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December 10, 2019 Social Media Marketing for Associations: Member Engagement Sergio Garcia - Marketing Manager

Social Media Marketing for Associations: Member Engagement

Social media marketing for associations requires a comprehensive understanding of your membership. The fact of the matter is most of your professional community engage on various networks. Yet, trying to drive any real engagement on your association's social pages can feel like pulling teeth. What gives? You post regularly, you have solid content, you have a decent amount of followers, so what's missing?

There is no secret single step that will help boost engagement; if such a thing existed we'd all be “influencers” getting paid for taking selfies on a daily basis. Despite the lack of a secret “boost engagement now” switch, there are some pretty simple steps you can take to help drive member engagement across your association's social media pages. 


Social media marketing for associations is the strategic use of social networks to connect with your professional community, build your brand, increase member acquisition, and drive traffic. This involves publishing authentic content, actively engaging with your community, and analyzing results. 

Social media marketing for associations is an essential part of digital marketing to help boost engagement. 


Even though there is no single step to driving engagement on your association's social media pages, fortunately, there is one golden rule to follow when it comes to social media marketing for associations; the rule of thirds. 

Don't worry, no need for a calculator. The rule of thirds is a basic framework to help you find a balance for your association's social media presence.

This best practice means that your association should use:

  • 1/3 of your posts to promote member benefits
  • 1/3 of your time interacting with your community
  • And 1/3 sharing industry news, tips, and informative content your community would benefit from.

Integrating the rule of thirds into your association's social media marketing strategy can help to increase engagement. It diversifies your activity to help grow your organization through member acquisition, engaging with your community, and growing brand awareness. 

Establishing this balance across your association's social pages will help you understand your following on each network and what resonates most with them. 


Member segmentation isn't a new concept to association executives. Yet many associations fail to appropriately apply this concept consistently across all their social pages. 

In the context of social media, segmenting your audience means understanding what demographics make up the majority of your following on a specific network. Think about it from your own daily consumer behavior. 

  • You check LinkedIn for career focused reasons, whether it's to read industry news or network. 
  • On YouTube, you may have looked up a 'how to' video to learn something new or just simply for entertainment (who doesn't love a good "what the fluff challenge" video?).
  • Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great for keeping in touch with friends and family as well as keeping up with what's happening in the news. 

People use different social networks for different reasons. On top of that, some networks are more popular with specific demographics over others. With that comes their own unique preferences for:

  • Content
  • Social channels
  • Messaging

To help you understand why this is important here's a real world example.

The above images are examples of content posts from the American Psychology Association (APA) across their LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram pages respectively. 

Looking at the engagement you can see that it differs significantly on each page. The APA has seen much lower engagement on their Instagram page. With Instagram being the social media hub for younger audiences, a lack of engagement means the APA aren't establishing brand awareness among the next generation of professional psychologists.

Garnering consistent engagement across all of your association's social pages means tailoring your content, messaging, and brand tone to the demographics that frequent that specific network. 

The State of Social Media Marketing for Associations in 2019

Between generational shifts and consumer behavior, social media usage has changed in recent years. Associations are not immune to being impacted by the ripple effects of these changes. 


For associations seeking to gain traction on Facebook, you need to appeal to adults. 

Usage is significantly highest among Millennials.

  • 25-34 year olds are the biggest segment for U.S. users (Hootsuite)

In my recent blog post, Content Marketing for Associations, I detailed that Millennials read more than any other generation. Generation X and Boomers also prefer to read when consuming content and learning new information. 

Given this insight, promoting articles, industry news, and blog posts on Facebook is a good idea to drive engagement from an older audience. 

In the examples I shared from the American Psychological Association you can see that their article received solid engagement on Facebook showcasing that the data and content they posted aligned.


Surprise, surprise, the image and video sharing network is most popular with a young audience — Generation Z. 

In our whitepaper “A Complete Guide to Attracting and Retaining Gen Z Members” we found that:

  • 46% of young members said they use Instagram to keep up with associations
  • 76% said it's an effective way to stay in touch

In our Generation Z whitepaper we examined what they value from brands, and we found that:

  • They value authentic connections with the brands they engage with
  • They value peer to peer recommendations/endorsements

As seen in the example I shared on the APA, their Instagram page has not garnered much engagement. The posts they share don't align with what this demographic value when consuming content. 

Let's take a look at another association that drives solid engagement on Instagram, the American Marketing Association (AMA), and compare the two pages.

Seeing the two pages side by side it should be apparent where the difference lies. The AMA showcases their young members on Instagram.

Doing this aligns with Generation Z's value for authenticity from the brands they engage with, as well as their value for peer endorsements, resulting in high engagement. 


Like Facebook, LinkedIn is most popular with adults. 

  • 27% of adults use LinkedIn
  • Additionally, adults between the ages of 25-29 (44%) and 30-49 (37%) are adopting LinkedIn as their network of choice.

For the purpose of driving engagement, this network is the best option for associations seeking to interact with their professional community online. 

Given that adults frequent LinkedIn more than any other age group, sharing articles, industry news, and blog posts is an effective way to drive engagement. 

A useful type of content that is specific to LinkedIn is the ability to post documents. We've used this feature to create and share bite sized bits of content as seen below (the image shows the document in fullscreen mode).

We created a preview slideshow version of our Gen Z whitepaper to drive engagement, and from our test run we garnered a solid number of organic impressions and clicks.

This is a great way to create a summarized version of some of your long form content and to help drive traffic to your website for your community to get more detailed info on the information shared. 

Commit to a Social Media Audit

Audit the social media marketing strategy for your association to see if your activity aligns with the segments that frequent each network. Evaluate your content to ensure you're sharing the right content types, topics, and messaging to each channel. 

Taking the time to audit your social pages will help decide if to get rid of some that aren't worth the time or effort.

Ask some honest questions when auditing your association's social accounts:

  • Is your niche here?
  • If so, how do they use the network?
  • Does this account help you achieve the goals of your organization?


I know what you're thinking...

"It's hard to produce video content consistently" and "We don't have the budget for video!". 

But, I'll show you otherwise and how one emerging social media video trend can help you produce video content that will drive strong engagement. 

Before we get into that, let's talk why video is important. It's the one type of content that all generations lean towards when consuming information.

  • Video is the best performing content type on Facebook (BuzzSumo)
  • Tweets with video on average see 10x more engagement than those without (Twitter)
  • LinkedIn users are 20x more likely to share a video than any other type of post

You can use video in a variety of ways to help drive significant engagement from your community across most social networks. 

Informative videos can help promote your association's thought leadership on LinkedIn.

You can form content partnerships to help drive brand awareness as well as member engagement from your community on YouTube

You can even leverage live video features like Instagram Stories and Facebook Live to have members promote your events.

Producing video content consistently is one of the top challenges for associations today. However, the reality is with so much technology available producing video content isn't that difficult. 

As seen in the #membershiptakesmeto example, from the American Bar Association, creating live video content is as simple as using your cell phone's camera and posting it to your association's Instagram and/or Facebook page. 

According to a study from Cisco, 82% of all online content will be video by 2022. Publishing video content regularly now is an effective way to future proof your organization to stay relevant on social media. 

Additionally, ephemeral content (content that is only available for a short duration and disappears) has gained significant popularity within recent years and will continue to grow in the years to come. Instagram Stories and Facebook Live both provide this feature. 

It is common knowledge that the average attention span has decreased to 8 seconds in recent years. Features like Instagram Stories is practically tailor made to this modern consumer behavior and the feature's steady increase in popularity reflects that. 

For associations seeking to increase engagement, ephemeral content is an emerging trend to start integrating into your social media marketing strategy that will allow you to easily create and publish video content on a consistent cadence. 


Effective social media marketing for associations encompasses the same themes of modern association marketing best practices — tailoring your online presence to the preferences of unique segments.

Fortunately most associations are executing this approach successfully on some of their social accounts. However, reaching the various demographics that make up the entirety of your professional audience requires applying this strategy across all relevant networks. 

Applying this mind set to each network, each social post published, each piece of content shared on your social accounts, will help your member engagement flourish. 

Stay tuned and subscribe to the Madgex blog to stay on top of the latest best practices, strategies, and trends your association needs to know about. In a few weeks I'll share association marketing trends you need to know about for 2020.