Associations Adjust Strategy as User Satisfaction With Social Media Sinks

Privacy and ads are pushing users away from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. One small association’s solution: Emphasize engagement, not products.

Having a harder time these days connecting with your members on social media? It might be that they’re feeling frustrated by it and tuning it out more.

According to a report released last week by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, U.S. consumers are feeling less enchanted by many of the most popular social media tools. Among the findings:

  • Overall satisfaction with social media fell 1.4 percent in the past year, to 72 on ACSI’s 100-point scale.
  • Satisfaction with Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all trended downward, with Twitter dropping 4 percent. LinkedIn and Pinterest, however, showed slight growth.
  • Customers’ biggest reservation about social media is the amount of advertising that fills the sites, followed by privacy concerns, such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal that’s haunted Facebook for much of 2018.

The idea is to say, ‘We have this, which might help you.’

Amy L. Welch, CAE, vice president of communications at the Oklahoma Society of CPAs, said the association has been adjusting its social media strategy to avoid being too overtly commercial. “The idea is to say, ‘We have this, which might help you,’ but not be too salesy about it,” she said. “We don’t tend to use social media as much for sales pitches as we do just try to be more engaging.”

Instead, OSCPA focuses on highlighting the work that its members are already doing, such as publishing videos on Facebook of awards gatherings and other events or using popular hashtags like #CPAprobs to offer a lighter take on the profession. That, she said, can help attract potential new members without alienating the established ones. “We get people more interested in attending our events because they can see that they are fun and how friendly our members are with each other,” she said.

Ashley Trattner, OSCPA’s communications coordinator, said that the association’s social media presence is heavy on visuals as a way to help insiders and outsiders see each other. Its Instagram account, for instance, “offers an opportunity for use to be seen as people, and not just names on business cards or email signatures,” she said. “Our plan is to soon begin integrating some pushes for specific continuing-education sessions and/or articles in our magazine, but for now, the Instagram serves as a place for OSCPA to be light, fun, and staff-involved.”

Trattner said that OSCPA has used Facebook Events to engage attendees with its major conferences, so social media needn’t be entirely free of promotion for an association. But the trick to improving engagement, Welch said, is to both avoid the hard sell and to clarify where the no-sell zones are; for instance, ads are entirely absent on its members-only online forum.

“We have lots of member solutions, and we want to promote those so our members know we are trying to help them,” Welch said. “So it can be tricky to find the right balance.”

(jurgenfr/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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