Associations must use three-fold approach to building social media networks: market research/audience definition, message and content development, and platform selection and implementation. Like all communication initiatives, the first step is to define and get to know your audience or audiences. The next step is to craft the proper message or messages. Finally, it comes down to finding the right vehicle to transport those messages, and that's where social media comes in. Like any other communication tool, the use of social media must be carefully planned and executed for long-term success.
It is important to recognize that, without a robust and well-defined social media strategy, Facebook is just another pretty face. Beauty really is only skin deep—if you have nothing relevant to say, it doesn't matter how or where you say it.
It is also important that association leaders understand that social media is not one-way communication, and that they must be prepared to relinquish control over the content posted by any given audience using a dynamic social media platform. Associations cannot mandate or manipulate a desired brand image in today's marketplace like they could in the past. Their members and constituents are communication savvy, and are already using social media tools such as blogs to provide commentary, kudos and complaints instantly and en masse, in ways never before imagined.