Many associations express their concern about attracting and keeping student and young professional members. To that point, many look to social media to be that 'magic bullet' to attract these members. But I just attended a program as CESSE that puts brings into question this strategy.
About 10 days ago I was fortunate enough to head to Pittsburgh, PA (check out the architecture and the Andy Wharhol museum if you can - fantastic!) and attended the 2010 CESSE Annual Show. I spoke with a many old friends and made a few new ones. At the show, Mark Crossly moderated a panel session where he invited four student/young-professionals to address the group. I think there may have been well over 40 membership professionals and executive directors in attendance.
While a great deal was discussed, the interesting takeaway was:
1) Separation of personal and business life: don't use Facebook to communicate professionally with us. What about LinkedIn? Maybe, but still not a good idea. What about an association developing their own social networking platform on their website? Most likely won't use it. Twitter...so what. They really didn't seem all that engaged in it.
2) Use direct mail and limited email to communicate with us. WHAT!? That's right, direct mail is still a preferred method of communication. Email if it is used wisely and you get to the point quickly. Txt messaging...better be important. Phone - you can call us as part of the renewal process, but only once.
3) Keep the magazine. That's a 180 degree turn. This panel of scientists and engineers said that they look at computer screens all day and a magazine is a nice change. Will they pay extra for the pub? Most likely not (but then you revise your pricing strategy and raise your dues).
To summarize this...what we've been doing is pretty good. Can it be tweeked? Of course. But for the most part 'everything old is new again.' For those of you who doubt this, let me point out an observation...WE, as a generation, are developing this new technology and people usually like (love) the new stuff they develop and/or create -- ego, folks. However, the "kids" don't have that ownership bias and evaluate each of these channels based upon what they deliver to them. Therefore, lets not dismiss this observation based upon our "ownership bias" of new technology. The 'future members' just want the tools they are promised and perhaps many think that a 36 page, 4-color, perfect bound, magazine is better than an e-newsletter -- sometimes.