On Monday, it looked like all the smarty pants in DC were tweeting from the xPotomac conference. Search for the #xpotomac13 hashtag to get a taste of the brain candy, or check out Jay Daughtry’s notes and links to other xPotomac posts.

Hopefully, if your job requires you to develop relationships with the media, you use Twitter to do that. If not, start by creating Twitter media lists. Lauren Bubser at NPtalk explains how.

As you can tell from my baby blog, I’m pretty basic when it comes to websites. When I do graduate to a big girl blog, I know I’ll have to brush up on Google Analytics which is why I’ve bookmarked this Guide to Getting Started with Analytics from Dave Davies at Search Engine Watch.

Have you heard about the Copyright Alert System that was launched this week? Those darn kids and their Napster, look what they’ve done! Mario Aguilar at Gizmodo explains how it works.

One of my favorite posts this week is by Kivi Leroux Miller, a nonprofit communications consultant, author and trainer, who also happens to be a North Carolina gal. She writes: 

“As I have been interviewing nonprofits for my new book on content marketing, it’s become crystal clear to me that the organizations that are most successful at using content to engage their communities consider the combination of a good CRM (customer relationship management software), CMS (website content management system), email, and e-commerce technology to be just as important to their success as having thoughtful and creative staff members who can write well.”

Kivi goes on to say, “If your choice is between more staff and this kind of technology, seriously think about the technology over the additional staff.” I agree. By wisely leveraging technology, your organization can go so much further than you can imagine. Read her post to find out how.

You may think you know, but do you really know how technology is transforming associations? We’ll all know once Digital Now’s Technology Leadership Survey is released. Today’s the last day to participate in the survey if you want a chance to win free registration to next year’s Digital Now conference. The survey takes five to ten minutes. I’m so excited that I’m going for the first time to this year’s Digital Now conference in April. Are you?

Long ago, when I first started reading blogs, I found one about a guy’s experience studying for his Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam. I was years away from considering the CAE exam, but his blog, and those of a few other early association bloggers, reignited my interest in my profession. Good news, fellow association geeks: Ben Martin, CAE is blogging again!

Ben’s a master of online community management and is now sharing his wisdom on his Online Community Results blog. This week he answers the question: what kind of content strategy drives community engagement?

Since I’m heading to Avectra’s User & Developers Conference this weekend and then, after a day and a half at home, to ASAE’s Great Ideas, I’m sure to see a Speaker with Jazzy Socks and The Guy who Tweets Everything. Heck, these people are my friends! I think you’ll enjoy seeing the other conference types that Kristin Kovacich at Digiday identified.

I read far too much good stuff this week, so here’s a quick list of other useful and interesting reads:

  • Microsoft, damn them, is limiting Office 2013 installations to one per computer, meaning, if your computer crashes or you have to reformat, you’re SOL. (Digital Trends)
  • I love Waze. It’s my go-to app for navigation while driving. It talks to me about traffic jams and other hazards. And it keeps getting better. (Wired)
  • Is there anything more annoying than auto-play video? You end up clicking on all your tabs trying to find the obnoxious page. Soon Google Chrome will let you know which page is the offender. (The Next Web)
  • This is the most accurate (and scathing) review of the irrelevant Oscars that I’ve read. And just so you know, I love Seth McFarlane. Yeah, he’s sophomoric and offensive, but Family Guy has genius moments. Lighten up, people! (Lefsetz Letter)
  • One of my favorite movies of all time, “a modest masterpiece,” is Local Hero. I love it because it’s about community. And it’s set in Scotland. Rent it. Bonus: Mark Knopfler does the score. (The Economist)
  • I once spent a night in Portugal riveted to the TV because the bull fights were on. I couldn’t believe the bravery (craziness) of the pega guys. Watch the video that accompanies Andrew Sullivan’s post and you’ll see what I mean. Don’t worry, they respect the bull in Portugal; they don’t kill him. He retires to a satisfying life with a harem of cows. (The Dish)

That’s all, folks, happy Friday!

Photo by Alex Brown (Flickr)

Photo by Alex Brown (Flickr)

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Like Christmas, the advertising industry and its collaborators have sucked the life out of it. Couples buy schlocky cards and last-minute sweetheart gifts, and go out for the obligatory romantic dinner in herds of two. Baaaa. It’s what’s expected, what’s done.

But are these efforts really from the heart? Wouldn’t a handwritten note or homemade meal be a more meaningful gift of the heart?

Katya Andresen, Chief Strategy Officer of Network for Good, blogged about a better way to celebrate gifts of the heart – Generosity Day.

Make tomorrow Generosity Day! The Cause page explains how.

“We’re rebooting Valentine’s Day as Generosity Day: one day of sharing love with everyone, of being generous to everyone, to see how it feels and to practice saying “Yes.” Let’s make the day about love, action and human connection.”

That sounds so much better, doesn’t it? Katya says: “Say YES on February 14th to every opportunity to be nice, help out, or delight with generosity.”


You know me, I can’t help thinking: How could associations and their members celebrate Generosity Day?

  • Open up your member wall, if you still have one. Let everyone get a taste of your members-only benefits.
  • Make it a day of community service.
  • Spend time with students and young professionals – answer questions, give tours, invite them to work alongside you, provide guidance and mentoring.
  • Spend a day with elderly retired members who perhaps feel a bit forgotten.
  • Invite members to share how they’re celebrating the day. Everyone who submits a story gets a special promo code.
  • Buy your staff breakfast, lunch, afternoon treats or happy hour drinks.
  • Ask staff to submit anonymous notes about how they appreciate their colleagues, for example, “I appreciate Ralph because he always cleans the kitchen counter even when it’s not his mess.” Read one note about every person on staff. Remember those poor kids in elementary school who only got one Valentine’s Day card when all the other kids got 30? Don’t let that happen, make sure you have a note to read about everyone, even if you have to write it yourself.

Now, make a note to yourself about next year’s Generosity Day. Plan ahead and give your members a chance to spread love and happiness.

Generosity Day for Associations

Big Heart of Art by QThomas Bower (Flickr)

Have you heard of GrubWithUs? I hadn’t until I read this Fast Company article. GrubWithUs is a social network that arranges dinners with strangers at restaurants. You pay everything in advance, show up, have a most delightful time while getting to know several new acquaintances.

I would have LOVED something like this when I was single. Not so much to meet guys, although that wouldn’t have hurt, but as an easy way to hang out with new people for a few hours around a dinner table. I love that type of thing, especially when food is involved.

We had Meetup groups in Sacramento that did something similar, but the dinners usually attracted too many people. After a while, all the faces became a big blur — too much networking, not enough real conversation.

One of the top reasons people join associations is to meet and develop relationships with peers or prospects. Associations facilitate this by hosting conferences, volunteer opportunities and other events. Why not try the GrubWithUs model — small dinners for six to eight people? Here are some ideas:

  • During conferences and other meetings, like many associations do.
  • By geographic area for local members.
  • By conversation or brainstorming topic — pay for someone’s dinner and ask them to report back on ideas shared — market research!
  • By professional niche or interest.

Don’t focus on excuses to not do it – handling payments, staff time — you can find ways to make it work if you really want to.

The accounting department may have to become more nimble to pay the restaurant in advance, but it’s the 21st century, the age of PayPal, debit cards and taking care of business.

You might have to rely on volunteers. Thank them by paying or subsidizing their check, or giving them a promo code for an event or product.

Not everyone can afford to attend your conference to meet other members, but they will surely appreciate you making the effort to organize or facilitate member meet-ups.

Associations social dining members

I hear you. “Games, yes! It’s about time we looked at games.”

And I hear you too. “Games? You can’t be serious. Not at my association.”

Full disclosure, I’m not a gamer, so this is all a bit foreign to me too. I first started paying attention to games two years ago at a TEDx conference where I heard an IBM game designer talk about using games for training and education. Ever since I’ve been intrigued by the idea that game thinking can help associations deliver a better experience.

I’m not the only one. Game dynamics was the topic of last week’s #assnchat.

It’s tempting to dismiss any consideration of games by saying members are serious professionals and wouldn’t go for those shenanigans, but they do.

Games are the most downloaded apps. 72% of households play computer or video games. The average gamer is 37 years old. 42% of gamers are women. 55% of gamers play on their phone or hand-held device.

Here’s what I’m wondering: how can we leverage the principles of game design to make the membership experience or professional development journey more meaningful, or encourage online community participation?

Please read the rest of this post at the Avectra blog.

While the association community flies this weekend to St. Louis for the annual ASAE conference, I’ll be driving a few hours to spend a week with lots of family and friends at beautiful Ocean Isle Beach here in North Carolina. I’m sad about missing the opportunity to spend time with friends at ASAE, but I’m easily consoled by the thought of a coastal breeze, warm water and sand between my toes.

I’ll leave you with something to read while I’m gone.

Tasty Recipes

On my Grabbing the Gusto blog, there are three new chicken recipes to check out – blueberry chipotle, Milanese and rosemary walnut. I’m always on the hunt for good fish recipes. Recently I made sweet spicy glazed salmon, citrus coconut tilapia and Mediterranean braised cod.

If you’re looking for a potato salad recipe that doesn’t use mayonnaise, I have two options – southwestern and lemon spinach herb. In the veggie department, try haricot verts (green beans), broccoli rabe or summer vegetables with pesto. One of my favorite new recipes is Mexican shrimp cocktail. If you’re looking for other truly delicious appetizers, try eggplant caponata or white bean dip with homemade pita chips.

Meaty Blog Posts

Every week I write a blog post for my client Avectra, an association management software and online community platform vendor. I love how Avectra uses their blog to share association success stories, and I’m very happy to be a part of that.

Be the Host with the Most: Twitter Chats for Associations

Imagine a weekly conversation with newfound friends about topics that inform and inspire. That’s the power of a good Twitter chat. Read more at Avectra about how two associations host and participate in Twitter chats with their members.

I Gave at the Office: Community Service at the Association

Community service events provide a membership experience that’s more rewarding and memorable than the usual association networking, meetings and education. Here’s a closer look at an association (ACC) experimenting for the first time with community service at its conference and a communications firm (Capstrat) whose staff organizes and participates in an annual week of community service. Read more at Avectra about how ACC and Capstrat pulled off successful and fun community service events.

Associations: Follow the President and Librarians to the Virtual Town Hall

President Obama held a Twitter town hall that was broadcast via a live webcast. More than 70,000 tweets were sent to him. But he wasn’t the first one to do this. The librarians were way ahead of him. The American Library Association held their first Virtual Town Hall in June. Read at Avectra how virtual town halls give members the opportunity to feel and act like members.

Six Association Lessons from the Tour de France

For three weeks I was glued to my TV for the live morning broadcast of the Tour de France. In thinking about why I love (okay, obsess over) the Tour so much, I realized it illustrates principles that apply to the association industry. Read more at Avectra about what the Tour de France can teach us about management and leadership.

Secrets to a Tightly Knit Association Community

Ravelry, an online community for knitters, crocheters and other lovers of the fiber arts, was launched in January 2007 by a husband-wife team, she’s the knitter and he’s the coder. It’s a gigantic community of 1.4 million registered members — 400,000 of whom visit monthly. Every day the founders invite 1,500 new users from a waiting list. What could an association possibly learn from such a behemoth? Read more at Avectra about lessons from Ravelry for your online community.

Virtual Work in the Association World

At a workplace flexibility forum President Obama said, “Work is what you do, not where you do it.” I live that principle as a freelancer, but, for most of you, ‘work’ is the association office. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Read more at Avectra about how virtual work can benefit both an organization and its employees.

raleigh freelance writer

While the household staff packs my trunks for the beach, I'll see what's happening on Twitter. Ta ta! (photo by Mike Licht)

I know that you’re all on the edge of your seats waiting for the next installment of the Writing for the Web series, but first I want to catch you up on some of my blog posts elsewhere.

Over on Grabbing the Gusto, my food blog, I’ve posted recipes in the last few weeks for some very tasty dishes: Coconut Citrus Tilapia, Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (the critics swooned), Kung Pao Chicken with Vegetables, two hearty dinner salads (just what you need in this hot humid weather) and more.

Here’s the best of the rest:

The Decline of We-to-You and the Rise of You-to-You

I’m not ready to declare the end of traditional marketing. One-way broadcast marketing will continue to serve its purpose with web, print, TV and radio copy. However, with the rise of social media, marketing has forever changed. You-to-you marketing is often more effective than traditional methods. 

“Oh, is it?” (You might be thinking.) Yes, it is. Read why at Avectra…

Open Community Case Study: Local Government Knowledge Network

Once upon a time there were two associations who frequently competed for the same members. Then one day they burst through long-held cultural barriers and joined together to develop an online community. Not only that, they did the unthinkable: they opened their community to non-members.

No, this isn’t a fairy tale; learn how they did it at Socialfish…

Use Video to Connect with Your Members

You don’t have to be a tech geek or a rich association to make a video these days. Many associations, with limited time and money just like you, have made effective videos without the help of experts. Several of them shared examples and tips in last week’s #assnchat, the weekly Twitter chat for association professionals.

Check out their videos and steal their ideas at Avectra…

Twitter Association Rock Stars: AARP

When you think of AARP, what comes to mind? Retired? Sorry, wrong. Most of their members are not retired, and they’re not a Boomer organization stuck in the past. AARP has one of the most savvy social media teams around.

Get the inside scoop on how AARP uses Twitter at the Avectra blog…

Conference Newcomers: Make Their First Time a Great Time

A member walks away from registration with her badge and conference bag. She’s excited and a little nervous; this is her first conference. As she leafs through the program, waiting for the opening session to begin, she watches other attendees hug each other hello. She overhears snippets of conversation. It seems like everyone else already has friends here. What are these lounges and receptions they mention? There are so many sessions and activities listed in the program; it’s overwhelming. Day one has just begun and already she feels a bit lost, lonely and discouraged.

Oh no! Learn how you can make your first-timers feel at ease and welcome at Avectra…

If you are stressed, short of time and staff, and need help writing content for your organization’s blog, drop me a line, perhaps I can help.

raleigh blogger writer

Photo by the awesome Mike Licht (Flickr)

Next week I plan to go offline for an at-home retreat. I envision lots of reading, thinking, planning and creativity exercises. That means I’m finally digging into Patti Digh’s Creative is a Verb and some writing books that have been wooing me. I’m starting the week with a massage on Monday. Isn’t that how all retreats start? Life and work may get in the way, and if so, I’ll roll with it. But if I’m extra quiet, now you know why.

Betting can begin on whether I can abstain from Twitter. I’m dubious myself. For those who can’t get enough of me, that means you, mum, here are some of my recent posts for other blogs.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

Despite all the mentions on TV by hosts and anchors trying to sound hip, only 8% of online Americans use Twitter, according to The Pew Research Center. Only 53% of that group check Twitter once a week or more for updates. How do your members compare? Have you asked them lately where they go online to find news, information and conversation?  Read more at Avectra…

It’s Time to Award Innovation in Associations

Most association awards programs are pretty ho-hum, unless, of course, you’re a nominee. ASAE and state SAE award criteria are predictable. The recipients are usually active long-time members who have ‘paid their dues.’ Don’t get me wrong, the ASAE and SAE award recipients do deserve the recognition. But are awards like these sufficient? Why not use awards programs to inspire new ideas and practices in addition to recognizing the good work of others?  Read more at Avectra…

A New Association Position: Director of Member Engagement

Did you know last week was National Volunteer Week? It didn’t get much play in the association world. The lack of celebration might be the symptom of a larger issue: many associations don’t practice good volunteer management.  Read more at Avectra…

writer blogger copywriter raleigh association associations blogging

Image by Mike Licht, Notions Capital

How to Make Time for a “Small Bite” of Community

Social media pioneer Chris Brogan wrote earlier this year about online communities and “platform fatigue.” “We want to connect on maybe two or three networks tops. One or two of these will remain the “commons” services like Facebook or Twitter. The rest of people’s interactions are going to fall into smaller communities, often private or self-selected in some way.” Our time, attention span and dedication are limited. How much can we spare for a new online community if we’re already spending time on Facebook, Twitter and other sites? What about your members?  Read more at SmartBlog Insights…

Association Exercise: What If We Have a Shutdown?

A big sigh of relief was heard in Washington DC and beyond Friday night when Congress finally took action to avoid a government shutdown. But the whole debacle got me thinking, “what if?” What if your association shut down at the end of the week? What if it shut down not only inessential services, but everything? And taking this scenario one step further, what if it shut down not just temporarily, but forever?  Read more at Avectra…

“Ubercoolz” Member Testimonials

Member testimonials can be awfully predictable — a flattering repetition of membership brochure features. Yawn. Imagine instead that your association is the main event and your members are reviewers giving one-word testimonials as in this New Museum exhibition advertisementRead more at Avectra…

I’m spreading myself around, but not too thin, oh no, plenty of bandwidth here. My recent posts on other blogs — Avectra, Socialfish and SmartBlog Insights – include:

Member Communication: Have It Their Way

Member communication is getting crazy. Just when you thought email was the way to go, now we hear young people don’t use it. Do you give up on email? What about print? And must you add social media to the mix? Before you make decisions about what you’re not going to do, ask your members how they like to receive information.  Read the rest at Avectra…

Open Community Case Study – Empowering the Periphery

Like many large national associations, the American Library Association has struggled with a “digital image problem” in the last decade. With 1300 committees, 11 dues-paying divisions, 17 roundtables, 57 sections and a myriad of possible membership combinations, members had trouble figuring out how to get involved. Many thought ALA was too bureaucratic and not responsive enough.  Read the rest at Socialfish…

writer blogger associations community

Photo by Mike Licht

Content Alone Is Not Enough

Will you pay $195 a year to read the New York Times online? In a quest for revenue, the Times will erect a paywall on March 28. The folks at TMG’s Engage blog explain the Times’ new metered approach. Readers will still have access to articles through search engines and social media. Publisher and board chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. says, “We did not — any of us — feel that putting up an iron gate, if you will, that cut us out of the digital ecosystem, made any sense at all.”  Read the rest at Avectra…

How associations can engage a crowd of curators

How would you like to curate an upcoming art exhibit? You won’t even need a graduate degree in art history or museum studies to do it. In 10 minutes you can help curate an upcoming exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, Split Second: Indian Paintings. Like many associations, art museums are experimenting with new ways to engage their audiences.  Read the rest at SmartBlog Insights…

Uh Oh, I Just Did Something Really Stupid

You hear the words from outside your door and freeze. It’s the voice of your social media specialist. Now there’s only silence. You’re thinking, stupid how? Stupid for the association, stupid? You stare at her gray cubicle wall, willing her to speak again. Maybe it was nothing, something personal.  Or maybe she dropped a bomb, like the person tweeting for Chrysler, and soon your world will explode.  Read the rest at Avectra…