Don’t Use a Hammer When You Need a Saw

18Nov08

After participating in ASAE’s Component Relations Virtual Lunch on “Using Online Communities to Support Struggling Components” I was really inspired by the comment Cynthia D’Amour made about not using Social Media to “fix” a problem within a component. She’s completely right. Why use a hammer when you need a saw? Let me explain…

If your component is having Board issues, then social media is a not a “fix-it” type of solution. Social Media is more than just a solution, it is an engagement strategy when attempted properly. Now if your component is having problems staying in contact with each other, let’s say like a Special Interest Group (SIG) spread out over the country as opposed to one geographic location, Social Media could definitely be a tool to use in that case. Here’s a hypothetical plan…

I work for an association as a Director of Component Relations and I am also in charge of coordinating the SIGs. They have annual meetings where everyone flies in to discuss their “special interest”. With the increase in gas prices and budgets being cutback, members are complaining about not being able to attend the events purely because of the cost of doing so. What are my alternatives?

Well let’s look at what you’re trying to do…

You have a group of individuals that are spread across a large geographic location. Finding central locations has proved difficult. How do you keep these people connected without having face to face interaction?

My answer is Social Media.

Depending on the size of your group conference calls can be too overwhelming unless done in a panel discussion format, but even then it can be difficult for panelists to not speak over each other (one benefit of face to face interaction for sure!).

Webinars sometimes are lack luster and speakers on specific topics can be hit or miss. People listen in, but they don’t engage as much unless they have a reason to.

What I say is use social media to support current efforts. DO NOT (I repeat… DO NOT) forgo face 2 face in lieu of social media. The trick is to mirror what already works for your group but do it online. Expand upon what you’ve already built. For example, if you find your group loves groups dicussions, sharing stories, etc. then make the parallel to that online by offering a list-serv or a forum where people can get together and do online what they already do in person. If meetings are lead by a single speaker from within the group at large, then have that single speaker create an online presentation utilizing YouTube and Slideshare as your channels to disperse this information. (In this particular instance a webinar might work best because it allows for real time interaction, but how about you expand upon that by creating a Twitter back channel using hashtags?)

As a way to re-engage your members, why not ask them to submit feedback via a video or podcast? I mean this may not be right for all associations (depends on how tech-savvy they are), but using tools that are already out there and leveraging them to help improve the communication channels might be one way you can help your struggling components.

~Lynn

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