Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant, co-authors of Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World, asked 505 people this fall about the implementation of social media by their organizations’ leadership. While most respondents said their organizations do use social networking at least somewhat, they also said that, while useful, it also can be a disruptive force, and one that could shape the way associations meet in the future.

While social media use is becoming standard—85 percent of respondents said their organization understands its value, 40 percent said their organization offers staff training on social media use, and almost half said their organization allowed any employee to speak on its behalf online—many also said social media remains a bit of a mystery, particularly how to use it most effectively and what kind of return on investment it offers. That may be why, despite 84 percent saying their organization uses social media to connect with people and not just to push product and services, 32 percent said their organization doesn’t use these channels—or any others—to routinely collect and respond to customer feedback.

While the survey didn’t directly address the question of using social media around meetings, the MeetingsNet survey of Association Meetings readers’ use of social media found that 86 percent of associations have Facebook pages, for example, but use them mostly to promote special events (62 percent) and meetings (59 percent), rather than to connect with members or post event information and photos during (36 percent) or after an event (50 percent). While 69 percent said they used Twitter to promote events, only 48 percent encourage attendees to tweet, while 70 percent said they tweet during the event themselves. Putting these two data sets together, it may be time to consider making social media more of a two-way street than a megaphone.