Jenise Fryatt

Social Media Learning Strategies for Associations/Non-Profits
Posted by: Jenise Fryatt
Wednesday, May 11th, 2011


Andy Steggles knows a little about using social media for non-profits. His book, Social Networking for Non-Profits, explains how to increase member engagement in a mobile and web 2.0 world.

He is also the Chief Operating Officer & Social Strategist for Higher Logic, LLC, a social media and mobile software company for associations and nonprofits; and spent 10 years serving as the Chief Information Officer at the Risk & Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS) where he headed their social strategy initiatives.

Andywill be sharing his knowledge this Friday in a free Educate365 webinar scheduled for 11 am EDT entitled, Mobile, Social and Learning Strategies.

I recently asked him a few questions about social media for non-profits & associations, and about his upcoming webinar.

JENISE: Why is social media so important for associations/nonprofits?

ANDY: Often when people think of “social media” they just think of facebook or linkedin etc.  It’s so much more than that, it really represents a different way of thinking.  Social media means that we no longer have the control we once did over our brands and our messaging. This requires a whole new set of skills which are beyond the more traditional marketing role.

Social technologies are so common place these days that anyone can create a community of people with a common interest with just a couple of clicks.  Now think about what an association is? According to ASAE an association is “A formal group of people with a common interest.”  According to facebook, a group or page is “An informal group of people with a common interest”.

Of course there are many other differences other than the formality of the community, but the point is that unless associations are able to stay relevant and offer a value proposition which makes sense, then these informal groups could easily become a move viable competition – indeed, in many cases they already have done.SERMO is an example of a private community of medical doctors, with several hundred thousand people in its community, it is certainly providing competition to many medical associations.

Notwithstanding all the above, social media is an opportunity to create a new level of perceived community and outreach within you org and for the more mission based organizations, there has never been a better way of creating awareness.

JENISE: Are most associations/nonprofits trying to learn about social media and implement social media strategies?


ANDY: In the US, yes, although many are still having a hard time trying to justify it from a business perspective.  Their focus is almost always on the Return on Investment (ROI) where it should be on the more immediately Return on Engagement (ROE). The ROE will provide greater retention and improve member satisfaction which will ultimately provide the ROI they are looking for.

Canada is also doing well in terms of social media adoption for associations and non-profits, although they do have more of a challenge from a privacy perspective – few orgs have realized that this is exactly why they should be offering social tools for their members – since they control the privacy.

Looking more globally, countries like Singapore are having a hard time adopting mostly due to the culture of the people, the lack of willingness to share.  Australia is one of the most emerging countries I’ve seen.  They are a couple of years behind the US in terms of social adoption but I believe they will catch up fast.

JENISE: What is the one, most important piece of advice you would give an association/nonprofit that is new to social media?

ANDY: “Think Social”.  Every department in the organization needs to be trained on why social media is important to them and how it can have a serious impact on how they do business.  It’s a tool which will enable you to think differently about how to do things.

For example, the conference department may decide to be more transparent in its session selections for the annual conference, while the publishing department may decide to incorporate more ratings and reviews links back to its respective online counterpart.  No matter what the area of the org, there can and will be a social media consideration which, if leveraged the right way, can create a significant positive impact on the org.

JENISE: What advice would you give an association/nonprofit that has already begun using social media?

ANDY: Remember that it is a living, breathing thing.  Think of your social media presence as organic – something that needs to be nurtured and is never really “ready” since you’ll always be tweaking the various elements to ensure they align with the organization’s mission and are being leveraged as much as possible.

JENISE: What are some of the takeaways you expect people to get from your upcoming webinar?

ANDY: Attendees will understand how associations can really improve their member benefits by utilizing social technologies.  See how to measure results and recognize and reward engagement.  Understand the different levels of engagement and why both are necessary.  See how to leverage the public networks while at the same time getting to know your members even better.

(Photo by zitona)


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