The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2014 - page 34

34
JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Ásgeir Sigfússon is AFSA’s director of new media. He has been with
AFSA since 2003.
Changing times call for changing attitudes toward member engagement. Here is a
report on AFSA’s first four years of experience in the growing world of social media.
BY ÁSGE I R S I GFÚSSON
AFSA’S
SOCIAL
MEDIA ROUNDUP
B
oth as a professional association and
a labor union, AFSA has sought to
communicate freely and regularly with
members ever since its founding in
1924. Starting with telegrams, airgrams
and letters in our earliest days, we have
utilizedmany forms of communica-
tion over the past nine decades. (Who
can forget the heyday of the Telex
machine?)
Since themid-1990s, AFSA has
maintained a website andmade extensive use of e-mail to reach
members. While those are still our most important methods of
reaching out to themembership—65 percent of which is abroad at
any given time—changing times call for changing attitudes toward
member engagement.That is why, inmid-2009, AFSAmade the
decision to join the growing world of social media.
Joining the Fray
Our first platformwas Facebook, which at the time was by far the
most dominant social network. Initially a favorite of teenagers and
20-somethings, Facebook has nowmatured significantly. Accord-
ing to April 2013 data from “computational knowledge engine”
WolframAlpha, the average age of a Facebook user is now about 26
years, compared to about 20 at its inception.
Obviously, the original users have gotten older, which helps raise
the average age, but there has also been a large influx of users over
50 who join Facebook to keep up with family, friends and co-work-
ers, both near and far. As it has matured, its content has become
somewhat more balanced between the frivolous and themore
substantive information ranging fromnews to discussions.
For AFSA, Facebook has provided an excellent way to reinforce
information disseminated through other means, as well as to
provide an outlet for news and event information that may not fit
into regular e-mail messages, on the AFSAwebsite or in
The Foreign
Service Journal
.This content includes news items of interest to the
Foreign Service community, photos and videos fromAFSA events,
quick updates and reminders about our programs, and “human
interest” stories from the Foreign Service world. Even without doing
much publicity, we are closing in on 5,000 followers (equivalent to
about 31 percent of the AFSAmembership).
More than half of our followers are in the 25-44 age bracket; we
havemore female followers than the average Facebook page; and
we do very well with users over the age of 65. We have been very
pleased with the level of engagement Facebook affords us in con-
necting one-on-one with AFSAmembers fromall over the United
States and around the world.
FOCUS
SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE FOREIGN SERVICE
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