I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid!

31Jan09

I’m not trying to be rebellious here with all my brand jacking thievery of late, but I see a trend in associations that is starting to scare me. It seems like everyone and their brother is setting up a social network. Okay, so this might see a little contradictory considering I set-up SNAP, BUT I’m just going to keep going with this thought.

I’ve noticed lately internal social networks as of late popping up everywhere. ASAE has had their Member’s Directory for awhile (which btw is extremely hard to navigate!), I just joined HIMSS and they have a social network for members and conference attendees, I believe the Tech conference had a attendees only section (didn’t really explore so can’t comment on the sn features), I saw at least 4 or 5 social network platforms at Tech09. At least personally, I have enough profiles to maintain that I don’t need a kajillionth (technical term) one to add to the mix.

So when I see all these networks popping up, I’m asking myself why. Why are they there?

Sure it SEEMS like a great idea. Associations serve a similar purpose as social networks, they bring groups of people together under a common theme/goal/occupation/etc. They allow people to network within constructed confines (i.e. the online network, an event, a meeting, etc.), they provide the value of connection between it’s members. But there is also a common problem, associations and social networks need active, engaged members to survive and thrive. There are different ways of cultivating this sort of user online and in person, but I think the strategies can be very different. A social network will not fix an association who has membership issues, you must first bring value.

My approach? Well I’m in the process of creating outposts (nod to SF for the term) for the association. Currently we are on Twitter and Facebook, I’m a member of a member-started PA network called PA-C Life and am in contact with the owner. After conference we might consider starting a LinkedIn group, but we are also on YouTube and Flickr, with a Conference Blog and News Blog going to be launched when we launch our new website.

Why do this? Because I am becoming a valued member of these communities, meaning what I put out there brings value to the people I interact with. Exactly what an association should be doing. Then I am able to leverage that influence (I don’t like that word, but not sure what else to use) to drive traffic and engagement to our other offerings (think the blog). Now also remember the 1/9/90 rule, 1% create, 9% comment & 90% lurk, so being able to measure the lurker’s engagement can be tricky, but the thing is that they are there engaging with the content (and yes, viewing is engaging), and there is no question that an engaged member is more likely to renew. And there is where the ROI comes in. I mean there are other ways, but that’s one of them.

There are always exceptions to the rule, but remember this process and your social media endeavors will create real champions and real connections, not just another profile for your member to maintain:

1. Listen – Find out where your members are (Check out the SocialFish Resources for some great tips)

2. Connect – Go to where they are, start making connections, be a valuable member of the community

3. Engage – Really look at what your members are sending out, comment on it, engage with what is important to them and they’ll be more likely to return the favor

4. Recognize – Everyone likes to be flattered, and in the blogsphere comments can equal flattery, so get out there and recognize those who blog on your topics, if you’re doing twitter, try re-tweeting

5. Listen again – This time listen to what people are saying they want, then see if you can give it to them, this does not mean invest thousands of dollars in a social network because 1 member said it would be cool, really take the time to talk with members and listen to what they need, seeing how you can provide that to them

Was that easy enough? I hope so. And don’t get me wrong there are a ton of social networking platforms out there both free (Ning, CollectiveX come to mind) and custom built for your association (Socious, Member Fuse, etc.). I’m just saying make the right choice, don’t get dazzled by all the flashy tools, use them first to see how they work. Make an educated decision, become the expert.

Okay, so that way enough out of me. So do you have a network? Is it working? Where’d you start first?

~Lynn

Blogging Style: Response Blogging
6 down, 19 to go.

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3 Responses to “I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid!”

  1. This is spot-on. Listen to your members, and personally engage with them. That’s what we need to be do ing.

  2. Actually, I think this is nothing new – many associations have had some kind of “members-only” section of their website or slightly more interactive member directory for a (relatively) long time. Those who are setting up hosted social networks now are really trying to extend that existing system into something more “social”, and doing it with greater or lesser success.

    What is new, what is still uncomfortable for many, and what is far more interesting for me personally is associations trying to extend their reach into public social networks like FB and LI, and building a strategy of open communication linking those outposts back to whatever they have behind the firewall. This is a movement that HAS to happen, because their members are forming their own groups without them regardless, but it’s very hard to make that leap of faith.

  3. I think where my post came from is a place where I see organizations trying to create their own social networks to combat their members creating their own groups on FB and LI and that may not necessarily be right for their group. I find use in ASAE’s directory in the fact that I can email someone through it if I don’t have another way to contact them, but I definitely don’t use it as my primary source for keeping in touch with colleagues. Which is also why I think (and agree with you that) it’s really important that organizations establish presences on these external networks to participate and be a part of those communities. Your members will establish their own places to talk, where they feel safe to communicate. And I think it is our responsibility to be a part of that conversation to provide insight, customer service and support when needed. The fact that ASAE is starting to create a presence on Twitter is a good example of going to the community.

    By being a part of their community, by being valuable to them, I think we start to be valuable to them. My biggest question is what do you put out there and what do you keep behind the firewall?


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