If everyone else jumped off a cliff would you?
When it comes to acquiring new members using social media most professional associations and non-profit trade groups do just that. The result: most social marketing strategies fail to create new members. The solution: don’t do what everyone else is doing. Case in point, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Facebook campaign earned a lot of industry accolades and member engagement but few if any new members. Here’s how you can avoid making the same mistake and make sure your social media strategy acquires members.
ASME paired a new, information-rich member recruitment-focused microsite with Facebook to lure young members. The Facebook page uses YouTube, Twitter and Flickr, to deliver images of energetic, motivated teens and young adults enjoying competition, camaraderie and success.
ASME’s goal was to recruit bright young people into the field. This would be done by using Facebook to lure target member toward a Web site with various guidance, job opportunities and advice on careers in mechanical engineering.
The end result was heralded as a huge success by Web marketing trade media like B2BOnline but it provided little value to the association beyond gaining fleeting attention of young engineers and engineering students. The association failed to discover and nurture demand. It failed to prompt useful behavior that shepherded potential members along — on a journey that could have led to a membership application being filled out. Facebook “likes” increased 46% in three months, to more than 10,000. Monthly visits to Facebook increased 300%, and Facebook drives 25% of all traffic to the FutureME microsite. But few memberships were generated.
What ASME Should Have Done to Get Members
What if the trade association had given people a reason to “like” their page? The association chose to force thousands of potential members it to “like” its Facebook page just to see what was on it. Then they walked away. But what if the association used Facebook to give something valuable to potential members in return for being “liked” AND being able to communicate directly with them? For instance, serious engineering students want access to “real life” experiences in engineering. And that includes accessing engineering firms, discovering the latest “real world” theories and practices being pioneered, and meeting engineers who are at the top of their game. ASME could have given away an all-expenses paid trip to its annual convention where that kind of experience would come to life for a student. Mechanical engineering students also need cash. In fact, this would be an excellent opportunity for any professional association to make a scholarship or stipend available as part of a “like us and be entered to win” Facebook contest. The ASME could have discovered and qualified new members with a short Web form asking for first name, school and email address (as part of the contest). This way the association is left with e-mail leads—a way to contact qualified students in the future for direct recruitment purposes.
What You Can Do to Get Members—Right Now
Students also need to find a way toward jobs. An association can step forward on Facebook and literally reward students for asking job-hunting related questions. Sure, many of these questions are answered on association Web sites but students aren’t there. There’s no reason to be there versus being on Facebook. Much like grocery store Harris-Teeter pays customers to ask its dietician health-related questions on Facebook, an association can provide incentive to do the same. Why would you do that? Because trying to draw potential members away from Facebook to an informational microsite is not as compelling as putting out a fire, right on the spot, for a student. Answering burning questions can open the door to making a call to action — a suggestion to become a member right then and there on Facebook. What about your association? Could you be letting enthusiasm for social media distract from the real goal? And when investing in Facebook or other social marketing tools shouldn’t you be creating “quality time” with potential members… by helping them solve problems ? I discuss exactly how to help existing and potential/new members solve problems… in ways that earn memberships… in Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell. Please be clear: I’m not calling ASAE’s staff or advertising agency stupid or short-sighted. Their team is working hard to make social media serve a purpose just like you are. But in this particular case they could have designed social media to generate more member applications. I’m sure they learned from it. And now you can too! photo credit: davesandford