Would you associate AARP, the voice of America’s 50+ population, with adroit use of social media? If not, think again. AARP has some 80 Facebook pages with over a million fans, an active presence on YouTube and Twitter, and a “toehold” in about 15 other online platforms.

Of course, if you have a nine-person team solely devoted to social media — and working in a sandbox with 37 million members — you had better get it right!

Judging from this article on AARP’s social media strategy, I’d say they’re on the right track.

Here are some observations by Tammy Gordon, VP, social communications and strategy at AARP:

“…if you really want to embed social as an ethos across all communications, an organization must invest early on. That means having a social strategist at the table whenever you are building out a marketing or PR campaign, as well as measuring and testing results of these efforts.”
[I like the sound of “measure” and “test”.]

“If you post more than one to three times a day, you begin to hurt your page’s numbers, so we often build a separate presence such as the AARP advocates page for those who want “all politics all the time,” or the AARP page in Spanish, which shares bilingual stories and news.”
[Note the dedicated outreach to Hispanics? That scores an extra point with The Agitator!]

“Interestingly, the next biggest audience after the Baby Boomers is people between 40 and 50. We have tens of thousands of followers on social media in this age category. It will be interesting to see what impact maintaining ongoing contact with this audience via social media will have in the future, and whether they will be more likely to become members than those we made contact with via direct mail campaigns.”
[Who would have thought that in America’s youth-fixated culture, 40-50 year olds would be hooking up with AARP?! My question: Will Tammy still be at AARP in 10-15 years to see it played out?]

“The hottest campaigns have been based around advocacy work, such as our efforts to fight for Social Security and veterans’ benefits, a membership drive around Veterans Day, and fundraising for senior hunger associated with our Drive to End Hunger campaign at NASCAR events.”
[For advocacy group readers, take a look at how AARP used social media to support its Social Security campaign.]

“…success looks slightly different on each platform and for each business objective. Each one of our six units has numerous objectives they are trying to achieve. The challenge for us is not only to manage dozens of campaigns and sites, but also keep track of the results enterprise-wide. To help us with that, we use a tool from Spredfast that helps us pull all that information together.”
[Nothing appears ‘fuzzy wuzzy’ about this operation.]

“…nearly every week we discover someone not aware of what we are doing or unsure how social might help them achieve a goal. So part of our job as the social media team is to teach it across the organization. It’s a big leap for many executives within the business units.”
[Who’s always the last to know?!]

Big organization. Plenty of resources. Lots of opportunities to experiment.

What’s a small nonprofit to do?

Learn from the big fish! Pick a few giants like AARP … sign–up … engage as a ‘member’ … steal shamelessly everything that seems relevant to your circumstances.

They innovate; you emulate.



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