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Associations Now

Get Your Social Media Ducks in a Row

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, March 2013 Technology

By: Katie Bascuas

Summary: How the American Diabetes Association created a uniform social media strategy for its national and myriad regional offices.

Social media and its myriad platforms are the bright, shiny objects in today's technology toolkit. Organizations that do not have at least a Facebook page are considered behind the curve.

But jumping feet first into the social media pool without a strategy can leave organizations awash in confusing messages, abandoned accounts, and weak brand awareness.

This was true for the American Diabetes Association, which has more than 90 local affiliate offices throughout the country—each trying to come up with its own social media plan for the organization's fund raising campaigns.

About a year and a half ago, ADA decided to reboot its social media strategy and consolidate national and local messaging for two of its signature fundraising campaigns—"Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes" and "Tour de Cure."

"We were getting a lot of questions from field staff like, 'What should we be doing with social media?' and 'How much time should we be spending on social media?'" says Shana Masterson, associate director of interactive fundraising and engagement at ADA. "We started really looking around, and we found that, definitely on Facebook, we lacked a consistent presence."

Masterson and Anna Baker, communications and social media manager at ADA, found Facebook pages that ran the gamut from high engagement to complete inactivity, so they came up with a three-tiered system to provide guidance on how much time and staff work local offices should commit to social media efforts, depending on the size of the office.

"There's a big difference between a New York City and a Des Moines, Iowa [affiliate], and we wanted every office to be the best that they could be and commit to what they could reasonably manage," Baker says.

The national office also provided affiliates with correctly sized images and prewritten campaign messaging, as well as national staff support in the form of training webinars and conference calls to allow local staff members to ask questions and seek assistance after the consolidated campaigns were launched.

After releasing its new comprehensive social media event strategy last spring and summer, ADA has seen an increase in the number of event registrants and web traffic coming from those Facebook event pages, and the new uniform strategy has received positive reviews from local affiliates.

"It's a welcome thing that we've done," Baker says. "I think [staff at the local offices] want to have fun with social media for their events, their markets, but they also want to do it right."

Katie Bascuas is associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email:

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