What Social Media Means to Associations – Beyond Mere Facebook Pages and Twitter Accounts

December 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm 3 comments

I’ve recently had the wonderful opportunity to deliver presentations to a variety of individuals and organisations regarding how social media is already transforming the future of associations.  Through these experiences, I’ve listened carefully to fears, perceptions and admirable admissions of a lack of functional understanding relating to what social media means to associations.

I also hear allot about Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, as if that is somehow enough to leverage the potential of the social web.  The reality is social media is more than a communication channel, rather it is a one-to-one and one-to-many conversation and relationship-building tool.  The same types of conversations and relationships we have been engaging in with current and prospective members for years.  It’s also a business strategy, just like other vital aspects of organizational operations provided it is already acceptable for staff to answer the phone and handle attendee questions at conferences.

Simply put:

The social web is an opportunity to expand your association sphere by listening, connecting, engaging and building vital relationships which expands your association sphere.

Why is this important?  Because conversations and relationships are what led to the creation of associations in the first place.  Further, social cohesion is the glue which holds together and propels our organizations.

A member’s commitment to an association is measured by the extent to which they feel a connected part of the organization.  The way members connect to an association is through some form of engagement or participation.  Before the social web, it required a greater sacrifice and investment to participate (planes, trains and automobiles), but today the social web provides an inexhaustible opportunity to connect and participate.

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.  The social web is simply a smarter tool with which we can adapt and greatly expand our mission.  With the right organizational foundation, we can all be ready when Facebook inevitably becomes tomorrow’s MySpace.  While the platforms will continue to change, the “rules” will always remain the same.

I designed the cluster symbol above to demonstrate the way in which a like-minded group of people bond together to form an association.  Clusters form within associations to initiate new projects and components.  Today, new clusters are forming outside the walls of your association, in almost every case not to replace you but to give rise to issues and concerns facing a trade or profession.  As associations, our goal is to reach out and create new bonds with individuals and groups working in support of our interests.  This symbol is also the official symbol of my new consulting practice, Social Frequency Media, which I started out of a deep desire to help associations transform their futures and leverage the potential of social media.  I hope you will find the above information and other postings here at Association 2020 useful.  SM


Entry filed under: Innovation, Managing Change, Organizational Management, participation, Social Media, Volunteer Strategy, Web 2.0 and Beyond, Web Me.0. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tony Rossell  |  December 8, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Stuart — Thanks for this post. I see so many presentations on the theory behind social media. And I hear that so few people are doing it “right”. But I would find it very helpful for you to do a post dissecting an association’s social media practices that you think are very strong and set a good benchmark to follow. Who is doing it well? As your title says, what is beyond facebook and twitter? Tony

  • 2. Stuart Meyer  |  December 8, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks for your comment Tony. The ultimate answer revolves around service-based operational strategies for social media. It means associations not creating policies to restrict staff use of social media platforms, but to create enable policies that enable anyone within the organization to scan the social web daily and look for opportunities to connect, listen and engage in conversations. It’s about enabling social media participation on both an internal and external level. Success is measured one conversation at a time. Unfortunately, the main reason we hear so much theory in the association world is because associations are just beginning to step forward to gather a truer understanding of that social media is all about. Given some of the panels I’ve participated on, it seems like there is more talk out there about the minority or “nightmare scenarios” vs. the valuable ways the social web can be used.

    I presently have one client who is really starting to make some progress in an industry that you would not expect to be on the forefront. As we move forward, I will see if they would be willing to allow me to write about our project here. Until then, there are plenty of great examples in the for-profit world that associations can still learn much from… in my mind, Best Buy is one of the best at this point in they multiple ways they are utilizing social media and social networking in all phases of their business.

  • 3. Tony Rossell  |  December 9, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks Stuart for responding. I hope you are able to share an association example. Tony


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