I know that there are many association mid-level staffers (managers, directors, etc.) who are personally engaged in social media and believe that their association could benefit from it. However they are not in a position to lead their association there. What do they do? How can they somehow work the system and get their leadership to see that social media can help their association achieve its goals and so much more?

First, they need to look over their association’s strategic plan (or mission, goals, etc.) and see where social media can fit in as another tool or strategy to achieve those goals. Pay particular attention to these areas as they can all be enhanced by social media: advocacy, public relations, member recruitment, member engagement/retention, member communication, education and events.

Set up some Google Alerts on your association’s name, acronym, and variation of name, publications, conference/trade show, chapter acronyms, competitor name/acronym, and any other keywords that will help you to listen in on what people are saying out there. Set up a Twitter Search on the same terms. You can set up RSS feeds for all of these so that you can receive the alerts and search results automatically. I use Google Reader to get my RSS feeds.

Export your member and staff list, or if that is too cumbersome, export a list of your leadership, committee members, and show/meeting attendees. Be mindful that this will exclude those whom you probably would most like to know better – your “mailbox” members (that old term should be replaced!). Upload your list to Facebook and LinkedIn, and then to a Gmail account and have Twitter search that network for you. Find out who is active and what’s on their mind. Do a lot of listening.

Also do a search for some of your leadership’s peers (both staff and members), your association’s competitors and other associations that are similar in member type to yours. Are they involved in social media? These examples can be helpful later when trying to sell your leadership on social media.

Then make a plan. Review your organization’s goals or strategic plan and note how social media tools (starting with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) might help your association achieve those goals. Only plan to take on one of these tools at a time – baby steps. Remember, you can’t just create a presence and walk away, you need to stay engaged, and that takes time and effort. Break your plan down into immediate, short-term and long-term ideas, keeping in mind that your plan will change as your association learns.

Try not to go it alone. Talk to some of the staff whom you discovered are involved in social networking. Bear in mind that many will not want their personal social media life to be known at work but they can be allies and advisors to you. Contact some of the members and ask them for advice. Tell them that you are “going renegade” and investigating options to further your association’s goals through social media – you’re just in the research phase. Ask their advice and if they would like to help. Take advantage of this intelligence-gathering opportunity – you can find out a lot about their real perception of the association, what they want/need, how they envision their association.

This is a lot of work but you will learn much from it. A huge concern to any CEO about social media is the amount of time it requires. This is a valid concern and one that you should be ready to address. It’s why I haven’t mentioned blogging as part of this plan, although it may be something to consider depending on your association’s resources. Another reason to have allies amongst staff is that you may already have in place others who can assist with this effort. Social media can not belong to one department alone. It must be integrated across many departments and can be an aid in breaking down departmental silos since it will require collaboration.

Here are some recent posts that will help you prepare for this task and for the nay-sayers.

What else does someone need to do before they bring their ideas (and a plan) to the big guns? Some of you have gone through this at your association. What advice do you have?