Evolving into a Social Organization: An Open Letter to the CEO

social fish
social fish

Dear Association CEO,

Tired of social media yet? You’ve surely had many conversations, at this point, with various people in your organization, about using social media to advance your mission. Everyone–from your marketing director and your publications manager, to your advocacy guru and your conference manager–has some idea of how they should be blogging, tweeting, or creating a social network.

That’s all well and good, and (stop us if we’re wrong) you’re not disputing the myriad business advantages of starting to build a social media presence in this day and age when many of your association’s members are actively communicating using these tools. But you’re a little worried…

  • You’re worried about how much time will be involved in getting all these activities going.
  • You’re feeling the stress from other managers and directors who have tight budgets and too much work spread among too few people already.
  • You’re concerned that with lots of people doing little experiments in a piecemeal fashion, there will be duplication of effort and wasted time and energy.
  • You’re particularly concerned about lost revenue from traditional sources like your paid job board.
  • And, let’s be honest, you’re not particularly comfortable with letting just any employee speak for the organization (and your PR director isn’t either). You’re keen to get some guidelines and policies in place but everyone has different ideas for where to start.

So then, the challenge your organization faces is how to evolve into a social organizationThis evolution will affect individual staff, internal processes, and the structure and culture of your association. And the challenges can’t be solved in an instant. You’ll probably want to help assign them to your people to tackle one at a time (or one area at a time).

But you, as CEO, have a different challenge.

Your own challenge is not about determining how your association applies social media tools in the right way, nor how particular tactics achieve specific objectives. Fundamentally, your role is to help your staff prioritize and defend their ideas by having them tell you why and how they advance the mission of the association. You are closer to the mission, the vision, the strategic objectives of the association than anyone else. You must live the mantra of “clarity over control” – in other words, that those activities that are very directly and clearly driving the mission of the organization require less control because all stakeholders – staff and members – know why this work is important and relevant to the association. They know the strategic intention of that work and their role in making it actionable.

If you can help your staff be clear about how their social media activities will advance the mission, you can begin to lay the groundwork for becoming a more social organization. The digital age (the advent of the social internet) demands less of a “mechanistic”, top-down, controlled system and more of an organic, evolving ecosystem. Your role, as CEO, is that of facilitator within this ecosystem. You are now the master cat herder – and here’s a secret you probably already know. How do you herd cats? …You tilt the floor. You point everyone in the right direction, not just through words but through action and through intent. The world around us is shifting, and you have a crucial role to play in what these changes mean for your association and this industry.

Sincerely Yours,

Maddie and Lindy

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