What is Social Media?

Facebook and a "20' something with a nose ring" is not a social media strategy!

A surprisingly large number of organizations are using a Facebook site, managed by a millenial generation junior staff person, as their organization’s approach to social media. Not that there is anything wrong with Facebook or with millenial’s or with junior staff people. It’s just that they are not a substitute for a business strategy on how to use social media for most professional or trade associations.


There is so much hype about how social media is changing society and in particular, about how associations are facing the most serious threat yet to the way they are doing business and even their very existence, that it is intimidating for many. Some of the hype is true – social media is changing how associations need to operate and in many cases the changes are life threatening for traditional associations. However, there is also a great deal of confusion because of the proliferation of new tools and the many very disparate ways they are being used to connect people. The tools are important but they can also be a distraction from creating the necessary strategy if you start with tools and features first.

What associations need to remember is that associations are all about creating community, something that is new to most of the new entrants in the social media space. What associations should also keep in mind is that social media is first and foremost an engagement strategy, something that associations also have as part of their DNA. 

What is different and what many associations are going to struggle with however, is that social media tools require a new and evolving skill set to be leveraged effectively. For example, association staff are often expected to create and generate content for their association. In the new social media context, it is more about user generated content and enabling more autonomy in the community at large. Staff have then to learn more how to influence and manage thought leaders and experts who then create content and less on creating it themselves. This can be a significant and difficult change for many. They have to become true “community managers”, a position that will include subject matter understanding, political skills and excellent communication capabilities.
Social media applications and tools offer an exciting and new way to enable real engagement within communities of interest. But if you want to make intelligent choices about which tools are appropriate for which purposes, it helps first to know what you want to achieve through social media and how best to do it. That is what a social media strategy is all about and it is the starting point, before making technology decisions.


Is your social media project doomed to failure?

This is going to be a very brief post on why most social media projects are doomed to failure.

Most social media initiatives will fail for one or more of the following management errors:

  • No clear objectives
  • No clear measurements
  • No one person accountable
  • No budget or resource allocation
  • No sustainable business model (ROI)
  • No senior management buy-in or support

One could write a book about how and why a social media project might fail.

However, I feel these 6 short sentences say it all.

What do you think?


Twitter...Bla, Bla, Bla!


The more I speak with association managers, marketing and communications professionals, senior executives and CEO’s, one message is absolutely clear. They feel bombarded by the hype around social media and frankly are getting sick and tired of hearing about it!

At a recent meeting of about 100 communications and marketing specialists (the kinds of people that are embracing social media) more than 95% of them have used TWITTER and 100% of those have determined that it held little to no value, or worse, was a time suck.

An Executive Director of an important trade association summed it up best when she felt that social media hype was exerting a tremendous amount of” peer pressure to embrace social media” but that it was difficult at best to see where the value is. Her view was echoed by colleagues and they wanted to know, where is the measureable ROI in social media?

These frustrations are both normal and unfortunate. Social Media has a great deal to offer organizations of every size and type, but the heavy focus on social media technology features, rather than the business strategy of how and why to use social media, is the problem.

What good is it to know that ‘Beyonce’ has half a million followers on TWITTER? What lessons are learned for a professional membership organization that Susan Boyle’s combined YouTube hits now number over 100 million? Or that Facebook has 330 million users?

It is like saying that China has 1.4 billion people so therefore it makes sense to do business in China. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but you do not decide just because of the impressive numbers.

Some organizations are starting to wade through the hype and make real, measureable use of social media. These organizations have several things in common:

  • They have identified a specific use or objective for their social media activities
  • They have determine how they are going to measure success and they start that measurement right from the beginning
  • They have developed a strategy and a business plan that includes designating sufficient human resources to implement and manage their plans.

In other words, they are treating social media as they would any other important business project, not like it is a hobby.


The Social CEO!

The relationship between a “CEO” and social media is an interesting one. For the CEO, social media raises two very important questions:

-          What does social media mean for me personally?

-          What does social media mean for my organization?

In both cases, it is becoming increasingly important that CEO’s of organizations large and small have an answer for these two questions.

The spectrum of social media understanding on the part of CEO’s runs from those that are skeptical of social media, do not use it and consider it a distraction at best; to those that are social media ‘rock stars” that have their own personal blogs and Twitter followers.

For staff within an organization, where your CEO falls on this spectrum will have a huge impact on your organization’s ability to effectively implement and leverage social media.

At a very minimum, a CEO today needs to understand at least enough about social media, what it is and what it is capable of, to make an informed decision about how his/her organization should be engaged with social media tools, campaigns and the allocation of resources.

Not every CEO will or should become a social media fanatic. However, because social media is now a major force in how people collaborate, make buying decisions, get their news and form decisions, it would be foolish to dismiss social media as a “distraction” or waste of time.

Many CEO’s today face a real challenge. Social media is so filled with hype and jargon that many senior level managers are not sure how or where to start. Uncertain about what is hype and what is actionable information. Not clear on how to drive or to measure ROI.

So the next time you feel like your CEO “doesn’t get it”, remember that answering the questions (what does it mean to me personally, what does it mean for my organization?) are at the forefront of a typical CEO’s mind when it comes to social media.

It is in everyone’s interest to get solid answers to these two questions!


Do you know of a CEO that would like to network with peers to better understand social media?

Join TheSocialCEO on LinkedIn (CEO only networking group)



New LinkedIn Profiles now include Certifications! Boon for Associations?

On 15 October 2010 LinkedIn enabled a new feature called "sections" for its individual user profile pages. This includes the option to add "Certifications" along with other elements that includes Languages, Patents, Publications and Skills.

These new sections add another rich layer of profile information that will make LinkedIn an even more powerful networking tool than it already is.

Associations should encourage all of their certification holders to include this information on their professional profiles. This will help to raise awareness of the certification and of the affiliated organization.

How does it work?

At the bottom of your LinkedIn profile page in the "Edit Profile" mode you will see that the option to "Add sections" has been added:


When you click on "Add sections" you will see a prompt that includes the ability not only to add sections (certifications, language, patents, publications and skills) but also links into other LinkedIn enabled applications.


Advice: We strongly recommend that associations inform their members how to add the certification to their LinkedIn profile. We suggest that you give them guidance on the exact wording. For example, to include the acronym and the full description of the designation and the authoring body. See example.

This helps to ensure consistency that will improve the ability to search for individuals based on their certifications. It is also an important element of your branding to have your members use correct descriptions of your certifications, designations, acronyms and organizational names.

Next steps

LinkedIn continues to add features that make it a valuable tool for associations in an overall social media strategy.

LinkedIn can be used to engage your members in a LinkedIn group, to search for and invite potential members to your organization, to identify new thought leaders, speakers and authors, to perform competitive intelligence and scores of other applications that deliver real results.

If you would like to connect with other users of LinkedIn to share experiences or to ask questions, please join our LinkedIn group for LinkedIn Users! (of course we have a LinkedIn group for that!)

If you don't have a LinkedIn profile yet, now is a great time to get one. It is free and you control what information is shared. More importantly, it opens doors for professional networking that will deliver real benefits to you and your organization.

Want more information about how to craft a social media strategy for your organization?

Read about our "Social Media Strategy Accelerator" program or contact us for more information.