Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Association Social Media Roadshow Reflections Part 2: Facebook

*Disclaimer: I work for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); however, this is my personal blog in which I express my own thoughts and opinions.*

A few weeks ago I blogged about my experience of being among 12,500 members at my association's annual convention, and their reactions to our budding social media activities.

I work in ASHA's web department, and we had a booth in the exhibit hall with a sign that said "Facebook isn't just for teenagers--learn what ASHA's social networks can do for you."

As I said in my previous post about Twitter, the vast majority of our (130,000) members are in the 34-55 year-old category. That said, we are closely affiliated with a student association--the members of which will ultimately become members of ASHA. When we first started toying with the idea of incorporating social media into our communications strategy, we figured there would be plenty of interest from the students but weren't sure how many of the older members would want to participate.

I am the first to admit that I originally dismissed the idea of a Facebook page--I didn't think there would be any value to members. Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong, as evidenced by the almost 5,500 fans we've attracted in about 2 months.

We built a very basic page on Facebook--just information about the association, links to our Twitter stream, our YouTube channel and our online store. Our tweets feed into the status updates for the page, and that's about as much content we add to the page on a regular basis--at this point it's basically there for members to use as they wish.

At any rate, back to the convention. It gave us a great opportunity to explain--in person--what social networking is and how it can enhance the value of their membership. There was a lot of interest and excitement from members, from students to a man who's been a member for 34 years. As a matter of fact, of all the people we met there, he was the most enthusiastic about social media--he'd even incorporated it into his presentation about academic leadership.

As for Facebook, here are some examples of how it's working for us:

  • Proves that our members are, in fact, receptive to social media. Even before we'd added any information about Facebook to our website we attracted several thousand fans. The day we posted the link to the Facebook page on the homepage of our website, 1451 people visited the Facebook page; 413 of those became fans.

  • Provides tangible metrics. While there is a lot to be said for new metrics like return on engagement, the fact remains that, to the people who are skeptical about the value of social media, nebulous terms like "engagement" aren't that persuasive. They want proof that social media is worth it. Facebook Insights provides that kind of data: page views (both overall and unique), fan demographics by age and gender, new fans per day, etc. You can view the data graphically, or export it to Excel.

  • Lets us observe how members are using the page.
    "I am in private practice and would love to meet other SLPs that are private practice owners, as well."

    "I am interested in the topic on the outcome of late talkers who display no other disability......any pointers? "

    "I am also glad to be able to connect with other SLP's on here. What a great idea!"

    "Hello everyone! It is great to connect with all of you. I look forward to being a part of this like-minded community."

I could go on but I won't bore you. The bottom line is that there is no question that the level of interest in our page on Facebook has helped turn "someday" into "now" in terms of getting buy-in about the need for a social media strategy.

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