Why Associations Need to Revisit Communication Strategy in 2014



I’ve been “doing” social media in the association world for six years now and if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard the comment “but our members are older and aren’t using social media,” I could probably retire right now. Associations use that “truth” to justify keeping the status quo with their communications efforts and are secure in the knowledge that if their main member demographic is people ages 35+–or even 50+–they can just ignore this social media fad, as well as the mobile device fad and any other “fad” that represents a challenge to the way they’ve always done things.

Well, just when you thought you checked at least the social media box and could forget about it forever, you might want to revisit that decision in light of a new study conducted by iStrategyLabs. The top insights from the study include:

  1. Teens 13-17 on Facebook have declined 25% over the past three years
  2. Over the same time period, the number of Facebook users 55+ has increased 80%

80% increase in the number of users 55 and older? Still think your members aren’t using social media?

My point isn’t that you need to start ramping up your org’s Facebook use if your current membership skews older. It’s that communications is now a moving target and there is no room for complacency or status quo. As social media becomes more and more mainstream, it means a lot of things when it comes to association’s communication and marketing strategies, not to mention membership strategies. Namely, the landscape is changing and it will continue to change.

Look at the change in usage of that one platform in just three years–25% decline in one age group and 80% growth in another? Doesn’t that suggest that, in terms of people’s communication preferences and adoption of new technologies, there are no non-moving targets anymore? What worked five years ago or even last year may not work anymore. What will work next year or ten years from now remains to be seen.

How are your communications and marketing and membership departments staffed to handle this ever changing landscape? How is your professional development budget adapting to handle the need for broader skillsets and an ongoing need for knowledge of new trends and technologies? How are you dealing with staff who are resistant to learning new skills or tensions between departments as communication philosophies differ widely from one to another? How are you staffing to handle the integration of the old and the new when it comes to communications, marketing and member engagement? 

Sorry for the barrage of questions, but seriously, if you’re not thinking about these things yet, maybe you need to be.

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