The MemberWise Network is introducing a new monthly feature called Network Views – an opinion piece on a set monthly theme.
The purpose of this new feature is to give a voice to the thought leaders of the membership and association sector and acknowledge and celebrate their wealth of knowledge and experience. The theme for October/November is social media and I am delighted to introduce Gordon Glenister, Director General at bpma (British Promotional Merchandise Association). Let’s see what Gordon has to say on this critical topic.
How do CEOs use social media in the Association world
(Opinion Piece by Gordon Glenister)
As a Director General of a trade association, I see my role very much as key communicator both within my industry and externally. I have been fascinated by the growth of social media and how it also has divided opinion as to its benefits. Within the bpma (British Promotional Merchandise Association) we largely use three forms of social media interaction, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
We use Facebook and Twitter to promote member news, our events and industry relevant topics. We also interact with members liking and sharing their posts. We use Buffer and Hootsuite to ensure our web articles are automatically posted. When we have run major campaigns like Promotional Products Week our level of social media interaction has amplified 10 fold. We used a panda to be our mascot and we created a twitter hashtag for Promo the Panda creating some really great member responses.
We have a LinkedIn community forum which has been successful in driving member engagement. We made it exclusive to members, so that those that wish to join the group that are not members are an immediate membership lead. We found that posts that create issues e.g industry service levels, finding staff, industry trends, scam companies, legislation update etc are well received. We have a clear set of rules ensuring that company names are not posted and members don’t disparage each other. I am reliably told that with regard to post engagement it’s something like this – from a group of 100, 1 person starts the post or discussion, 9 people engage and 90 people view it. So never under estimate the non-posters – many will be aware of the message.
We have also used the community for feedback and idea generation for new benefits which has been extremely valuable. Increasingly associations use twitter handles for their conferences and exhibitions to create wider conversations and feedback.
However, I use it myself and have far greater levels of engagement than the Association, proving more and more that people follow people and particularly like to engage with thought leaders. Most of my posts and interactions would be early evening and I rarely do stuff during the day unless I am at an event.
It has amazed me to learn only 16% of CEOs participate in social media – the same survey revealed that of the 1,700 respondents only one of them had a regular blog. In fact consumers tell us that they are 77% more likely to buy from a company if the CEO has a presence.
CEOs have the chance to set the agenda on social media, to ignore it is a missed opportunity. Within 5 years after face to face interaction social media will be the second most effective way we communicate. Emails could be a thing of the past. One of the most prolific users of social media is Richard Branson. I also discovered the famous investor Warren Buffett has over a million followers on Twitter yet only sent 7 tweets.
CNN tell us that 75% of people get their news now from social media and increasingly within the Association world, more and more members will be hearing about events in this way. Associations all over the world have been challenged to prove more and more value for their fees. Information is so easily available on the internet now.
Social media can also be dangerous and one of the biggest challenges that marketers are facing is reputation management. A bad story can be amplified hugely through social media. As associations we are in the business of protecting our member’s interests, so what happens when the control is no longer in our hands? An example that went badly wrong was: HMV (a UK entertainment retailer) recently laid off a large number of staff without considering the fact that some still had access to the corporate Twitter account. One member of staff took advantage of this by live tweeting the “mass execution of loyal employees who love the brand”. It seems that no one in senior management knew the Twitter password and they were powerless to stop it.
Overall, social media is here to stay, develop and grow. Ignore it at your peril!