One of the most common questions I am asked is, “Which social media channels should I use?” The simple answer is the ones where your members and potential members hang out. The tricky part is often working this out! But it doesn’t have to be hard.

There are hundreds of social media channels, but the main ones used by associations are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat.

As well as deciding on which social media channels to use, you need to decide how many accounts you want per channel. You will have your main association account (@associationname), but will your CEO, board chair or other key staff members also have a social media account linked to your association? If you have a socially savvy CEO, then encourage him/her to have a Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Instagram account that reflects their role and personality.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea to have your CEO tweeting separately to your association account. Not only do your members increasingly expect them to be there, it provides an opportunity to truly engage in conversation and be responsive to them. It’s no surprise that the CEOs of many Fortune 500 companies are active Twitter users, as it allows them to build trust and loyalty by being social.

how to identify the right social media channels for your organisation

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When deciding which social channels to use, you need to consider:

  • Who is your audience? Are they members, prospective members, staff, your board, your suppliers, media, educators, academics, politicians, or a combination or all of these?
  • Where does your desired audience hang out? If you don’t know, ask them. Conduct a survey, ask them in your newsletter, ask at your events, phone your key influencers and most active members and ask them.

If you are just starting out, don’t try to be everywhere at once. Choose one social media channel and get really good at it. Then look at another channel, get really good at that, then look at another one!

Regularly review what’s working and what’s not. After six to 12 months, make an executive decision: “Is this platform working for me still?” If it is, fantastic. Then you need to ask, “How can I keep it working for me and how can I make it better?” If it’s not working, have an honest look at why. There is no shame in decided to stop using an account.

Features of the main social media channels


  • Facebook pages are a great way to showcase your association, and is a good way to share video, promote your events, membership campaigns and other activities.
  • Facebook groups are an excellent way to build engagement between members as well as with your association. A members-only Facebook group can be an effective value add
  • Facebook is a quick and easy way to provide member support and answer questions.


  • People do business with people, and, just like face-to-face networking, Twitter helps you build rapport, which leads to conversations, relationships and engagement with your association. And when people engage with you, they see your value.
  • Twitter is real-time – use it to alert your members and followers to new research, special offers and the latest information. Then share that information via your newsletter, other social channels and other forms of communication.
  • You can follow your members on Twitter and listen to their conversations. What do they say about your industry, your association, their challenges and problems? Twitter is an excellent tool for learning about your members so you can help them solve their problems by providing relevant solutions.
  • You can use Twitter to promote your annual conference and other events – before, during and after. Create an event hashtag and encourage delegates to use it to promote the speakers, sponsors, your association and the knowledge shared.


  • Like Twitter, Instagram helps you build rapport, which leads to conversations, relationships and engagement with your members.
  • Instagram is a great way to connect visually with your audience. Use it to educate people about what you do within your community, showcase new products and demonstrate the services you provide. Share images and videos of your events, and create images and videos of the people involved in your association.
  • The use of hashtags is common on Instagram, so make sure you use them in your posts. Hashtags make it far easier for your members to find you on Instagram than on Facebook. Some popular hashtags to consider include #association and #assnchat. Also, use industry-specific and location-based hashtags
  • Posting behind-the-scenes images makes you instantly more relatable to your audience. People love to see the daily routines of those they follow, as it creates a more personal connection.


  • LinkedIn is great if for helping get your advocacy work in front of people who can help you effect change.
  • It’s a recruitment tool. More and more people are turning to LinkedIn to search for a new job.
  • LinkedIn InMail is a handy tool to connect with potential members, especially if you don’t have their contact details.
  • Like Facebook, LinkedIn groups provide a forum for members to engage with each other and have conversations about events, issues and opportunities.
  • LinkedIn is a great place to share long-form blog posts and articles, especially if you use hashtags to highlight the topic.


  • Most of its users are aged under 25 years, so if you’re targeting a younger demographic (30 years and under), then you need to consider using Snapchat.
  • It allows you to quickly tell stories to an engaged audience.
  • You can use it to easily share promotions – simply snap a code and link it to the relevant website URL.
  • Use Snapchat to augment your other social media channels –g. promote your snaps via the other channels you use.

How did you identify the right social media channels for your organisation? And which social media channels do you use?

Mel Kettle works with associations, not-for-profits and businesses to help them communicate effectively and authentically so they attract, retain and engage their members and customers. To inquire about working with Mel, please email or click here.

Order a signed copy of Mel’s book, The Social Association – 5 key skills not-for-profits need to increase member engagement, generate ROI and create a thriving online community, published in February 2018.

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