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What If Don Draper Ran Social Media for Your Association?

by | Mar 27, 2012 | Industry News & Trends

Photo credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Besides the martini-inspired tweets at 3 a.m., how would your association’s social media plan be different if Don Draper (the infamous ad exec from AMC’s Mad Men) ran the show? Below I’ve compiled some of Don’s most famous quotes and applied them to membership-based organizations.

1. “I’m glad this is an environment where you feel free to fail.” Although Don said this with his noted tongue ‘n cheek suavity (yes, I just made up that word), being involved with social media and other relatively new ways of doing business, there is a certain amount of experimentation that is essential – maybe it’s the site you choose to use or maybe it’s your tone or content. You will make a decision that will not be the correct one. Don would too, he would just do it in a suit.

2. “We’re gonna sit at our desks typing while the walls fall down around us. Because we’re the least important, most important thing there is.” That’s how social media feels a lot of the time. Executives will ask you for return on investment. You’ll scramble for numbers you’re not even sure of yourself. You’ll write hoping someone will read it and sometimes you’ll know that they did and sometimes you won’t and sometimes no one will read it at all. But you are the most important, least important part of the association. You are your association’s voice.

3. “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” Maybe not the best advice for a social media professional as everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if you try and tell them something differently, you’ll have an enormous social media gaff on your hands but you can’t even begin to “change the conversation” if you aren’t involved in it.

4. “You want some respect? Go out there and get it for yourself.” Relying on a reputation has never been a good way to run an organization. Sure the hallowed walls of the Ivy League appear to pay for themselves, but coasting on a reputation earned decades ago is no longer as easy as it once was. The Internet has ensured that those involved with your marketing, social media and membership campaigns must continually struggle with relevancy. Don would make sure we didn’t all sit around on our reputations.

5. Don: “I give you money. You give me ideas.” Peggy: “But you never thank me.” Don: “That’s what the money is for!” What worked in 1966 is going to be a hard sell today. We should never assume that our members know that they are appreciated (and while I’m sure you’re all very good at saying thank you), if you’re saying it the exact same way every time (or worse, at predictable times, like only when you receive their renewal payments) it’s not enough. Vary the way you say thank you, the method by which you do so and the means by how you communicate it. Don’t save it for a member appreciation week and don’t assume that because you give them a discount on something that they know you appreciate them.

6. “Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness.” What would Don say social media is based on? Ego, maybe but happiness applies as well. If you try and bring some happiness to your members through social media, whether it’s disseminating content they need or telling them how much you enjoyed their blog post, making people feel “happy” is never a bad target to shoot for (albeit a sometimes tiring and unobtainable one).

7. “It wasn’t a lie, it was ineptitude with insufficient cover.” One can almost see this posted on a Facebook wall after the latest social media gaff by the big guy. But one thing that would put Don at a disadvantage here in 2012 is that spin is dying (if not already dead). He would be best served being open and honest with his online community but then again, that wouldn’t really be Don would it?  When your organization makes a mistake, it’s best to admit it. Talk openly about it and answer the questions that you can. If you don’t have the answers, admit it, and try to work together on a resolution.

8. “The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them.” At face value this doesn’t seem like the most sound approach to social media. If you apply his notion about clients to members – that the minute someone becomes a paying member of your community they begin to lose interest and will eventually leave, you will continually be looking for ways to turn this around. Instead of assuming that every paid membership renews, you assume the opposite and try to think of ways to prevent this from occurring. How do you ramp up your retention plan? How do you ensure that even your most loyal members are not taken for granted? It changes your view when you see everyone as a potential loss. I don’t advocate this cynical approach all the time, merely in small doses as a brain exercise and way at looking at your association differently. What if you couldn’t count on member dues? What then?

A lot has changed for business and associations since Don’s time on Madison Avenue. For those too young to remember offices before smoking bans, computers and harassment lawsuits watching a show like Mad Men may seem like a caricature of mid-century America. Yet, as comical as some of the situations are, there are a few organizations that still conduct their membership drives and offerings the way they did fifty-some years ago. Would you put Don Draper in charge of your social media or membership area? If not, then why continue to run the process as though nothing has changed since 1966? Sure, valuing members is still essential. It’s just done in different ways now.


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