Report Finds Most DC-based Associations Still Cautious Towards Social Media

I just read about a new report called "Social Media and Advocacy Analysis 2009: Social media and advocacy tools employed by America's leading trade associations, pressure groups and cause organizations," prepared by Marc Ross, Christine Stineman, and Chris Lisi of 2ndSix, Tribe Effect and Chris Lisi Communications. The report is a little confusing to me; basically they looked at what seem to be a totally random selection of 102 of "America's leading trade associations, issue advocacy groups and cause organizations" to rate each on the extent to which they were each using 14 different social media or online communication tools, and then ranked them according to the mere adoption of the tools, not how they were using them or anything.

I was thinking their data collection seemed a little haphazard, then I read some other posts and realized I'm not the only one thinking it. Not only are people finding the methodology of basing results solely on whether or not the organizations had accounts on each of the 14 platforms, but one of the organizations cited in the report--American Petroleum Institute--points out that they actually are using a number of the tools. Seems like maybe the data collection methods were a little lacking?

One question posed in the report stuck out to me:
"And can someone explain what's up with the National Electrical Contractors Association, and why it's more web savvy than the National Rifle Association, the Consumer Electronics Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Communications Workers (to pick randomly from the rest of the list)?"

Yes--I can take a stab at it with two words: staff champion. I would be willing to bet that National Electrical Contractors Association has on staff a person who is in his/her personal life an avid social media user. Apparently the others, not so much. Although I personally think CEA does a great job with social media--witness their upcoming "Mommmy Tech Summit and Exhibition" at CES in January. (ok, technically I don't know if this qualifies as totally a CEA initiative, but I think it's cool anyway).

It's no mystery that most associations are still grappling with how to staff social media efforts. This is also not the first time they've been called out for not embracing social media; remember Seth Godin's rant about nonprofits? It's interesting to note that both Seth Godin and the authors of this report make the same mistake, however: putting all the emphasis on the mere act of having accounts on social sites or a certain number of followers, rather than on how organizations are actually using the tools.