A new research report, “Web 2.0: How Associations Are Tapping Social Media” from the Angerosa Research Foundation, the nonprofit research arm of Stratton Publishing and Marketing, says association publishers are following the trend toward social media. According to the survey, 57 percent of the more than 300 associations surveyed have tried at least one social networking application and more than one-third of associations have set up their own social media site. Meanwhile, 61 percent of associations report they have at least one blog, which are typically being used for general conversations (51 percent), conference-related issues (44 percent), magazine-related issues (32 percent) and messages from the CEO (22 percent).
Many association publishers are turning to established networks. Forty-three percent of respondents are using Facebook, 35 percent are using LinkedIn, 31 percent are on YouTube and 16 percent are on MySpace.

Setting Up a Proprietary Network

The biggest challenges with social media include cost and resource allocation. Thirty-eight percent of respondents say they have set up their own social media Web site and 27 percent of associations that have set up their own network typically use their own software. Twenty-five percent use Microsoft SharePoint, while 64 percent use some other type of software such as High Logic, Moveable Type or Community of Practice. Few are using established platforms to build out their own network, such as TypePad (8 percent), Ning (7 percent) or Second Life (4 percent).

Driving Participation

The survey found that the median number of member involvement in social media is 15 percent. Factors that determine how much members participate in social media include age (43 percent), topics/issues addressed (33 percent), specialty (14 percent) and participation in face-to-face events (9 percent). Another 10 percent say some “other” factor affects member participation in social media, including technology expertise, time restraints and comfort level with social media applications.

Twenty-eight percent of associations have a wiki while 39 percent plan to launch one over the next year. Wikis are generally used for committee collaboration (43 percent),  industry-wide or business-wide encyclopedia (37 percent), education/training (20 percent) or product development (18 percent).

More than 80 percent of associations monitor their social media sites and more than half (58 percent) have put strategies into place to protect the association from possible liabilities arising from user-posted comments and videos or from unwanted advertisements or solicitations. Responsibility for the social networks typically falls to the communications/marketing department (65 percent) or IT department (28 percent). Just 26 percent of respondents say their publications department has responsibility for social networks.

Nearly A Quarter Are Making Money

While most companies have struggled with how to monetize social media, 21 percent of association respondents say they have generated revenue from social media, primarily through sponsorships. Of the 43 percent that have not tested social media, the primary reasons include lack of an internal champion or advocate for the program (58 percent), limited interest from members (45 percent), lack of technical expertise on staff (38 percent), lack of resources (37 percent), lack of funds (30 percent) or concern about legal issues and risk (27 percent).