Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Is Your Association Equipped to Integrate Social Media With Member Service?

I'm having wicked writer's block this week for some reason; luckily I have tons of half-baked blog posts just lolling around unpublished. This one is from several months ago and I'm not sure why I never finished it, but it seems sort of relevant after today's #assnchat that focused primarily on whether or not associations should be integrating social media into their overall member service offerings. What does "integrating social media and member service" mean? Listening to what members are saying on Twitter, blogs, and social networks and addressing complaints or questions in the appropriate channel as they arise. Then tracking those exchanges in the AMS just as you'd track any other member interaction such as a phone or email inquiry. Working in "real time" rather than just 8:30-5. Stuff like that.

My feeling is that, for most associations, integrating social media into member service is probably still a long way off for several reasons. The first and most important of which is that, in order to even think about mixing the two, ALL members of an association's staff must be fully versed in all aspects of social media: understand the tools, be actively listening, have a coordinated plan for responding and have plans in place for properly tracking such interactions. Yes, that's right: all. Not just member service staff. But that's another post for another time; I'm going to back it up and start by saying that a good place to begin is with the social media team concept.

Amber Naslund wrote a great ebook on developing social media teams that I think is a perfect foundation for the concept of creating a culture that would be willing and able to incorporate social media into its member service activities.

Points that are especially relevant to the social media/member service pairing:
  • "No matter who is reaching out on behalf of your company, your customers and community aren’t segmenting you by department and they don’t care about your job titles. They’re looking at you as a unified team that they can count on to meet their needs. So by all means devise a system that works for you, but ultimately remember that you are ALL stewards of your company and your brand, and by participating in social media, you’re setting new expectations for accessibility and availability. And you’re all in it together." In other words, that silo culture that's always worked before? Won't work anymore if you want to effectively use social media to listen and respond to members. 
  • "The members of your team doing the participating need to be interested in doing so in the first place. Check out whether your team members are using social networks or blogging in their personal lives, and see where their interests lie." Audit your existing staff resources. Do you already have social media "experts" on staff? If so, good--they can take on the not-insignificant task of evangelizing to and training staff who aren't familiar with social media or who think it's stupid and a waste of time.
  • "An aspect of social media execution that I think often gets lost in the shuffle is communicating among your internal team." What channels already exist to allow staff to communicate with each other? None? That's a problem. A huge part of being able to effectively integrate social media and member service is coordinating the listening, triaging, responding and tracking. 
I'll leave it at that for now...what do you think? Does this make sense or should I just wait out this writer's block and not attempt to dust off old, unpublished posts ever again?

No comments: