When I first joined Twitter in 2009, I was a 19-year-old concert junkie who thought it was the COOLEST thing to have a direct line to my favorite bands and their members. That summer, the Vans Warped Tour production team used the social media network to ask concert goers to volunteer for a couple of hours, in exchange for a spot on stage during the set of their choosing. Um, excuse me? 28-year-old me is still reeling over how cool that was. And without a tool like Twitter, it would’ve been nearly impossible to pull off. Using social media as a way to engage an audience in unique and unexpected ways has been a no-brainer to me ever since. These platform’s very existence depend on interaction. And as a member-based organization, fostering a sense of community is in your roots. That will always be true, no matter how communication channels change over the years. The real-time, highly visible nature of social media is just what associations need to create meaningful and continuous member engagement. Here are a few thought starters: 1. Share their news and updates. Step one? Follow your members back! Engagement is a two-way street, and half the battle with social media is participation. If members have something going on that would be relevant to the rest of your membership, share it! They’ll appreciate the additional exposure. Plus, the more you make your association’s presence known among the conversation at large, the more people (read: potential members) will see you as a source of industry knowledge and community. 2. Praise your members - in groups and individually Everyone wants to be recognized when they’ve achieved something significant. Help your members stand out! Whether you acknowledge an individual or an entire team, you’ll be accomplishing several things: Making the highlighted member or group feel special Encouraging others to work toward their own recognition Sharing proven case studies of accomplishments within your community or industry Igniting a conversation among members about this success and other best practices Opening the door for collaboration among members 3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Stuck on a detail for an upcoming event? Why, I can’t think of a better resource for figuring out what the people will want to see than the people themselves! Promote a survey on Facebook, put out a poll on Twitter, or just create a post asking for feedback. To go another route, simply asking for thoughts and opinions on certain topics is sure to spark some dialogue. You never know where a conversation could lead, so you have to be willing to implement these types of communications in your strategy in order to find out! 4. Repurpose, reuse, recycle. Whatever you want to call it, there’s nothing wrong with taking content that was successful on Facebook and tweaking it to make more sense for LinkedIn. While social media platforms each come with their own unique set of nuances to navigate, chances are the topic of your content will resonate with followers across all channels if presented the right way. 5. Monitor your channels for opportunities to engage members. Are there conversations going on that you can jump into? That’s the beauty of social media - soooo much is being talked about! Granted, the white noise of the Internet can become a little hard to sift through. Consider trying a free social media monitoring tool, such as Hootsuite or Buzzsumo, to more easily find relevant conversations and influencers. Equally important is responding to comments, messages and posts you’re tagged in - yes, even the negative ones. Be sure someone is constantly monitoring all of your channels so that questions and concerns can be addressed in a timely manner. It can be scary when there is negativity on your page for the world to see, but what’s even scarier is an organization that puts up a front and isn’t transparent with its members. Reply with tact and if the situation is deeper than it originally appeared, take it offline. All of these tactics will work toward building your social media street cred, which will become more and more important over the years - especially as millennials start to really move into leadership positions. What else is your association doing to actively engage this generation? If you think you could use a few pointers, take a spin through our free guide - March of the Millennials: Tips for Engaging the Next Generation Now.