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Social Media: Why Bother? Part Two - 2/2/2010 -

In the final part of this two-part article series, the American Academy of Physician Assistants' Lynn Morton explains why she believes that all associations should participate in social media—even if it's only to listen in.


In the last edition of Final Proof, we heard fromAssociation Media &Publishing Lunch & Learnspeaker, Ami Neiberger-Millert of Steppingstone LLC, on the topic of associations making their way in the social media world. In this issue, Neiberger-Millert's co-presenter, Lynn Morton, manager, marketing technologies, for the American Academy of Physician Assistants, shares her views on using social media tools to enhance member engagement.

Q: Why are some associations still "afraid” to participate in social media? Is there any scenario you can imagine when participating in social media would not make sense for an association?

Morton: I think a lot of the fear of social media boils down to lack of knowledge and the need for control. Knowledge can be the easy part to solve, whether that is through training or by hiring someone with the knowledge to guide your organization. The need for control, however, is a much trickier problem. With the proper knowledge in place, organizations have the opportunity to let the membership be the driving force of the organization.

Social media is more than just the tools; at its essence is member engagement. If nothing else, I believe that all associations should participate at least in "listening” because it can provide valuable market research and will also help the organization stay on the pulse of the membership and/or profession.

Q. What role can social media initiatives play in the overall goals of the association?

Morton: Social Media initiatives should always help support the overall goals of the association. If they aren't, then why are you wasting your time, money, and staff resources? It is extremely important that when an organization is creating a social media strategy that the association's business objectivesare used as a starting point.

Q: How do you find out how members want to engage with your association?

Morton: I think sometimes associations forget about the simple ask. Ask your members what channels they use and would it be helpful for you to provide information with them. Being sensitive to what your members want is crucial, but also recognize that you may be interacting with members in different ways on different platforms.

Q: What's the best way to handle negative comments made about an association, its media products, or services on a social media site?

Morton: I always look at any negative comment as an opportunity to inform, correct, or engage the individual about the association. It is a huge challenge for any association to try and keep all of its members happy, though it may not always happen. Taking "negative comments” and turning them into an honest and positive experience with the association is never a bad thing.

Q: How do you benchmark your association's social media success? What does success in the social media arena "look like”?

Morton: This is dependent on the goals of the association. Social media is still a very new arena for associations; so, having industry-wide benchmarks at this time isn't going to happen. You basically have to start measuring, and then benchmark your success against you. There are so many varying factors within social media that this is the only way you can really judge whether or not your initiatives are moving forward.

Success may look different for every association or every campaign. Your success should be defined by what your objectives are.

Q: How will relationships with your members or potential members change?

Morton: Social media has the power to create transparency with your members and potential members. It is a chance to reach out to members where they already congregate online. If done right, social media will foster a more engaged membership and profession, by providing those you reach out to with a clear vision of what the association stands for and what it is doing for the profession.

Q: Who is the best person to be responsible for posting and generating content?

Morton: That is something for the association to decide, though a team setting works best and makes the workload lighter on everyone.

Q: What are some of the costs you should budget and plan for? What costs were unanticipated?

Morton: For my association, some of the unanticipated costs have been participant gifts for our conference blog, a direct mail piece, graphic support, etc. Social media tools are free—the time, materials, and energy to support those initiatives have not been.

Q: What message would you give to association leaders who are still uncomfortable with their association's participation in social media?

Morton: Try "listening” to your members, setting up some Google Alerts, doing some searches, and finding out what your members are talking about. It takes a little bit of effort, but in the end, you know whether or not social media is a worthwhile endeavor and will more than likely end up with a clearer picture of your members' online engagement.

Lynn Morton is manager, marketing technologies at the American Academy of Physician Assistants. She spends her days doing social media and her nights writing about her experiences. She has been published in Associations Now and Marketing AdVents. Keep up with her life as an association community manager and find out more at http://snapblogger.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @MissLynn13.


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