“But can’t we just use social media? How’s this any different?”
These are questions often asked by associations contemplating whether a native app for their network is worth their investment. Social media is free, has widespread use, and offers closed groups... so why would members need anything beyond that? Well, here’s what you’d miss out on by deciding to forgo an app for social media -
Your members’ phone screens are prime real estate for your association to take advantage of. When utilizing social media, members are only accessing you through a social media app icon, not one that is unique to your organization. A significant branding opportunity is lost and there's no quick access to your content. There’s also many other purposes a user would open social media for aside from connecting with their association, such as seeking entertainment or interacting with friends. A native app on the other hand gives you a dedicated environment exclusive to your community and your community alone. There aren’t competing distractions inside a native app. Here, your content is always the focus and the priority.
Customization and Advanced Features
There is no real control in functionality when using social media platforms. Admins can only remain within the boundaries of what is provided to them. There's no freedom in design or features like a native app offers. Vital components of a membership including content distribution, group discussion, event registration and dues payments can live in one place. When you can customize a mobile environment and tailor it exactly to your members and their needs, the resulting value is endless. Mobile engagement then begins to play a major role in the overall success and growth of an association.
Custom Push Notifications
Push notifications are the fastest method for getting eyes on specific content. While there are certain triggered push notifications social media provides, organizations are blocked from utilizing custom notifications. There is great power in the ability to customize your push notifications and deploy them with the exact wording, timing, recipients and linked destination of your choosing.
Advanced Sponsorship Opportunities
An association can not control the ads placed in their social media environments. Irrelevant or competing sponsors can easily show up within their feeds. However, when an association has a native app, they gain full control in monitoring all ads put in front of their users. What associations can offer sponsors in their own app vs. through their social media channels is light years ahead in value as well. An association's app only houses a very targeted network, meaning the sponsor knows exactly who they're advertising to. Here they have access to greater opportunities for reaching more members and creating a bigger impact. Ads through social media do not work unless money is continually thrown at them for boosting. You’re then also limited to the analytics the platform provides. In a native app, your data is much more advanced and completely owned by your organization, translating into improved feedback and results for sponsors and their ongoing partnership renewal. Of course a large increase in incoming sponsorship revenue then reflects this ($$$).
So to answer the original question at hand - no. Social media is not enough to satisfy an association's mobile strategy. If increased and lasting member engagement is what your association is hoping to earn, a fully comprehensive mobile app solution is what’ll get you there.