Katie Bascuas is an associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC.
Viola Chan, marketing manager at the Institute of Management Accountants in Beijing City shares some insights into the association's social strategy and how it's similar and different from U.S. organizations.
While associations in China can't make use of popular social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which are blocked by the government, they are engaging with audiences via other social media channels. In fact, a recent international status report from Kellen Company found that while social media use is lower among associations in China compared with other parts of the world, it is ramping up.
"Associations in China, regardless of whether they are international or local, have realized the power of social media and are leveraging it for brand building and communication," says Viola Yan, China marketing manager at the Institute of Management Accountants in Beijing City.
Since it set up shop in China in 2006, IMA's membership there has grown to more than 13,000, and the organization has found social media a useful tool in relationship building, Yan says. The group uses several social networking tools, including Weibo, a microblogging platform similar to Twitter; WeChat ("a mobile Facebook," Yan explains); Youku, a video-sharing platform; and LinkedIn to help build IMA's thought leadership and to attract and retain members.
IMA's social strategy is not unlike that of many U.S. associations. "The fundamental thing is to identify who is your target audience," Yan says. "Who do you want to deliver the message to, and how can that communication help your business goal and mission?"
The group has been successful in engaging followers, but the effort hasn't been without challenges. One of them is distilling complex information about management accounting into short, pithy posts that do well on social media. "Even when the content is full of dull, technical phrases, you still need to distribute it in an interesting way," Yan says.
Yan and her colleagues found that one way to overcome this hurdle is through entertainment. For example, IMA created a short cartoon, called "Two Minutes to Understand Management Accounting," which explains what the industry is and how these professionals serve their clients. The cartoon was shared more than 40,000 times in the first week after it launched.
Yan encourages other associations in China to be more interactive and engage with social media followers in a friendly and conversational manner, rather than spouting facts, figures, and promotions. "Social media is about people, not logos," she says.
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Social Strategy."]