Social Media and Shiny Object Syndrome

Resist the urge to jump head first into social media. Find out how two association marketers developed a streamlined social media strategy for their national and affiliate offices to complement and enhance their overall marketing plan.

With social media, it’s almost too easy to share a LinkedIn post, tweet something, or update a status on Facebook. It’s tempting to dive right in and begin telling the world everything you want it to know about your organization, but that’s not good strategy.

“People are very eager to just jump into social media because it’s a shiny object, it’s a thing we should be doing,” said Sheryl Masterson, associate director of interactive fundraising and engagement at the American Diabetes Association, when I interviewed her for the March issue of Associations Now.

We were not in this only because we felt we needed to do something on social media, but we felt that social media was a very effective tool in helping us achieve our overarching special-events goals.

Masterson and her colleague Anna Baker, communications and social media manager at ADA, considered this when they decided to revamp the social media strategy for two of ADA’s signature fundraising campaigns.

With roughly 90 local affiliate offices, as well as the national office, dabbling in social media marketing for the “Tour de Cure” and “Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes” events, Masterson and Baker noticed a large variation in activity, from completely inactive to high levels of engagement. So, they decided to streamline local and national efforts and develop one social media strategy for better consistency.

To start, Masterson and Baker did an inventory of all the social media presences they could find for these events. Then they created a three-tiered system of implementation, with each tier matching the scale and capabilities of the local offices. “There’s a big difference between a New York City and a Des Moines, Iowa [affiliate], and we wanted every office to be the best that they could be and commit to what they could reasonably manage,” Baker said.

After rolling out their more consolidated social media approach, ADA saw an increase in the number of event registrants as well as web traffic coming from Facebook pages. But social media was never the end game—it was part of ADA’s overall event communications strategy.

“We were not in this only because we felt we needed to do something on social media, but we felt that social media was a very effective tool in helping us achieve our overarching special-events goals,” Masterson said. “Our goals in social media are no different than our goals for our special events and we just have to find ways to complement that.”

Roughly 46 percent of associations reported having a social media strategy, according to the latest “Benchmarking in Association Management: Social Media Policies and Procedures” study, and about 43 percent reported that they plan to have a strategy in place in the next 12 months. Only 11 percent were unsure about or were not planning to adopt a strategy.

Also important to consider when developing a strategy: How you are going to implement it? Especially when you need to train your own staff members or the staff at affiliate offices in how to carry out the message.

“You can create a guidance document, but it’s not enough to just throw it out at them, or put it up on your intranet and say ‘Good luck with your social media,’” Baker said. “You need to make yourself available as a resource and host webinar trainings or conference calls to talk to and explain it to the local staff and allow them to ask questions and not let them fend for themselves.”

Do you have a social media strategy? How important has it been as part your overall marketing campaigns?

(Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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