On a hot and steamy night last week I did a presentation for an alumni group here in Raleigh. Since many of them were young professionals I spoke about using social media for professional development, networking and branding. I posted my presentation on Slideshare and also promised them this handout and glossary. It goes into a little more detail on how to use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and shares some basic social media resources.

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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.

Last week I spoke to the Georgia Society of Association Executives about how to use social media for their associations. Here’s the session description:

Don’t create that Facebook or Twitter page yet! There’s prep work to be done. Learn what to do before diving into social media, or, if you already jumped, how to ensure a good return on your time investment. You’ll learn to plan, monitor, measure and use the tools effectively.

I posted my PowerPoint presentation along with a PDF of the presentation including explanatory notes on Slideshare. I also created this handout for the attendees that covered some best practices and supplementary resources. Although the presentation was created for an audience of association executives and staff, the same principles apply if you manage a for-profit business.

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On Tuesday, I gave a ten-minute presentation — Do I Really Need Social Media? — to the Garner Coffee & Contacts, a weekly networking group for women who own small businesses in the Garner NC area.

Social media is all the rage right now — just look at all the national brands advertising their Facebook and Twitter pages. But does it make sense for a small business? Isn’t it another fad that will pass? It’s not a fad, but it is a shift in how we communicate with our customers, prospects and community. We’ll look at some of the benefits and outcomes you can expect if you use social media tools effectively.

Update: I just realized that the day I published this post, March 24 is the first anniversary of my blog. Happy belated birthday to my blog!

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A few weeks ago I gave a presentation to the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (Research Triangle Park chapter) called Embracing Social Media: Using it to Our Advantage. It was an introduction to social media that focused on how to use it effectively for professional reasons – networking, professional branding and professional development. I dispelled some myths about social media, reviewed the characteristics that make someone successful in this space and showed them some best practices for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

It was a fun night — lots of good questions and laughs — a speaker’s dream. I added some explanatory notes to my slides and posted them on Slideshare.

Last night I attended Ignite Raleigh. It’s been described as a technology variety show but that description doesn’t do it justice. Here’s how it works.

Lisa Creech Bledsoe aka twitter/glowbirdThere were 19 speakers. Each one gets five minutes and 20 slides. The slides automatically change every 15 seconds. They can speak about anything they want. They are chosen by the community. We voted for the speakers and topics we wanted to hear. Once we registered on the show’s web site, we received ten votes. We could give all ten votes to one speaker, or spread them out any way we chose. And if we changed our mind, we could take our vote back. The community chose 15 of the speakers and the organizers invited four speakers.

It’s a fast-moving show hosted by an emcee who kept it lively. At the end of five minutes, you are rickrolled off the stage. Some of last night’s topics:

  • A Day in the Life of a Meteorologist
  • NerdGirls Unite! Fact: Women Don’t Have to Be Lame
  • How to Save $100 with a DIY Home Energy Audit
  • 20 Little Know Facts About Sex & Pleasure
  • What Happens to Your Digital Identity After You Die
  • 13 Reasons Women Should Take Up Boxing
  • Everyone Needs a Dumb Guy
  • Mayberry Modernism: Why the Triangle is America’s Hotspot for Way Cool Houses
  • Ignite Night of the Living Dead
  • Why My Cat Can Get a Job Before You

Ryan Boyle aka twitter/therabAs you can see, it’s not a tech geek night, unless you call PowerPoint techy. It was fun and educational. It brought together about 500-600 people for a free night of entertainment.

Why would an association want to do this at a conference?

  • It’s a low cost (or free) night of entertainment for attendees where they can hang out and have fun with others.
  • We get to see another side of fellow members.
  • We also get to see members in the spotlight that might not normally get that exposure, a new set of faces.
  • It will be talked about. Believe me, this type of event gets lots of buzz – tweets, Facebook posts and lots of blog posts, lots.
  • It’s a great way to experiment with crowd-sourcing.
  • You can offer something to those members (perhaps younger, perhaps easily bored) who aren’t interested in your usual evening fare.

emcee Zach Ward aka twitter/zachwardWhat does it take?

  • Organizers – Ignite Raleigh was organized by the three man team of OurHashtag with the help of a volunteer coordinator.
  • A large room with a stage, screen and two mics (one for the emcee, one handheld mic for the speaker). The venue last night had some bridge chair seating in the front and in the balcony, but most of it was standing room only.
  • Voting tool – Ignite uses Uservoice on their web site.
  • Registration tool like Eventbrite – Ignite Raleigh was free and they closed registration when they reached the room’s capacity plus an additional no-show allowance.
  • Technical help to run the automated Powerpoint, sound, lights, video camera, livestream (optional) and photography.
  • Volunteers to check folks in, do crowd control and assistance, act as runners and shuffle speakers on and off stage.
  • An entertaining emcee – red tutu not required.
  • Sponsors to cover expenses – Ignite Raleigh ran short videos at the beginning of the night and at intermission and gave them lots of stage/on site love but not the microphone.
  • Brave speakers.
  • Cash bar for the audience.
  • Marketing in conference materials and through social media.

Instead of going to an association awards dinner, I would much rather attend an Ignite-like evening, and I’m a Boomer/Gen Xer (Generation Jones), imagine what your young members would prefer. This is a great alternative to your regular evening programming for those who frankly aren’t interested in what you’re offering, or can’t afford it.

UPDATE: After posting this I learned from Shelly Alcorn that the California Society of Association Executives will be doing an Ignite night at their annual conference. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

I’ve made my to-do list to prepare for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting & Exposition in Toronto starting this weekend, and decided to share it with all of you. I did many of these things long ago, but wanted to give you some ideas about what to do before leaving for ASAE09.

Laptop – Download Tweetdeck. Create search column for #asae09 (official Twitter hashtag). Follow association tweeps who are also attending.

Blackberry – Download UberTwitter. Create bookmark for ASAE’s Hub and authorize my Twitter account on the My Contributions page.

ASAE resources

  • Add myself to the Twitter and Bloggers page in the Engage section. Add the ASAE badge to my blog.
  • Send my blog feed URL to Scott Briscoe at ASAE. I’ll be tagging any conference blog posts with ASAE09 so they’ll show up in the Hub’s Newsfeed.
  • Save the attendee list to my laptop. Search for those attending from North Carolina as I’m new to the state and want to meet my fellow NC attendees. Upload to Gmail and then Twitter so I can follow them.
  • Review handouts for sessions – this helps me make some decisions on which to attend. Save and print the ones that interest me. What do I want to learn about or explore?

Schedule

  • Enter my “must do” events into my Blackberry Calendar.
  • Create a Word doc of “must do” and possible events for my binder.
  • Think about issues and questions related to sessions I might attend.
  • Create list of booths that I definitely want to visit.

LinkedIn – Add travel dates using TripIt app. Update status while I’m there.

Research and find a few nearby brewpubs (or places with local beer), coffee shops and moderately-priced restaurants.

Call Verizon to activate my SIMS card, Global Data Feature and Nationwide+Canada for the time I’m in Canada – will cost less than $10 for this temporary addition to my regular plan. Will call *228 (option 2) before leaving the US on Saturday morning.

Call my bank and credit card company to notify them that I’ll be in Toronto so they won’t deny any debit or credit card transactions originating there. Stop my mail using the USPS web site.

Back up my laptop C drive to my external hard drive.

Items on my packing list

  • Laptop and cable, extension cord, power strip, Ethernet cable (just in case)
  • Blackberry and charger
  • Business cards
  • Binder with program guide, conference badge/express check-in doc, travel docs (itinerary, flight boarding pass and coach e-ticket, Southwest schedule between Buffalo and Raleigh/phone number, Coach Canada schedule between Toronto and Buffalo/phone number), miscellaneous docs, my schedule
  • Passport

Figure out my transportation options from Coach Canada terminal to hotel. Print out my Southwest boarding pass 24 hours ahead. Weigh my bag so I avoid any fees for excess weight.

This short period of time will bring many opportunities to connect with old friends, meet online friends in real life and make new friends. It’s a time to learn together and share crazy ideas, thoughts and challenges. It’s a time to be a sponge and absorb as much as you can from both the sessions and social gatherings. Get into conference mode as soon as you start traveling there – you may meet some fellow attendees on the way!

And remember, wear comfortable shoes, try to eat somewhat healthy, talk to strangers, don’t drink too much and get a decent amount of sleep each night. Oh, and have fun!

What did I miss? Please let me know in the comments. What are you doing this week to prepare for ASAE09? Let’s help each other make this the best experience possible.

The first association Twitter chat (#assnchat) was held on Tuesday, May 12. Jeff De Cagna (@pinnovation) came up with the idea, spread the word and moderated the chat. I volunteered to go through the tweet twanscript (oh, sorry, couldn’t resist!) and post a synopsis. Although we did not solve all of today’s association problems, we did have a good conversation about some of the issues our industry is facing and how we can begin to tackle them. Here is an outline of the topics discussed — it’s a bit rough but will give you a sense of the conversation.

Online communities as a threat to associations

  • Information – members get news and information more quickly from online peers and sources and have access to experts online.
  • Networking – associations are not usually the conduit for members’ networking online.
  • Online as alternative to the status quo of associations
  • Some associations don’t think their members are using social media, but you need to survey members to determine if that perception is in fact true, you may be surprised at what you learn.
  • Even some participants are questioning their future membership in industry associations because of the benefits (professional development, networking, information, news) received freely online.

Solutions to the online threat

  • Do associations really know what members want? Or do we and/or our boards assume we do? Ask your members, “what could we do that would make you a member for life?”
  • Demonstrate value above and beyond what people can get elsewhere. What’s indispensable?
  • How does the association enhance/augment a member’s social networking activities with other value? Association as a starting place to meet peers or the glue that holds folks together — online or face-to-face can enhance those relationships, should have both channels, members can participate in ways that work for them.
  • Be in the social networking outposts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) while linking to a home base for members on your web site – one supports the other. Enable associations to become the conduit for people to find each other. But why should members pay for this when they can do it themselves online? Because associations are better at organizing face-to-face meetings and events?
  • Successful associations will focus on building community, being relationship brokers and serving as a conduit.

Content as a membership value

  • Associations as holders of content (experts), “legitimizers” of content (still true?), conduit/forum for members to deliver their own content/expertise
  • Who creates content?
    • Members as knowledge/content creators – associations must encourage and facilitate that; enable members to become creators, but allow others to comment, etc. Association as curators.
    • Some associations do not have the staff resources to create content, must rely on members/others.
    • Social media can be used to co-create with contributors (not necessarily members) to build trusted markets of exchange.

Members-only content

  • Still viable? Some say no, not a useful construct.
  • How to determine what lives behind the member wall? Associations first need a social media strategy to determine that.
  • Don’t build a wall, create a fishtank – provides transparency with the membership and the profession, shows how members engage with association. Create a filter to “clean” the process as you go — new blood in staff and leadership, new initiatives, trying to break new ground. Pressure to make changes is greater outside the fishtank than inside.

Why aren’t associations changing?

  • Fear of change and the unknown, risk-averse, bureaucratic nature, slow moving, slow to critique or envision alternate futures
  • Lack of understanding drives decision makers to want more assurances, research and risk management
  • Members want safe networking with peers and safe experimentation with leading edge tools — safety as a form of deep support (AAA and AARP – their value propositions are built on safety)
  • Need to create a safe, trusted environment in which people can make sense of things, access advice and experiment
  • Education is necessary during periods of change

Membership dues revenue model – viable in future?

  • Are associations in danger of following in the footsteps of the newspaper industry? Yes, because we won’t give up what holds us back – closed membership.
  • Where then does revenue come from to support advocacy, operations and other member services?
  • If content is open to all, what are members paying dues for?
  • Social media as possible revenue source — advertisements, sponsored webinars/podcasts/videos, tie-in with events, user-generated content
  • Or, more likely, social media won’t be arevenue source but a way to build new capabilities that create revenue. Associations as a unique, personalized experience, as deep support for member.
  • Extract the value of the interaction between activated network and content.
  • Possible revenue source – product/content development
  • Perhaps a membership model that grants access to info/events based on participation level, those who give more, get more.

Tools for communication

  • Yammer for internal communications – have to have an email address from the same domain to use Yammer, otherwise you can’t login; great for cutting across departmental silos.
  • Cubetree
  • Tweetgroup – groups and attachments, wonderful application with desktop client
  • iPhone apps – American Bar Association has one for its magazine, American Booksellers Association

Questions for future chats

  • Does anyone see associations struggling to deal with the way different generations want to interact? Face to face vs online?
  • With high demand on staff in small associations, how do we get our members to support and feed content creation?

Participants

AddyKujawa, alisonharle, BeccaFlach, CharmsS, DeirdreReid, desabol, eventpublisher, j8nd, jcrosby4, Jeffhurt, jeremygriffin, jmoonah, joerominiecki, JoeStella, karenaltes, kevinpatrick, kristildonovan, maggielmcg, MissLynn13, pinnovation, rharris, rjohnston, sgiarde, unklbuck

The next #assnchat will be Tuesday, May 19 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern (11:00 a.m. Pacific). You can follow by going to Tweetchat or Tweetgrid and following #assnchat, or in Tweetdeck you can create a search column for #assnchat.