You’ve probably just celebrated your latest like on Instagram and your newest followers on Twitter. You can’t sleep without first checking Facebook for updates or LinkedIn for profile views. Trade and industry associations are doing the same.

Private and public organisations are increasingly turning to social media to communicate to stakeholders, increase visibility, and generally be more ‘on’. As a result, we’re often confronted with a raft of questions from our association clients: Do we have enough followers? How often should we tweet? What should we say – and not say? Is everybody on Facebook?

Keen to find out it’s happening in Brussels, over the summer of 2015 we investigated the social media presence of more than 600 industry groups working on European public policy issues.

The results captured in our #DigitalAssociations report provide a detailed overview of what channels are being used and which associations are most active.

  • 3 out of 5 researched associations are present on at least one social media channel.
  • Twitter is the most popular network, followed by LinkedIn. The association with the most followers has over 21,000.
  • There are important differences across sectors. Energy and Finance are usually quite active.
  • About 1 in 4 associations have a Facebook page, 2/3 of which have 500 likes or fewer.
  • Twitter and YouTube adoption rates seem to be plateauing. Those planning to join have already done so.
  • Only 9 associations are on Pinterest and just 1 is on Instagram.

These results are first of all encouraging. We see that many have integrated social media as part of their larger mix of communications tools, but also that there is room to grow and truly harness their power to connect with our audiences. Content will remain the biggest challenge for these associations, as creating a channel is not enough. EU-focused content seems to be better suited for certain platforms and as competition for our audiences’ attention gets tougher, associations will have to come up with new ways to deliver their messages.

Are they ready to up their game? Only time will tell. But at least we now have a benchmark for tracking progress as we plan to repeat the same exercise in a year’s time.

By Fernando Anton & Alessia Calderalo Garcia