If you know me, you know that I love Twitter. I have good reason to love it. It’s my library, news stand, water cooler, virtual conference reception and online pub (BYOB). I learn a lot, chat with interesting people and make friends. What’s not to love?

Usually when I tell people that, I get a dismissive face with this reply, “I just don’t get Twitter.” I’m not surprised, it can seem like a lonely pointless place with lots of noise until you figure it out. The key to success with Twitter is figuring out whom to follow and how to interact. I’ll dig deeper into that in an upcoming post, but until then I’ve recently found some posts that are well worth sharing. Here are some tips on following and interacting from Matt Silverman at Mashable, a great resource for basic social media how-to’s. When you’re done with that, read A Little Basic Twitter Advice for New or Inactive Peeps by Ray Beckerman.

I recommend becoming familiar with all the options in the Settings section of your Twitter account. How you set these options will either enhance or inhibit your Twitter experience. On the Account page of Settings many Twitter newbies make the mistake of checking the ‘Protect my tweets’ box. Here are ten reasons to not protect your tweets from Lee Aase.

I’ve noticed that some of my LinkedIn connections have their tweets automatically updating their LinkedIn account too. Maybe they’re doing this because they can, so why not. Or maybe it’s in the interest of saving time and they believe that all their tweets are the appropriate content for their LinkedIn connections. I don’t know. However, a lot of the tweets I see going to LinkedIn are more personal in nature compared to the usual professional LinkedIn updates, and they are certainly more frequent. My opinion only, but, damn, too much noise. Chris Brogan advises separating your LinkedIn and Twitter updates in Keep LinkedIn Clean.

If you’d like to follow your LinkedIn connections on Twitter but want an easy way to find them, Amanda O’Brien shows you how. My approach to these tools is that each of them has different audiences with whom you have different relationships, you may not want to send all your tweets to LinkedIn or to Facebook and vice versa. There are no rules but I would suggest considering your audience, message content and language before hitting ‘Send’.

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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!