Trade associations are exploring new platforms and showing greater confidence in their abilities to use social media effectively, according to the 2015 international study of social media use by associations conducted by Kellen, an association management and communications company, and international research consultancy ComRes.

The survey indicates that trade associations, professional societies and other nonprofit organizations on both sides of the Atlantic increased their use of photo and video sharing platforms significantly over the past year. Instagram usage by US organizations rose by half (29 percent up from 19 percent) and YouTube usage increased by 9 percentage points from 64 percent to 73 percent over the previous year.

While EU organizations have been slower to adopt visual media sharing channels, YouTube usage was up by a third (52 percent up from 40 percent) and Instagram showed a seven-fold increase (from 1 percent to 7 percent).

Organizations are also increasing their use of paid digital such as Google ads and sponsored posts on Facebook and Twitter, with US groups again leading the way. More than one-third (36 percent) of US associations are promoting their organizations through paid media, compared with only one-fifth (21 percent) of organizations participating in the survey in the EU.

The most popular uses of paid digital are to promote organizations’ content (58 percent in the US, 60 percent in Europe) and to attract people to events (67 percent in the US, 66 percent in Europe). The ability to target and quickly launch digital advertising has also led organizations to use paid digital for issues management.

 “Measurement data is becoming easier to acquire and this, combined with social media listening, can help organizations interpret the mood, reaction or public perception of entire industry sectors,” says Jared Degnan, director of digital strategy for Kellen. “This can serve as a powerful trend indicator or early warning system for associations.”