A new 2015 international study of social media use by associations conducted by global association management and communications company Kellen, and international research consultancy ComRes, has found that organizations are exploring new platforms and showing greater confidence in their abilities to use social media effectively.
Key Findings in Europe and the U.S.
The survey results indicate that trade associations, professional societies and other nonprofit organizations on both sides of the Atlantic increased their use of photo- and video-sharing platforms significantly over the past year. Instagram usage by U.S. organizations rose by half (29% up from 19%) and YouTube usage increased by 9 percentage points from 64% to 73% over the previous year. While EU organizations have been slower to adopt visual media sharing channels, YouTube usage was up by a third (52% up from 40%) and Instagram showed a seven-fold increase (from 1% to 7%).
Organizations are increasing their use of paid digital such as Google ads and sponsored posts on Facebook and Twitter, with U.S. groups leading the way. More than one third (36%) of U.S. associations are promoting their organizations through paid media, compared with only one fifth (21%) of organizations participating in the survey in the EU. The most popular uses of paid digital are to promote organizations’ content (58% in the U.S., 60% in Europe) and to attract people to events (67% in the U.S., 66% in Europe). The ability to target and quickly launch digital advertising has also led organizations to use paid digital for issues management.
“The data we collected confirms that the organizations that get the most benefit from social media are those groups that measure their efforts and learn from the findings,” said Peter Rush, chairman and CEO of Kellen, in a news release.
Overall, social media use is maturing as evidenced by associations becoming more strategic and as a result, seeing greater success and satisfaction from their social media efforts. For a series of organizational goals, 79% of EU associations said social media was effective versus 73% of U.S. survey participants. One example of effective social media use is in Europe where associations are harnessing the power of social media to amplify their voices and influence policy-makers and key opinion leaders, far more than in the U.S. Every EU Commissioner is now on Twitter, gathering insights and information, which presents a key opportunity for trade associations there to connect with policy makers and influencers.
“Measurement data is becoming easier to acquire and this, combined with social media listening, can help organizations interpret the mood, reaction or public perception of entire industry sectors. This can serve as a powerful trend indicator or early warning system for associations,” said Jared Degnan, director of digital strategy for Kellen, in the release.
China: Fast Growing Economy Equals Exploding Social Media Growth
With more than 600 million Internet users and a 45% social media penetration rate—compared to 85% in the U.S.—China has vast social media growth potential. Despite strict government controls over social media use and the blocking of most western social sites, the average social media subscriber in China spends 90 minutes per day mostly on homegrown social platforms such as Weibo and WeChat. In 2014, the volume of social sharing increased 65% in China.
Mobile messenger app WeChat has flourished with the proliferation of smartphones in China and is now nipping at the heels of leading social media platform, Weibo. Video sharing is on the rise here, too, with the launch of channels such as Meipai and Sight.
Associations seeking to reach stakeholders via online channels in China are advised that embedded social media on their websites, such as Twitter feeds, will be affected by local Chinese regulations. Organizations experience better website accessibility if the site is hosted on local servers based in China. Familiarizing the association’s social media team with the diverse functionalities and audience interaction tools of Chinese social media platforms and with the local language will aid greatly in online engagement, according to Steven Basart, Manager China for Kellen.
The Social Media Impact Study for Associations 2015, released by Kellen marks the third consecutive year the company has partnered with ComRes to measure and analyze social media use by trade associations, professional societies and other nonprofit organizations. The report includes the results of an online survey of 439 organizations in the U.S. and Europe conducted by ComRes; qualitative findings gleaned by Kellen through four focus groups in Brussels, New York City and Washington, DC; an update on social media trends in China; case studies from around the world, and insights into the impact and future of social media.
Source: Kellen; edited by Richard Carufel