Monday, July 11, 2011

How and Why Clubs and Fraternal Organizations Should Use Social Media

Facebook and Twitter (and eventually Google+?) are perfect tools for for clubs and fraternal organizations such as the Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis, and even exclusive Yacht, Golf and Tennis clubs. Faced with aging populations, low membership enrollment and a seemingly stagnant business model, social media can help give these groups the boost they need to appeal to their next generation of members and better fulfill their missions.

Although, and perhaps because, most clubs and fraternal organizations are invitation-only, recruitment of new members is becoming a struggle. Many clubs with a financial requirement (Yacht Clubs for example) are reducing their initiation and/or membership fees for younger members in the hopes of boosting enrollment. The increasing age of their membership bases is a concern both in terms of the longevity of their organization and their attractiveness to new and younger potential members. Developing active social media profiles will help clubs and fraternal organizations reach younger people where they hang out most and demonstrate to them that these groups can be relevant in today's world. However, clubs must develop a sustainable social media strategy before launching their profiles. Nothing is less attractive than a social media profile managed badly or abandoned after only a few posts.

Once they are on Facebook, Twitter, etc., clubs and fraternal organizations can use it to achieve their missions, especially if those missions involve community support and outreach. Internally, social media can be used to advertise activities and improve attendance, and help members stay in touch with each other and with the club. New members who are not used to the club structure may be more comfortable interacting online before introducing themselves and getting more involved in person. Social media can also be used for fundraising both internally and externally. The codes of conduct that often govern these groups, such as the Rotary's "Four Way Test," can be easily extended to govern members' conduct online to ensure that the image and reputation of the club are maintained.

Clubs and organizations of this type often engage in community outreach and partnerships with other organizations to recruit members, maintain their standing in the community and fulfill their missions. Social media can help them take these interactions online. Partnerships can be acknowledged and developed by "liking" and "following" and interacting with each other's profiles. When a Rotary Club gives a grant to a nonprofit in the community, for example, both the Rotary and the nonprofit will benefit by acknowledging each other online. Engaging in community involvement online through social media strengthens the connections between groups and increases exposure to everyone involved, from the members to the general public.

So how can clubs and fraternal organizations get started with social media?

  1. Make a plan - determine what social media channels you want to pursue, what you will post and who will be responsible for managing them
  2. Set up your accounts - create a look and feel that is consistent with your overall brand
  3. Follow through with a consistent schedule of posts and interaction with fans and partner organizations