The Wall Street Journal featured a full page ad today from IBM. “Liking Isn’t Leading” is the headline and it made me think of member-based organizations. So often member organizations get pressured into creating social profiles and when, after a couple of months, they don’t get the likes or follows they expect, they give up or redirect their resources, leaving either an unmanned social profile or one that is visited less frequently than a Christmas tree lot two days after Christmas.
If you are involved in social media for your association (and we hope you are. After all you can’t be part of the very important conversations occurring there if you aren’t a part of it.) you no doubt have a reason behind wanting to be involved. Is it member retention you’re hoping to affect? Or is it attracting new members? Without knowing why you’re doing it, you cannot begin to gauge whether you are successful or not. Goals first; method second.
Getting back to “liking.” Once you know what your goals are, measure them — here’s the kicker — in a meaningful way. Measuring how many people “like” you has nothing to do (directly) with recruitment. Indirectly, yes; directly you might as well be measuring the breeze with the thinking that it may blow potential members your way. You have no idea why people are liking you, and although it feels like an endorsement, it may be less beneficial. Liking your content is not the same as wanting to join your organization. I can like cake, while on a diet. I can like a cable television program but never watch. I can like your association and never have any intention of paying you dues. Furthermore, Facebook recently implemented a change that means even those people who like your organization, only see a very small percentage of your posts (about 1 in 5). If you post every day for your organization — Monday-Friday those who like you are only seeing one of those posts. Hope it’s the one that encourages them to join!
What’s an association to do? Measure what you want to know. If you want to know what content is most popular with your Facebook audience, look at your insights but know you may or may not be able to apply that to your Twitter audience or your members, in general. If you want to know about increased retention, don’t count something that has little to do with it (directly) like “likes.”
Part of adopting social media and new marketing is taking on another role — that of scientist. To know what appeals to your audience or accomplishes the goals you’ve tied to social, you must test what you’ve assumed to be true. Only at this point — when you have established goals, set measurements in place and a willingness to test your assumptions — do you begin to understand the power behind social and what it can do for your association.