For Better Online Engagement, Go Where Your Young Members Go

A new survey from Pew Research Center indicates that young people use online platforms very differently than they did just a few years ago. Here are a few examples from associations that have made changes to their digital strategy, embracing Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram to recruit and engage younger members.

Last week, I read Pew Research Center’s latest survey findings on the online media habits of teens. I quickly realized that a lot has changed in a short time.

For starters, Facebook is no longer the go-to network for young people. Truthfully, 2018 has not been kind to this social network. As a result of data privacy concerns and newsfeed changes, many organizations have begun to rethink Facebook-first strategies.

It’s safe to say that, at least for teens, Facebook isn’t cool anymore. When Pew conducted this same study four years ago, 41 percent of teenagers said they used Facebook more than any other online platform. This year, only 10 percent said the same.

Still, as I’m sure you’re aware, teens aren’t fleeing the internet. They are very active online, Pew confirmed:

  • 95 percent of teenagers have access to a smartphone.
  • 45 percent say they are online “almost constantly.”
  • Teens report using Snapchat (35 percent), YouTube (32 percent), and Instagram (15 percent) the most.

While teenagers are probably not your primary demographic for membership, their habits could indicate broader shifts in the media landscape. And presumably you are interested in recruiting younger members, so you should be thinking about the future of digital media and how social platforms can be continuously fine-tuned to meet young people where they are.

Instagram and Snapchat, in particular, have big potential, according to Liz Dupont in a blog post for the job board provider Web Scribble. “One of the big draws of these platforms is the fact that they’re largely visual,” she said. “For generations with shorter attention spans, images are a super-fast way to absorb information—and they carry the potential for deep emotional impact as well.”

The good news is that some associations are already using these platforms to recruit and engage. Here are examples of how to use YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram effectively:

YouTube testimonials. The testimonial video is a tried-and-true tactic that many associations use to explain membership benefits and value. But have you ever put younger members front and center to explain benefits unique to their needs? The American Physical Therapy Association does this in a two-minute clip about student membership that has more than 1,000 YouTube views. That’s a quick-hit success story, especially when you consider that millions of teens turn to YouTube for career advice, homework help, and college admissions advice. For associations looking to get in front of would-be members, testimonial or explainer-style videos may be a great way to introduce this audience to a profession, trade, or career interest area.

Instagram throwbacks. Anyone who’s been on Instagram knows that #tbt stands for Throwback Thursday. Some associations have found creative ways to do use Throwback Thursdays to engage members, including the Society for Women Engineers, which has an archive of photos that it taps for Instagram, each with an inspiring message or interesting set of facts. Last year, a series of posts featuring historical photos during Engineers Week received hundreds of likes because the images carried an emotional appeal, portrayed famous engineers, and leveraged a popular Instagram hashtag: #EWeek2017. More recently, with the rollout of Instagram story templates, SWE created high-impact visuals that push out to followers’ feeds and serve as a renewal reminder.

Snapchat offers. Think of Snapchat as a notification tool that can give members immediate access to one-of-a-kind opportunities. The options for this platform are almost endless. As Dupont explains in her post, “Your association can offer a giveaway as a lead generation tool to gain followers. … Or, you can send out a Snap that includes a link to an exclusive online webinar—offering only 24 hours for [individuals] to sign up. You can even use a snap as a ‘teaser’ for upcoming events.” That’s similar to how the Internet Association is currently using Snapchat for meetings and policy events. IA’s account (@internetassn) gives members a behind-the-scenes look at conversations with policymakers, executives, and tech movers and shakers.

How are you using new and emerging online platforms to drive member engagement and recruitment? Leave your comments in the thread below.

(bigtunaonline/iStock Editorial/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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