Give Members a Voice with Crowdspeaking Platforms

Whether you’re running an advocacy campaign or celebrating a milestone, so-called crowdspeaking platforms, like Thunderclap and Headtalker, can get your members engaged on social media. Here’s how a few associations are using them.

If your job is membership, government affairs, or marketing and communications, then you may have tried using a crowdspeaking platform to reach members.

Or maybe you’re asking yourself: What the heck is a crowdspeaking platform?

Short answer: It’s a digital media tool that can amplify and extend your members’ voices on social media, and it may even help to make them go viral.

Crowdspeaking platforms—the most popular are Thunderclap and Headtalker—are akin to the Kickstarter fundraising platform in that they enlist social media users to spread a message.

There are three steps to creating a campaign:

  • Write a social post that you want people to sign onto and share.
  • Pick a supporter goal and time for that message to post.
  • Promote your crowdspeaking campaign to members and have them sign up.

Once the pledge goal is reached, your message publishes automatically to the social feeds of your supporters on the chosen date. With all your supporters speaking together, that message begins to stand out on social media and may even trend.

Some critics have labeled crowdspeaking “armchair activism” or “slacktivism,” especially since it takes only a few clicks to register and sign up for a campaign. But that might not necessarily be a bad thing, given how many social movements, from #MeToo to #NationalSchoolWalkout, have recently sprung up using a hashtag.

If you use a crowdspeaking platform correctly, your campaign suddenly gets a little more reach. Think of it as an opportunity to engage busy five-minute members in a micro-volunteering moment.

ASAE is using Thunderclap for this week’s Power of A campaign, #AssociationsStrenghenAmerica. (Shameless plug: There’s one day left to sign up and share the message). I recently spoke with two other associations that used Thunderclap, and they shared some key lessons they learned along the way.

Spread Love for Your Hashtag

When the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) decided to launch its first professional awareness day back in November, the organization started with all the traditional tactics to prepare members for action—building toolkits, message points, and prewritten tweets for member use. But about midway through the planning, it became clear that a Thunderclap campaign could make the message even easier to spread, says Executive Director Meghan Carey.

“We still put the toolkit and resources out there and encouraged members to use them, but we had a greater uptake of the message because of Thunderclap,” she says. “The campaign was an easy way for members to sign up and automatically post a message to their social media feed. Almost 300 people signed up.”

The message that was shared: “Join me in thanking genetic counselors for the important role they play in healthcare. #IamAGeneticCounselor.” One member even got the message and hashtag on several electronic billboards across Ohio. The #IAmAGeneticCounselor hashtag still has momentum today.

Depending on your campaign size and strategy, you may want to consider opting into the paid plans offered by Thunderclap, which includes additional benefits like access to customized messages and user analytics. Since NSGC was on a budget, it spent $55 for the “lightning plan,” which is geared toward nonprofits. Carey says it delivered “a lot of bang for the buck.”

Celebrate a Major Milestone

Crowdspeaking campaigns work well not only for advocacy or awareness but also for milestone moments when your association has something important to say.

The Solar Energy Industries Association was an early adopter—SEIA started using Thunderclap about three years ago—and one of its most successful campaigns was the celebration of a milestone: 1 million solar installations across the United States.

The outcomes were impressive. More than 1,500 backers signed up to spread the #MillionSolarStrong message, and the social reach went out to an audience of 76 million people.

“The value is amplification,” says Dan Whitten, SEIA’s vice president of communications. “One of the most rewarding things was that every news media story I saw about solar for months to come had this statistic that we eclipsed a million installations and would get to 2 million in two more years.”
The key is to be selective in how you use crowdspeaking tactics.

“You can’t just do a Thunderclap campaign because you’re celebrating your association’s 40th birthday. People won’t really care about that,” Whitten says. “If you’re successful with it, you’re going to break through the noise with your message, and hopefully people are going to see that message five, 10, maybe even 30 times in their Twitter feed.”

Have you used a crowdspeaking campaign to engage members? What were some of the lessons that you learned? Post your comments in the message thread below.

(mattjeacock/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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