I once belonged to a social group, one that was affiliated with a national chapter and one that charged annual dues. A piddly amount, really, hardly anything, but as my life became progressively more complicated over the year that I was a member, I decided I wasn’t making it to any of their events and so I did not renew my membership. To me, all they had to offer was “nights out” and since my calendar was already full, I found them to be an easy-to-eliminate time drain.
When I sent my email cancellation, no one contacted me. No one asked why. No form email or auto survey was even sent. Guess they didn’t really care.
I have since joined their Facebook account for free. On it, I get the same information I did when I was a member of the local chapter — links to blogs, articles, surveys etc. –but now I get it for free. The only thing I’m not able to do is attend their events but since they didn’t fit in my schedule to begin with, no worries there.
Facebook is a wonderful way to draw people in to your organization. It casts a broad net. But if you are giving them full access to your group (not a teaser of what membership would be like), you are cheating yourself out of potential members. If you think that’s not happening to you take a look at the numbers of members you have versus the number of Facebook likers (or fans or whatever they’re calling them at this moment). Sure, they’ll never be equal but are you as popular as the high school quarterback on Facebook while your paying members are leaving in droves?
The other issue with organizations on Facebook is that this organization that I now “like” and used to be a former member of, has no idea. They know I “like” them but they have no clue that I used to be a dues paying member of their Tampa chapter. They have no idea because Facebook’s reporting features (and primary concern, for that matter) hinge on advertising and drawing companies in to promote on their site. They care very little (aside from potential ad revenue) whether your page allows you to recruit, engage and tabulate information about your audience.
Before I come off as a Facebook hater, I want to be clear. I have a personal account. I use it for fun and connecting with long-lost pals, friends and family. I do not post everything that’s going on in my life but someone who reads my Facebook profile will know a little about me. However, I keep most things for the people who are really interested in me, those who share my life on more than just a digital platform. If I liken social media and member organizations to fishing (and why not since we’re blocks from beautiful Tampa Bay?), you can’t dump all of your bait in the water and expect that when the fish show up you can ask them nicely to flop into your boat. You can, however, lure them with something they find enticing and then reel them in using items that they simply can’t let go of.
When thinking about your social media offerings and which platforms you’ll use — public vs. private online community, free vs. paid — consider not only the software but the message. If you give potential members free, unlimited access to you on a public site, they will not pay to join. There is no value for them content-wise and what you’re offering could easily be duplicated by anyone (including themselves) on Facebook or any other free space. But if you hold something back, something they’ll receive only as a member, they’ll find themselves unable to resist.