Marketing & Communications » Harnessing the Power of Social Media to Attract and Engage the Next Generation in Professional Associations

Harnessing the Power of Social Media to Attract and Engage the Next Generation in Professional Associations


Associations are facing a significant challenge due to the aging-out of older members. According to an article by Lead Marvels, 10,000 baby boomers have been retiring daily since 2011. This trend has been further intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving associations with over 60% of members belonging to the baby boomer or Gen X demographic. The retirement of Gen X members in the next six years adds to the urgency for associations to attract younger generations, particularly Gen Z, who are projected to be the largest workforce generation by 2026.

However, associations are struggling to engage younger professionals, as they tend to seek alternative sources for professional development, such as online courses and industry-specific groups on social media platforms. Social media presents a significant opportunity for associations to connect with younger generations, given that nearly 73% of Gen Z spend up to 5 hours on social media daily.

Despite the potential, only 32% of association leaders consider social media a high priority and only 12% have a well-defined social strategy. Associations need to recognize social media as an underleveraged tool and explore ways to use it effectively for new member recruitment.

To attract and engage younger members on social media, associations should:

Promote Purpose: Clearly communicate the benefits of association membership through frequent and intentional social media outreach to address the lack of perceived value.

Align with Core Values: Support causes that resonate with younger generations’ passion for social, environmental, and political issues, showcasing the association’s commitment to positive change.

Embrace Diversity: Ensure inclusive language and imagery on social media, reflecting the diversity of the target audience, and aligning with Gen Z’s emphasis on diversity, equity, inclusivity, and belonging.

Personalize Communication: Adopt a warmer and more welcoming tone on social media to connect with younger generations without appearing overly institutional.

Offer High-Value Content: Provide content that addresses professional needs and interests, leveraging an online Resource Library platform to efficiently share third-party industry expert content on social channels.

Associations must adapt their strategies to meet the preferences and values of younger generations, leveraging social media as a powerful tool to ensure sustained membership growth and revenue.

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