Study Finds European Associations are More Strategic, American Organizations are More Mobile-Friendly and Overall Majority Say Social Media is a Worthwhile Investment
NEW YORK, NY AND BRUSSELS, BE (July 2, 2014) — Kellen, the global leader in association services and communications, today released its first international Social Media for Associations Status Report 2014, an analysis of social media use and outcomes by organizations in Europe and the U.S., and an exploration of the digital landscape in China. The Report includes the results of online surveys conducted by market research company ComRes in the U.S. and Europe on behalf of Kellen. These results were then analyzed and served as a basis for focus group meetings that Kellen organized in Brussels and New York City. The 2014 international report is a sequel to Kellen’s Status Report 2013, which focused solely on social media use by associations in Europe.
Key Findings in Europe and U.S.
The 2014 survey results indicate that trade associations, professional societies and other nonprofit organizations on both sides of the Atlantic have become bigger users of social media, but that is one of the few similarities between the two regions. European associations named Twitter and LinkedIn as their preferred social media platforms with 77% adoption rates for each channel, while in the U.S., Facebook ranked number one (91%) with LinkedIn a close second (88%). Far more U.S.-based associations use paid digital advertising for member recruitment (62%) than do those in Europe (31%). In the U.S. survey, 69% stated that the resources their organization invests in social media is worthwhile. This number is equally high (63%) in Europe.
In the U.S., several organization leaders whom Kellen interviewed said their association jumped into social media without a strategy, doing so solely because they wanted to have a larger digital footprint. In contrast, the majority of European associations develop a strategy for social media implementation before launching their initiatives. It’s not surprising, therefore, to learn that European associations by and large, are concerned that social media communication has significant risk and may create more problems for an organization than it solves. Despite a lack of proof, American associations tend to believe that social media can be a “silver bullet” with the potential to cure an organization of its ills and create opportunities.
“Our research indicated that while many associations struggle with measuring both the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of social media programs, overall, associations believe their investment in social media has value,” said Kellen CEO, Peter Rush. “By analyzing the outcomes of social media programs Kellen develops for its clients, we know that the best R.O.I. comes from programs that are planned in coordination with the organization’s larger strategic plan, not as an add-on to it.”
Associations in the U.S. claim to be more mobile-friendly than their European counterparts, with American organizations reporting responsive design websites, conference apps and publications apps. The use of paid digital advertising is another point of difference. Twice as many of the U.S. associations polled use paid digital media tactics than those in Europe. The top reasons American organizations cited for using paid digital includes attracting potential members, attracting website visitors and promoting conferences. Of the European associations that use paid digital vehicles, driving visitors to their websites was the number one purpose, followed by disseminating messaging and growing social media following.
“Among the associations in our Brussels focus groups, organizations said they also use social channels to connect with policy makers, journalists and key opinion leaders,” Alfons Westgeest, Managing Partner, Kellen Europe, said. “Corporate association members can benefit when associations take a stand on issues via social media, reducing risk to member companies.”
China: Associations Ramping Up Social Media Use
In China, social media use by individuals is exploding, despite stricter government restrictions and regulations on social networks there. Social media activity among associations in China, however, is much lower than in other parts of the world analyzed by Kellen. Chinese associations operate differently than their counterparts in Europe and the U.S. and are traditionally linked to government funding and staffing sources. Kellen’s Beijing team is at the forefront of two significant trends for its clients in China: Using social media to gain traction for trade shows, conferences and professional gatherings; and global associations using social media channels to disseminate member messaging, especially to professionals within academic communities.
Kellen China Manager, Steven Basart, advises global associations that want to cultivate social media following in China to first familiarize themselves with the unique social media platforms there. “Many popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are inaccessible in China. However, China offers a dynamic homegrown social media ecosystem, including microblogs (weibo) such as Sina weibo, the highly popular mobile social media app WeChat and video hosting channel Youku,” Basart explained.
Social Media for Associations Status Report 2014 Available Online
The 34-page Kellen Social Media for Associations Status Report 2014 is available as a free, downloadable PDF at: http://www.kellencompany.com/social_media_report.
ComRes interviewed 206 Kellen Europe contacts online between 5th and 24th February 2014. 115 contacts were from Europe, while 91 were from the U.S. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Data tables for the survey can be found at www.comres.co.uk.
About Kellen Company
Kellen Company is a global leader in association services, conference planning, communications, regulatory and public affairs, serving more than 100 trade associations, professional societies and charitable organizations representing over 10,000 companies and 100,000 professionals worldwide. Kellen Company maintains seven offices worldwide, located in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, New York, Washington D.C., Brussels and Beijing. Kellen is an employee-owned company. For more information, visit www.kellencompany.com.
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