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Is Social Media a Waste of Time for Your Association?

Lori Halley 10 January 2011 8 comments

If your membership or non-profit association is still wondering if your members or prospects are using social media, you may want to review the findings of The Pew Research Center's Older Adults and Social Media report. This nationwide telephone survey of 2,252 American adults on their use of the Internet found that "while social media use has grown dramatically across all age groups, older users have been especially enthusiastic over the past year about embracing new networking tools." Here are some of the survey's key findings:

  • Between April 2009 and May 2010, social networking use among Internet users ages 50-64 grew by 88% - from 25% to 47%
  • During the same period, use among those ages 65 and older grew 100%  from 13% to 26%
  • By comparison, social networking use among users ages 18-29 grew by 13% - from 76% to 86%

Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist for the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, and author of the report, suggests that "social media has the potential to bridge generational gaps. There are few other spaces - online or offline - where tweens, teens, sandwich generation member, grandparents, friends and neighbors regularly intersect and communicate across the same network." She also notes that "email is still the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families and colleagues, but many older users now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications."

Social Media Use:

According to the Pew Study, "young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users:"

  • One in five (20%) online adults ages 50-64 say they use social networking sites on a typical day, up from 10% one year ago
  • Among adults ages 65 and older, 13% log on to social networking sites on a typical day, compared with  just 4% who did so in 2009

Use of Twitter:

The study indicates that one in ten Internet users ages 50 and older now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.

  • Just 5% of users ages 50-64 had used Twitter or another status update service in 2009, and 11% now say they use these tools.
  • On a typical day, 6% of online adults ages 50-64 make Twitter part of their routine, up from 1% in 2009

Getting Started With Social Media

So - if you're now convinced that you DO need to reach your existing and potential members and/or volunteers via social media, how should you get started? In his blog post Conquering Your Fears of Social Media (in the Search Engine Journal), Todd Heim suggests that while "social media campaigns can be extremely time consuming and/or very expensive... you don't need to break the bank or devote all of your time to your campaign." Heim suggests you:

  • Start by claiming your user name and/or brand by setting up accounts in the most popular social media services. While you are doing this, learn a bit about each of the services and how they might be able to help you reach your goals.
  • Start out small. Devoting just a few minutes a day could be enough to get you started. After long, you'll start to understand how each service works and (ideally) realize that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. 
  • Set simple, specific and achievable short term goals. It could be something as simple as "Follow 10 people in my industry per day." Doing this will help give your actions focus and also help to manage the time you spend networking.

Read more:

For more information on promoting online member/volunteer engagement through social media:

Have you created a social media strategy for 2011?  If so, please share some of your tips.






Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 10 January 2011 at 4:45 PM


  • Frances said:

    Monday, 10 January 2011 at 12:42 PM

    As an organization what should one put in a tweet? What  will people find interesting and useful? How many  tweets should be send per day? per week?  I am afraid that  supporters will find excessive messaging annoying.  How does an organizaiton find a balance?

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Tuesday, 11 January 2011 at 4:34 AM

    Frances: Your use of Twitter will depend on your organization's goals. Many non-profits use Twitter to mobilize support for a cause; to build buzz and publicize events; some are hosting live chats or introducing new members or chapters via tweets.

    If you are just getting started with social media, you may want to start small and set simple, achievable objectives as Todd Heim advises in the blog post above. And as most social media experts will suggest, you might want to start by listening - setting up a Twitter account and following some people in your industry, sector or field. At the same time you can survey your members or supporters to determine what social media they are using.

    The key is to remember that social media, such as Twitter, is just one tool in your member communications toolbox. You should set objectives and create social media strategies as part of your overall communications planning. Of course, you may also want to consult a social media expert in your community.

    Here are some other Wild Apricot blog posts on getting started with social media/Twitter:

    • Ten Highly Successful Social media Habits for Nonprofits - https://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/archive/2010/11/02/10-highly-successful-social-media-habits-for-nonprofits.aspx

    • Twitter 101 for nonprofits - https://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/archive/2009/09/14/twitter-101-for-nonprofits.aspx

    You can also search "Twitter" in the Wild Apricot Blog or in AssociationJam.org.

  • Geri Stengel said:

    Thursday, 13 January 2011 at 10:06 PM

    Bridging generational gaps is only the beginning of what nonprofits can and are doing with social media. The data from our survey of nonprofits using social media indicates that nonprofits have expanded their reach in many ways using social media. From their social media usage, we developed best practice guidelines, <a href="http://www.ventureneer.com/sites/default/files/nonprofits-and-social-media-it-aint-optional_0.pdf">Nonprofits and Social Media: It Ain\'t Optional</a>, which contains the combined wisdom of many nonprofits.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Friday, 14 January 2011 at 4:04 AM

    Geri:  Thanks for the link to the Ventureneer survey.  I had also included a link to an earlier Wild Apricot blog post - "10 Highly Successful Social Media Habits for Nonprofits" - that reviews this relevant survey.

  • bernadette smith said:

    Monday, 17 January 2011 at 4:41 AM

    what a nice preview thanks for sharing this information.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Monday, 07 February 2011 at 6:55 AM

    Bernadette: Glad you found this useful.

  • Pam Terry said:

    Friday, 04 November 2011 at 2:35 PM
    Absolutely Not! Social media is ESSENTIAL to our organization. We are anxiously waiting on Wild Apricot to incorporate social media into event promotion.

    Have you heard about the value of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for event promotion? If not, where have you been? haha

    Seriously, what's going on - why isn't Wild Apricot doing ANYTHING about incorporating Social Media. If you are, I haven't heard about it and the last time I asked a couple of months ago the answer was - not doing anything. That's just sad.
  • Frank - Fresh Apricot said:

    Monday, 07 November 2011 at 9:39 AM
    Hi Pam,
    A better answer might be 'not doing anything [right now]'. Because we're currently researching what the best first steps towards Social Media integration will be.

    And one of the options we have identified is integrating Social Media sites with Events.

    But this is in the early stages so nothing has been finalized. With that in mind would you be available to discuss what you'd like to see us do?

    If so please send me a note at frank@wildapricot.com and we can setup a time to chat.
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