Published originally on SmartBlog Insights.

Many of us now find knowledge resources and networking opportunities in new places. My top professional development resource is Twitter. It used to be Google Reader, but now my Twitter friends act as a filter (or curator) by sharing the best blog posts they’ve read about social media, association management and other topics that interest me.

I’ve met more social media and association friends via blogs and Twitter than I have via real life events. When we do finally meet face-to-face it’s more like a reunion than a first meeting; the real life encounter definitely strengthens our relationship. However, there are many whom I’m still eager to meet in person and that desire drives many of my decisions about the events I choose to attend, both locally and nationally.

More and more associations are wisely nurturing online communities using private community platforms or social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The word ‘nurturing’ is key as a good community doesn’t develop without care and feeding. Let’s jump ahead and imagine you have developed an online community by providing valuable and interesting content (both yours and member-generated) and a platform for conversation and connecting. Now what?

Why not organize, or support and encourage your members to organize, face-to-face meet-ups for those who participate (or lurk) in your online communities? Have a Facebook after-hours, or a tweet-up (meeting of Twitter followers) or a LinkedIn meet-up. Give your members a way to strengthen those online relationships outside your regularly scheduled programming.

Bring a sense of exclusivity to these events. These members are in the know, being Facebook-savvy, about a special association event just for them. Create an Event page in Facebook or LinkedIn so when they RSVP, their friends or connections will be alerted as well. Hold the events in locations you normally wouldn’t use – restaurants, coffee shops, outdoor events or free concerts. Or make it activity-focused — community service project, book club, movie outing, winery or brewery tour. You may get a small turnout on the first one, but the word of mouth (or mouse) will soon spread.

If your members use Facebook or Twitter, they might also use Foursquare, a location-based social network and mobile application. Give your event a hashtag, like #asaeafterhours, and encourage attendees to check into the event venue and add that hashtag — more word of mouse marketing!

Members who lurk or are socially active online want to find ways to connect with other members, that’s human nature. They may not come to your regular events because of financial or schedule constraints. Or your regular events may not be compelling enough to them. Try something new. Help them meet other online members face-to-face and strengthen the role your association plays in their lives.