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Social media may seem like an obvious tool for charitable organizations – after all, its uses for awareness and fundraising have been well-documented. However, social media can also be implemented with great success for associations as well. The top 3 most useful social media tools for associations are Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace.

Facebook is one of the largest and most popular social networking sites on the web. One of the best tools for associations on Facebook is the “Groups” feature – you can create a “group” and invite members to join. They (and you as an administrator) can then post messages on the wall, upload photos and video, and have forum-style conversations on the discussion board. This can build a sense of cohesiveness and community. Furthermore, groups can be organized at several different levels of detail – you can have a national or global group for your association, or a more localized, regional group. That way, members from the same area can connect, as well as members from across the globe.

Another useful feature of Facebook is the ability to create “events.” With Facebook events, you can inform members of upcoming conferences, conventions, meetups, etc. Like groups, events give members and administrators the ability to upload multimedia like photos and videos.

Another powerful social media tool for associations is Twitter, a “microblogging” service that allows users to post short, 140-character updates. With Twitter, associations can post updates on current news and events within the association, as well as carry on one-on-one conversations with members.

One interesting and more unusual use of Twitter is the concept of “livetweeting” events – that is, posting Twitter updates from events as they’re happening. Not only does this keep attendees in the loop as to what’s happening, but it can also give members unable to attend a sense of connectedness to the event. The Vans Warped Tour, a national music festival, has used Twitter at concerts to facilitate secret giveaways – they’ll tweet things like “2 free tickets to see [a band] – look behind the stage left speakers!” and fans with Twitter-enabled mobile devices can then participate in the giveaways and other contests.

Finally, there’s Myspace. Generally, Facebook and Twitter are stronger tools for associations, but if your membership base has a younger demographic, then Myspace might be the right social media outlet for you. Although the general consensus of Myspace is that it’s populated by a high-school age group, statistics have shown that, much like Facebook,  Myspace’s fastest-growing demographic is the 34+ age group. Really, the most important thing to do is to examine your target market – if they appear to already be using Myspace, then it could be worthwhile to explore as a possible option. Much like Facebook, Myspace has a “groups” feature that can be utilized to connect members.

In addition to their uses as connection media, all three of these social networking sites can be used to help raise awareness of your organization – which can lead to an increase in membership and participation. These are just a few of the social media options out there - the three sites we've talked about are the biggest. If you’ve not already done so, your organization should absolutely explore social media as an option for promoting and enhancing your image and connecting members.

How does your association use social media? Let us know in the comments!

See Also: “Is Social Media Right for Your Organization?
 

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