase it by about 5 to 10 percent next year. To spend effectively, she suggests talking to a group of young professionals or members for input on their social behaviors and habits.
“Last week, I met with a group of emerging professionals, and it was fascinating to hear from them to learn what’s working and what falls flat,” McGovern says. “One woman said she doesn’t use LinkedIn, she uses Facebook for specific reasons, and she only has a personal Twitter.”
If McGovern has one key bit of advice to offer, it’s that you stay focused on what members want—and not just what you think they want.
“Remember that the people that are running the association and creating the content often are not the same people who are consuming the association knowledge,” she says. “Associations that are going to be successful are the ones listening.”
Have you experimented with your communications strategy to reach new members? What platforms or tactics worked best? Leave your comments in the message thread below.