Is Social Media Going Mainstream?

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Is Social Media Going Mainstream?

I never considered myself an early adopter for anything, so the fact that I’m into social media surprises me. I’m usually a “wait and see” kind of person – is it more than a fad? But while writing this post, I realize that as a risk manager I have to look ahead to identify the risks coming down the pike. I got into social media to understand the risks to advise my clients and anyone else willing to listen how to address these “new” exposures. If you read any of my social media posts, you know I don’t think social media is that risky but does need to be managed.

As an attendee of the ASAE Finance, Human Resources and Business Operations Conference (FHRBOC – pronounced “fur bock”), I was a lonely tweeter. Although the conference had a hashtag (#fhrboc), only four or five people tweeted during the entire two-day conference. Compare that to the ASAE Membership Marketing Communication Conference (#mmcc12) where the original Twitter stream (#mmcc) was highjacked by spammers – a sign of its popularity. I learned a lot following #MMCC12 and definitely wished I was able to attend. If anyone bothered to follow the #fhrboc stream you felt like the Maytag Repairman. There was no social media buzz for FHRBOC.

Of course many of the attendees fall into the “introvert” personality type so being social is not one of their stronger skill sets. Plus a gross generalization of accounting types – it’s all about the numbers (mentioned in The Adaptive CFO session) not the people. So I get that these folks aren’t into social media (their loss) but they need to realize that social media is very important to their associations.

Despite the lack of buzz, social media was a frequent topic of conversation; it came up in most of the sessions I attended. Many association professionals are still struggling to understand and adapt to social media. They need to understand that social media is not about what I had for lunch today. The upside is their questions indicates an increased awareness of various social media issues.

The number of associations that STILL do not have a social media policy surprised me. This policy is a basic HR issue that everyone should address even if their association doesn’t actively participate. Also many associations continue to try to limit employees’ access to social sites (your employees have smart phones and tablets so they’ll get around your ban). Another scary issue was the number of attendees unaware of the legal implications of doing an internet search on prospective employees. Many of them will “Google” their applicants – a lawsuit waiting to happen.

I understand that many of these finance, human resources and business operations folks don’t “get” social media but they need to recognize that social media is important to their association’s survival and growth. In one session when questioned only a few attendees knew if their association had a private online community. This tells me these folks are out of touch with their members. Perhaps as a CFO, controller, accountant, bookkeeper, facilities manager, or HR person, they don’t see a need to interact with their members. They may believe that is not their job but the responsibility of their membership, marketing and component relations colleagues. BUT, knowing your members and their industry or profession is critical to you doing your job even when you fall into the General and Administration part of the budget. Understanding why your association exists and how you provide value to your members is important for you to be an engaged employee. Otherwise you are just doing a job.

The future is looking brighter. While talking to a colleague who is a CFO for a trade association, she introduced me to her association’s “social media person.” My colleague admits she doesn’t get social media personally (although she is on Facebook for her family, has a LinkedIn profile and participates on ASAE’s Collaborate) but she now understands it is important to her association. Her member companies are active in social media, so it makes sense for their trade association to participate. She also admitted it was important to know what people are saying about the industry and their members so the association can be prepared to respond to both positive and negative conversations.

So, I’m hopeful that social media is entering the mainstream of associations. We still have a lot of work to do with the finance, human resources and business operations folks. Social is the way we do everything today. We need to convince them that social media enables them to do their jobs better even if they don’t tweet. It offers a gateway into their members’ lives; keeps the association relevant and enables them to keep their jobs (the bottom line). Let’s keep at it! – one colleague at a time.

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