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Association Social Media: American Diabetes Association

In this series of interviews of Association Social Media Managers, you’ll be able to compare notes on what all of these fab organizations are doing with their social media management – from how they organize the roles and responsibilities, to how they manage content flow through the organization and out to social, to what campaigns they tried, to how they see the future of association social media.  


In today’s interview, we’re excited to have with us Anna Baker, Senior Manager, Communications & Social Media at the American Diabetes Association. 

1) First things first – in what department in your organization does your role sit?  Who do you report to? 

Anna Baker, American Diabetes Association, Arlington, VAI am on the External Communications team, within the Marketing Communications division. I report to the Managing Director for Communications. This is at the American Diabetes Association Home Office in Alexandria, Va.

 2) Describe your social/digital “ecosystem” – what social media sites do you (or the org as a whole) manage? Are they interlinked in specific ways? How do you decide what content to post where? Do they have different audiences?

My job is to strategize and manage the Association’s national social media presence, as well as consult with internal stakeholders on effective use of social media. We have flagship accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram, as well as a WordPress blog called Diabetes Stops Here. These social media channels are intended for consumers—that is, people living with or at risk for diabetes and their caregivers. We also attract a professional audience of physicians, researchers, diabetes educators and nutritionists, especially on Twitter.

We also maintain an array of social media accounts for our signature special events, our Diabetes Forecast magazine, our Spanish-speaking audience, diabetes care professionals and our hardworking volunteers. The content I prepare for the flagship channels trickles down to these accounts, and I try to share and engage with their original content as much as I can.

There are dozens of Local Offices that carry out our mission in communities across the United States, and they maintain their own social media accounts to share what’s going on in each individual market. Most often, these are on Facebook and Twitter. I try to offer our field staff as much template social media content and artwork as possible, to make their lives easier.

FB screenshot

We certainly don’t broadcast everything everywhere. Each platform has its own style. The basics:

  • Facebook: 2-3 posts per day. Images, engaging questions and personal stories do especially well here.
  • Twitter: We prepare 2-3 posts per day, but we engage and share more here than any other channel. News, research, infographics and helpful articles perform best.
  • Pinterest: One word: recipes! We post every weekday.
  • YouTube: We post videos as they are available, such as PSAs and cooking demos.
  • Instagram: On our newest channel, we feature organic images to reflect who we are and the work we do. We post as images as available.
  • Blog: We blog 1-2x/week. The most-read posts are either personal stories of people who live with diabetes, or short articles that answer commonly asked questions about the disease and its complications.

3) Can you describe the internal collaboration workflow with other areas of the association (e.g. are you part of a team that meets on a regular basis)? How do you manage content flow? How do you manage monitoring and responding across the organization?

The Marketing Communications team meets monthly to identify the Association’s priorities and determine how that will look on the website, email, social media, and so on. I also regularly work with internal stakeholders to determine how social media can play a role in various projects and goals. Large campaigns, such as American Diabetes Month, take months to plan! I always say, “Tell me the ‘what’ and the ‘why,’ and I’ll figure out the ‘where’ and the ‘how.’”

All of this planned content—plus some fun stuff, like “What is your favorite workout tune?”—is consolidated into a master social media calendar that I distribute every week. We always leave room for fine-tuning and ad-hoc items that come up.

I am primarily responsible for posting and monitoring the content to the national channels. I have a robust resource for answering FAQs on social media, but if something new arises, I triage it with the appropriate staff member before responding. We try to be as helpful as possible without providing personal medical advice.

4) Describe a typical day for you – and any favorite tools you use regularly for anything related to social media.

My typical day as a social media manager is roughly one-third researching and strategizing, one-third writing and developing our content, and one-third posting/monitoring/engaging with our constituents. Some days, such as when we launch a campaign or host a social media chat, are busier than others. But it’s always interesting and gratifying!

I prefer to work on the native platforms when posting and monitoring, but I also rely daily on Sysomos Heartbeat, Tagboard and HootSuite. I also enjoy Twubs, Crowdbooster and Storify.

5) Is community management (group moderation) part of your responsibilities? Please describe those activities.

I also manage the organization’s online message boards, a support community for people affected by diabetes. We have thousands of members seeking support and advice about life with diabetes. With the help of a few volunteer moderators, I keep the site fresh, offer tech support, mediate conflicts and answer basic questions about the Association’s resources and positions. Fortunately, it is a very self-sustaining site.

6) Have you done any successful social media campaigns? 

We’ve done so many! Simply speaking, the simpler and more visual something is, the better it fares. And in the realm of social media chats, you need to strike a balance of finding the right topic (high interest, not too broad or too narrow) and securing the right expert or special guest who can respond and engage quickly and naturally.

My favorite projects include:

#AmericaGetsCooking to #StopDiabetes: Follow this to see what we have going on for American Diabetes Month, November 2014.

The “A Day in the Life of Diabetes” mosaic – First introduced for American Diabetes Month 2012, this lets our audience share their images of what it’s like to live with diabetes. The mosaic is available in Facebook and as a mobile-friendly site:

DITL screenshot

Fact Check Friday Every Friday, we share a diabetes fact or debunk a diabetes myth on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest:


Twitter chats – See our Storify account for wrap-ups of our most recent chats!

T1Derek Storify

American Diabetes Association Alert Day: The fourth Tuesday in March is our annual call-to-action for Americans to learn their risk for type 2 diabetes. Our quick Diabetes Risk Test is available in print, on our website and on Facebook:

Scientific Sessions Social Media News Bureau: This is our way of sharing the latest diabetes news and research from our annual meeting with the patient community. I get to be the on-air talent!

7) What’s the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part is seeing the daily struggles of people who live with diabetes. Whether they are newly diagnosed or have lived with it for a long time, there are always questions about what to eat, how best to manage it, how to locate and afford good medical care. Social media gives the Association a chance to share our information and resources, help people directly as best we can, and conduct informal research into how we can better meet their needs.

And as any social media manager will tell you, it’s a constant challenge to keep up with new features and trends and to determine what it means for your brand.

8) Give us a glimpse into the future. If budget and resources were no object, what would you love to see in terms of your association’s social media presence in 3 years?

I would love for us to do more with video (long and short form) and consider branching into new channels to reach more young people. But I am firm believer in centralizing social media and sticking to what’s realistically possible.

Thank you so much to Anna for sharing all this great work!  Want to know more?  Contact Anna at:



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