Maddie Grant is the chief social media strategist and co-founder of SocialFish, a consultancy firm that teaches association professionals how to effectively use social media. Maddie and her SocialFish business partner, Lindy Dreyer provide social media strategy, marketing and training to clients like ASAE and the Center and the National Association for the Self-Employed. Maddie and Lindy provided valuable social media training to our team at Fixation last year, for which we remain incredibly grateful.
I often get the question "what’s the ROI for using social media?" How would you answer this question?
This is actually the "big question" that seems to be top of mind for everyone now that a lot of organizations have started using social media. In one sense, it’s like saying, "what’s the ROI of building relationships?" or "What’s the ROI of email?"–because social media is a way of communicating and interacting with stakeholders. Having said that, there can be defined and measurable results–but those results need to be directly tied to business and strategic goals. There needs to be a starting benchmark and deliberate tracking–as well as factoring in of indirect costs (staff time, overhead and resources) in order to really measure ROI–which I would say many organizations don’t do a great job of in general, not just for social media efforts.
I’ve heard several folks in the industry say that Twitter’s relevance to business is dwindling. How would you respond?
We believe that the core purpose of social media (including, of course, Twitter) is to build relationships and we’ve seen that work very successfully. If business strategies involve an understanding of that core principle, then Twitter is a fantastic way to reach people in an organization’s "ecosystem" and get to know them and what their needs are. If, on the other hand, Twitter is used merely to spam people with marketing messages without a care to fostering that community, then it’s not going to work for that business for very long.
What are 5 initial steps that an association professional can take to begin using social media tools right now?
The first step is always to "listen" on the social web–which means start using Google Alerts to search for brand mentions, industry terms, key people, etc. — to see what people are saying about you or your industry. You can do this, to some extent, without actually having social media profiles at all. Step two is to focus on the places where your people are, and start building a presence there. Step three is to begin building relationships by responding when appropriate to relevant questions, following discussions, answering feedback. Step four, start providing value by posting information people need. Step five, identify those champions (influencers in those spaces who care about what you care about) to help you grow your presence and community and take things to the next level.
Do you see practical applications for associations to use video and mobile applications? Do you agree that video and mobile will grow exponentially in the next year or so?
Ab-so-lutely!! Mobile is becoming huge across all industries–not just because of geolocation, which empowers local connections between people and businesses, but more fundamentally because devices like the iPhone are revolutionary in terms of changing how we want and expect to get what we need, in a very individualized way (e.g. each individual user downloads the apps that they want to use, so every individual phone is different. The Long Tail thrives on mobile!) And if we consider the Millennial generation (now entering the workforce in substantial numbers) and younger, these are people who do all of their communicating through mobile phones, which is changing the landscape of how we work (not tethered to a desktop, which means not tied to 9-5…) With regard to video, associations are definitely starting to see just how valuable it can be to add video to their arsenal of ways of communicating with members–it’s easy and attractive, and it’s humanizing, in terms of potentially giving some much needed personality to the "brand" they want to promote to their members.
Is there an association that in your opinion has done a really good job of using social media? If so, how and why?
Honestly we’ve seen many associations doing fabulous things. If I had to pick one, we often show the International Society for Technology in Education as a great example of an association conference home base site that aggregates lots of different social media activities–but really I think the beauty of social media is that much of it is all out in the open for everyone to find. I’d love your readers to check out the Association Social Media Wiki if they are looking for specific examples. I also had a really great series of interviews with association social media managers on the SocialFish blog, where people working for all types and sizes of organizations told us how they internally managed the social media management work.