With Social Media, Many Associations Are Still Rudderless

Years into the social media revolution, many associations are still forsaking strategy in their social communications, according to a new report. The result: Four in 10 don’t know whether social media is helping them meet their business goals. Where are they going wrong?

In the ever-expanding landscape that is social media research, a new report from Kellen Company indicates that many associations aren’t sure if their social media efforts are effective.

Some expressed a ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach, which they acknowledge does not make sense but said they were pressed into creating a social media presence for the organization—just for the sake of doing so.

In the first “International Report on Social Media Use by Associations,” a survey of U.S. associations revealed that 42 percent of the respondents are unsure whether their social media efforts are helping them achieve business objectives.

That number suggests a lack of strategy. The authors of the Kellen report suggest that few association executives have defined social media goals and strategies: “Some expressed a ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach, which they acknowledge does not make sense but said they were pressed into creating a social media presence for the organization—just for the sake of doing so.”

Jumping in without a plan may leave some associations drowning in the social media sea. Having clearly defined goals and strategy, on the other hand, can result in greater brand awareness and a strong sense of community among members and followers.

Despite their uncertainty regarding social media’s effectiveness, most associations, almost 70 percent, reported that the amount of resources they’re dedicating to social media is worthwhile.

A majority of associations surveyed are spending 10 hours or less managing social media each week, while about 20 percent are spending more than 10 hours. Roughly 20 percent reported having a dedicated social media manager on staff, as opposed to delegating responsibility for social media to a communications manager (41 percent) or to a staff member with departmental responsibility (16 percent).

And while many associations aren’t sure if social media is helping them operate more effectively, most are measuring its impact, mostly by counting the number of fans and followers. Associations are also measuring impact by looking at responses from target audiences (for example, responses to announcements or press releases) and analyzing comments made by other social media users.

Here are a few other noteworthy findings:

Facebook is still on top. It’s the platform with the highest adoption percentage (91 percent) among respondents, followed by LinkedIn (88 percent), Twitter (86 percent), and YouTube (64 percent). Pinterest and Instagram remain in the social media hinterlands for associations, as each have about a 20 percent adoption rate.

Social media is a double-edged sword. Roughly the same percentage of respondents reported that Facebook and Twitter have the potential to do good as said they could do harm. Twenty-one percent said Twitter and Facebook could have the greatest negative impact on their organization, while 26 percent reported these two channels have the potential for the greatest positive impact.

Blogging is not easy. Less than half of respondents reported having an association blog. Feedback from focus groups indicated that keeping content fresh and getting staff and volunteers to create content are among the greatest blogging challenges. According to the report’s findings, micro-blogging sites such as Twitter are easier for U.S. associations to manage.

Does your association have a clearly defined social media strategy? Let us know in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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