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News & Press: AAALetter

A Report from Member-at-Large and AAALetter Editor

Wednesday, April 25, 2018   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Steven L. Thorne and Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala
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Social media @AAAL--Membership expresses preference for improving the website

Biennially, AAAL uses a membership survey as a needs assessment and to inform decisions in areas such as initiatives, infrastructure and capacity building, and expenditures.  The 2018 AAAL Member Survey included a section focused on surveying the membership regarding their practices and preferences regarding social media and recommendations concerning social media use as a resource for AAAL-related connections and activities.  We acknowledge that the overall response rate, 14% in 2018, limits the representativeness of the survey.  Analysis of the social media portion of the survey indicates members’ interest in improvement to the AAAL website.  The survey results do not provide warrant for initiating major revisions or augmentations to AAAL’s current use of other social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook), at least not at this time.  Responses to general social media questions showed the following:

  • 74% of the respondents indicated that they were members of a social network. Of users responding affirmatively to social media use, Facebook (86%), (53%), LinkedIn (52%), and ResearchGate (50%) were identified as primary sites. Those who were not users of social media offered the following reasons: privacy concerns, limited access to technology, lack of interest, and that social media was challenging to keep up with it.
  •  On the topic of the importance of social networks for member’s professional activities, most survey participants attributed some value to social media that ranged from 35% (“somewhat important”) to 15% (“very important”). Reasons for social media use varied, but the responses suggested that the majority of AAAL members take a “follower” approach rather than that of “an active contributor” to professionally oriented uses of social media. 26% indicated that social networks were not relevant to their professional lives.
  • As far as on-line resources that AAAL makes available, a significant majority (87%) makes use of the AAAL webpage, followed by the AAALetter (31%) and the Grad Student Facebook page (12%).
  • Finally, when it came to the two open ended questions to solicit feedback on their recommendations for (a) “online resources or activities that would strengthen the AAAL community or its services to the members” and (b) “online resources, tools, or community dynamics,” most participants skipped these questions (N= 252 or 79%; N= 254, or 80% respectively), resulting in little data from the membership and few insights as to how AAAL could respond to current unmet needs or desires in the area of the AAAL’s use of social media.

Summary and recommendations:  Within AAAL, the Association’s webpage ( remains the primary on-line resource for AAAL-related information and resources.  While continued attention to other social media sites (e.g., Twitter and Facebook) is warranted, the data recommend improvements and augmentations to the AAAL webpage in order to best serve the membership. Recommendations to the Executive Committee included the following:

  1. AAAL’s webpage appears likely to remain the primary media site used by members for AAAL-related information.  Therefore, budgetary expenditures in the area of digital communication and information infrastructure should focus on the webpage and its content, services, resources, and improvements to information architecture.
  2. All AAAL website features and functions should be optimized for smartphone access.
  3. The role of the newsletter should be subject to further discussion and examination.  There may be other ways (e.g., on the webpage) for the Executive Committee to regularly share information with the membership beyond the quarterly AAALetter outlining the business conducted/accomplished and initiatives in progress.
  4. Continue exploration of an augmented social media plan or strategy (over and above what AAAL already provides), understanding that data from the 2018 survey suggests that this is not currently a primary concern for the membership.

A final question for EC to consider is: Do these finding represent your (near-term) preferred future for the AAAL website and use of social media? As mentioned above, the 2018 survey data is limited to a small subset of our membership.  If you have additional ideas, strategies, or suggestions for enhancing AAAL’s web presence and/or social media use, please share them so that the Association can better fulfill its responsibility to members.  Remember that you can message the EC by clicking on “Messages” under “Quick Links” on the AAAL webpage.  (Once you select “message a member,” click on “group” and select “Governance: Executive Committee.)


Andrew D. Cohen, University of Minnesota, Emeritus says...
Posted Monday, April 30, 2018
The app for AAAL conferences is excellent but it does not feature the uploading of handouts from given sessions. Instead those were to be uploaded to the AAAL website for the conference. Needless to say, conference participants did not know to look there for handouts. And I believe the handouts are no longer available on the AAAL website. In any event, since we're using paper less and less, it is crucial for AAAL conference participants to have easy access to any handouts, and at present this feature is being obfuscated. It should be super user-friendly and transparent.

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