Reads of the Week: November 2, 2012

The morning after Sandy hit I read a post by John Herrman about how we use Twitter during disasters. “Twitter’s capacity to spread false information is more than canceled out by its savage self-correction. In response to thousands of retweets of erroneous Weather Channel and CNN reports that the New York Stock Exchange had been flooded with “three feet” of water, Twitter users, some reporters and many not, were relentless: photos of the outside of the building, flood-free, were posted. Knowledgeable parties weighed in.” Wisdom of the crowd?

Andrew Razeghi at Fast Company asks whether we should hire someone for what they know or whom they know. IQ or Klout score? He uses Edison and Tesla as examples of success (or lack of it) based on the strength of networks – Edison had a strong one, Tesla didn’t. “This difference between innovating privately and innovating out loud is one of the most significant differentiators between successful innovators and those that fail. It largely explains the success of new venture accelerators, corporate new venture groups, and even academic researchers. Those with the most robust, engaged, and diverse social networks win.”

Does this sound familiar? You’re excited about the potential that content marketing will bring to your company, but once you start thinking about what it will take, you feel overwhelmed and defeated before you even begin. Don’t despair. At Copyblogger, Eric Enge provides “9 tips on how to build a lean content marketing team in a way that might just make the size of the task a lot more manageable.”

Do paywalls work? Mathew Ingram at GigaOm says “the New York Times is clearly something of a bellwether — and in particular, a sign of whether paywalls can (or can’t) make up for the ongoing dramatic decline in advertising revenue. Unfortunately for anyone in the industry who was hoping for a definitive answer, however, the paper’s latest financial results are a mixed bag.” Association professionals will be interested in reading what he thinks about the membership model as an approach.

Anna Caraveli is one of my favorite association bloggers. She has written before about the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), a virtual professional network of veterinarians, not an association, that has “a growing membership of 49,000 and healthy profit margin.” How do they do it? Anna describes seven “practices from VIN that will help you translate aspirations and promises into new capabilities for engagement, relevance and innovation by embedding them in your organization’s DNA.”

The company that controls William Faulkner’s works has filed suit against Sony Pictures Classics, because Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen, included a line from As I Lay Dying. Dave Itzkoff at the New York Times says, “It hinges on a single scene in the film, when its time-traveling protagonist, played by Owen Wilson, states: ‘The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.’” I read somewhere that one of Faulkner’s relatives is behind the lawsuit. I guess nobody ever explained Fair Use to him or her. This one should be thrown out, I’m sure every author, dead or alive, and lawyer would agree.

Finally, a feast for your eyes. Phillip Davies at The Guardian takes us behind closed doors into London’s hidden interiors. The photographs by Derek Kendall reveal “an amazing architectural heritage that rivals some of (London’s) most visited and celebrated sites.” Wouldn’t you love to take a tour of these secret places? Imagine sipping on an ale in The Black Friar!

Happy Friday!

I want to visit this Black Friar some day. Photo by den99 (Flickr).

Reads of the Week: August 31, 2012

If I had to pick one blog to take with me to a deserted island, it might be Brain Pickings. Maria Popova is a curator like no other, bringing us fascinating posts about creativity, knowledge, science, art, culture, and more. She describes herself as “an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large.” That’s what I want to be when I grow up.

Somehow I stumbled upon a post of hers from earlier this year: A 5-Step Technique for Producing Ideas circa 1939. She writes about James Webb Young’s method for “a productive creative process, touching on a number of elements corroborated by modern science and thinking on creativity: its reliance on process over mystical talent, its combinatorial nature, its demand for a pondering period, its dependence on the brain’s unconscious processes, and more.” Popova’s links within this post will take you down an “endless rabbit hole of discovery.”

John Perry would approve of the time I spend procrastinating over at Brain Pickings. He does the same thing all over the web. In his Wall Street Journal article, How to Be a Better Procrastinator, he says, “The truth is that most procrastinators are structured procrastinators. This means that although they may be putting off something deemed important, their way of not doing the important thing is to do something else. Like reading instead of completing their expense report before it’s due.” Exactly!

Steve Buttry may have written this post for journalists, but it shows the potential Twitter has for all kinds of professions and organizations, ahem, associations, I’m talking to you. I’m willing to bet that you’ll find something that resonates with your digital strategy in 10 Ways Twitter is Valuable to Journalists.

Dr. Susan Weinschenk (aka @TheBrainLady) writes about 47 Mind-Blowing Psychological Facts You Should Know About Yourself. I admit, I’ve only read about ten of these facts. I’m slowly savoring them. They’re part of her series of “100 things you should know if you are going to design an effective and persuasive website, web application or software application.” I don’t do any of those things, and maybe you don’t either, but, like me, you might be in the business of persuading. Soak it up!

I have a love/hate relationship with the word “awesome.” I have no problem using it when I see a sight that inspires awe, like the landscape of southern Utah. But too often we – yes, me, you, and everyone else we know – reach to it because we’re too lazy to find another word. It’s become shorthand. “Awesomesauce” used to be really special, but now it’s slathered indiscriminately.

In The Unfortunate Culture of Awesome, Deanna Zandt laments how “awesome” has taken over our social lives. “We are creating wittier, snappier, sometimes angrier, humblebraggier avatars. Everything is awesome.” (Yeah, I had to look up “humblebraggier” too.) I’m reminded of the Louie Herr post I featured last week: That’s Not the Real Me: How Vanity Sabotages Facebook Advertising.

Zandt misses the ordinary, little bits of life that people used to share more regularly. “Maybe it’s not critical to my existence that I know you like Chobani yogurt, but together with lots of other pieces of information, I can see what kind of person you are. And that’s critical for developing relationships with one another, digitally or otherwise.” Just so you know, I had cheesy grits for breakfast, and will probably make a smoothie after publishing this post.

Happy Friday!

Park Avenue, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
Now, that’s awesome. A hike through Park Avenue, Arches National Park, Moab, UT.

Reads of the Week: August 24, 2012

That’s Not the Real Me: How Vanity Sabotages Facebook Advertising by Louie Herr

I find this idea both hilarious and accurate, especially this: “We are actors on a stage. Shakespeare, as ever, proves prescient.” We’re a crafty bunch, showing off our best selves on Facebook, sometimes cool, sometimes not. Recently I’ve posted several photos of backyard wildlife – turtles, spiders, lizards – not sure what I’m telling advertisers and the rest of my Facebook friends with that display. I’m sure to return to posting oh-so-fascinating snippets of my life soon. After all, I have an image to maintain.

Example of a Humanized Culture by Jamie Notter

The Netflix Culture slidedeck has been around a while but it rocked my world only this week. There’s a lot in there – 126 slides – but it’s well worth scrolling through — a peek into an inspirational workplace. Jamie says, “It’s not about values that just sound nice (integrity, honesty, diversity, etc.). It’s about behaviors and skills that are literally valued by you and others in the workplace.”

Use Your Brain: Why Marketers Must Understand Neuroscience by Mary Beth McEuen and Emily Falk

Marketing never gets boring because it focuses on what makes us tick. McEuen and Falk tell us to follow the RULE: Reframe, Understand, Listen, and Engage your audience.

You Can’t Start the Revolution from the Country Club by Anil Dash

A new paid platform, App.net, could be a rival to Twitter, after all, all the cool tech kids hang out there. And why not, the masses have invaded their precious Twitter so they need a new place to hang out and stroke each other’s egos. Life continues to have moments of high school. But I don’t completely blame them. I’ve had issues with Twitter lately, too much broadcasting (guilty) and not enough conversation. I’m determined to change my behavior and reclaim Twitter for conversation.

Dash says these “gated communities” like App.net risk being exclusive. “Building a social tool for “just us geeks” permanently privileges the few people who get in the door first, which means you’re giving a huge leg up to those who already have a pretty good set of advantages to begin with.”

Why Web Literacy Should Be Part of Every Education by Cathy Davidson and Mark Surman

Web literacy should be part of every adult’s toolbox too, but sadly it isn’t. Davidson and Surman make a call for web literacy in K-12 education. “…if web literacy, including web programming, was adopted by every school as a fourth basic literacy, kids would not only learn how to code, they would learn about interactivity, collaboration, the melding of the artistic and the scientific, creativity, and precision.”

And, in other news…

The web is full of chatter today about Lance Armstrong, a fallen hero for many, a relentless bully for others. It’s time to turn away from that era of cycling and its doping culture, and focus on cleaning up the sport. That’s the mission of Jonathan Vaughters, one of Armstrong’s former teammates who now manages the Garmin-Sharp cycling team. Check out his NY Times op-ed about his thoughts on (and experience with) doping.

Meanwhile, the magnificently beautiful state of Colorado is hosting the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Yesterday, one of my cycling heroes, Jens Voigt, won the stage. Jens is known in the cycling community as the guy who will “go full gas” and sacrifice himself, in terms of pain, to help out the team leader. “Shut up, legs!” is one of his mantras. His quirky sense of humor comes through in his tweets, his blog at Bicycling magazine, and interviews. This lovable beast, and I use that term with respect and affection, turns 41 in less than a month, and has already announced that he’ll race again next season. Not bad for an old guy.

Jens Voigt after winning Stage 4 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge – screenshot from Bicycling magazine video

New Association Benefit: Social Dining

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

You’ve Got to Read This: January 18, 2011

Clay Shirky’s Foreign Affairs article, The Political Power of Social Media (registration required), is a fascinating read that rebuts and shreds Malcolm Gladwell’s view about the power of social media to facilitate change. Shirky doesn’t like our Administration’s “instrumental” approach — social media used as short-term action-oriented political tools with the focus on computers rather than phones — because it “overestimates the value of broadcast media while underestimating the value of media that allow citizens to communicate privately among themselves.” He prefers an “environmental” approach using social media as “long-term tools that can strengthen civil society and the public sphere,” a role that media has played throughout history — providing access to conversation. His discussion of the conservative’s dilemma, formerly known as the dictator’s dilemma, reminds me of the fear of loss of control that many organization leaders have about social media.

Why not give Malcolm Gladwell a share of the spotlight too? In this 2-1/2 minute video (transcript provided) on Big Think, he discusses the creative urge to collect and consume what we come across, to not edit the chaos, but to embrace it. For who knows what nuggets of inspiration might lie within?

I would love to see organizations take to heart Soren Gordhamer’s Five New Paradigms for a Socially Engaged Company. Creating the organizational culture that will bring about these changes? That’s the challenge. Take for instance #2, Mindset. Yes, it would be great if staff had the right mindset for innovation. But how can an organization facilitate that when an employee is juggling a to-do list that’s three pages long. Nevertheless, these are important cultural concepts that must be absorbed.

My pal Jeff Hurt, a prolific writer and brain, explains Why People Join Social Networking Sites. Oh, you thought you already knew? Well, you might be half right, but let Jeff take you a little deeper to the root causes – motivation you need to consider when developing your community strategy.

I have a feeling that Josip Petrusa’s post, Attracting Millennials to Your Event and Why You’re Failing at It, will be the seed of one of my future blog posts. His reasoning applies to more than only events, think organizations too. Boomers may not like reading this, but his perspective is good medicine and rings a bit too true.

social media networking political millennials membership events creativity
Manila protest January 2001 ~ flickr photo by M.a.c.a.r.o.n.i.

The New Volunteer Manifesto Series – Part 5: New Ways of Associating

As part of my New Insights from a New CAE weekly column on SmartBlog Insights, I’m delving deeper into my New Volunteer Manifesto that I published here. In Part 5 published last Thursday, I looked at New Ways of Associating.

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The New Volunteer Manifesto: New Ways of Associating

Deirdre Reid, CAE is an association consultant, speaker and trainer focusing on member engagement and social media at Deirdre Reid LLC and Leadership Outfitters. Connect with her @DeirdreReid.

I recently published a call to action for associations, a New Volunteer Manifesto. Last week I explored creating a learning culture for volunteer. Now I’d like to propose some new ways of associating.

Nurture social networks that connect members with one another and with your association. Don’t assume that if you build a private network that they will come. Find out where your members are hanging out – possibly Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter – and build your community there.

Give members the encouragement and tools to self-organize informal member meet-ups. Don’t be threatened if members use your online networks to publicize these meet-ups. Encourage and help them. Be the connecting thread.

Make it easy for members to organize working groups to explore new ideas and projects. Don’t perpetuate barriers that rein in their creativity and desire to experiment and be innovative.

Give younger members the means to contribute their talents and their voice. Younger generations are not as willing as Boomers were to ‘pay their dues’ and watch and wait while others contribute to their association.

Make it easy for all members to give feedback. Consider a feedback area on your web site or an online forum. Allow your members to have a voice and a place to contribute their ideas.

Control is a touchy subject. You really have never had it, as much as you would like to think you did. This is the member’s organization, not just the board’s, definitely not the staff’s, no matter how invested we are. As long as members stay on message politically, don’t be threatened at their attempts to create what works for them.

Transparency and openness are now more important than ever. Many members want to know what’s going on behind the scenes, what decisions are being made, and what their association and leaders are doing. Make it easy for a member to figure all this out by sharing this information on your web site.

Don’t be afraid to take a risk and maybe even fail. Your fear of regret should loom larger than your fear of failure. Be receptive to new ideas. We are entering new territory – members no longer need us as their source of knowledge, news and networking. We must find ways to remain a meaningful and valuable part of their lives.

Keep a spirit of entrepreneurial innovation alive in your leadership.

What do you think about these ideas? Have you tried any?

The New Volunteer Manifesto: New Ways of Associating

Deirdre Reid, CAE is an association consultant, speaker and trainer focusing on member engagement and social media at Deirdre Reid LLC and Leadership Outfitters. Connect with her @DeirdreReid.

I recently published a call to action for associations, a New Volunteer Manifesto. Last week I explored creating a learning culture for volunteer. Now I’d like to propose some new ways of associating.

Nurture social networks that connect members with one another and with your association. Don’t assume that if you build a private network that they will come. Find out where your members are hanging out – possibly Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter – and build your community there.

Give members the encouragement and tools to self-organize informal member meet-ups. Don’t be threatened if members use your online networks to publicize these meet-ups. Encourage and help them. Be the connecting thread.

Make it easy for members to organize working groups to explore new ideas and projects. Don’t perpetuate barriers that rein in their creativity and desire to experiment and be innovative.

Give younger members the means to contribute their talents and their voice. Younger generations are not as willing as Boomers were to ‘pay their dues’ and watch and wait while others contribute to their association.

Make it easy for all members to give feedback. Consider a feedback area on your web site or an online forum. Allow your members to have a voice and a place to contribute their ideas.

Control is a touchy subject. You really have never had it, as much as you would like to think you did. This is the member’s organization, not just the board’s, definitely not the staff’s, no matter how invested we are. As long as members stay on message politically, don’t be threatened at their attempts to create what works for them.

Transparency and openness are now more important than ever. Many members want to know what’s going on behind the scenes, what decisions are being made, and what their association and leaders are doing. Make it easy for a member to figure all this out by sharing this information on your web site.

Don’t be afraid to take a risk and maybe even fail. Your fear of regret should loom larger than your fear of failure. Be receptive to new ideas. We are entering new territory – members no longer need us as their source of knowledge, news and networking. We must find ways to remain a meaningful and valuable part of their lives.

Keep a spirit of entrepreneurial innovation alive in your leadership.

What do you think about these ideas? Have you tried any?

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Be a Renegade – Bringing Social Media to Your Association

I know that there are many association mid-level staffers (managers, directors, etc.) who are personally engaged in social media and believe that their association could benefit from it. However they are not in a position to lead their association there. What do they do? How can they somehow work the system and get their leadership to see that social media can help their association achieve its goals and so much more?

First, they need to look over their association’s strategic plan (or mission, goals, etc.) and see where social media can fit in as another tool or strategy to achieve those goals. Pay particular attention to these areas as they can all be enhanced by social media: advocacy, public relations, member recruitment, member engagement/retention, member communication, education and events.

Set up some Google Alerts on your association’s name, acronym, and variation of name, publications, conference/trade show, chapter acronyms, competitor name/acronym, and any other keywords that will help you to listen in on what people are saying out there. Set up a Twitter Search on the same terms. You can set up RSS feeds for all of these so that you can receive the alerts and search results automatically. I use Google Reader to get my RSS feeds.

Export your member and staff list, or if that is too cumbersome, export a list of your leadership, committee members, and show/meeting attendees. Be mindful that this will exclude those whom you probably would most like to know better – your “mailbox” members (that old term should be replaced!). Upload your list to Facebook and LinkedIn, and then to a Gmail account and have Twitter search that network for you. Find out who is active and what’s on their mind. Do a lot of listening.

Also do a search for some of your leadership’s peers (both staff and members), your association’s competitors and other associations that are similar in member type to yours. Are they involved in social media? These examples can be helpful later when trying to sell your leadership on social media.

Then make a plan. Review your organization’s goals or strategic plan and note how social media tools (starting with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) might help your association achieve those goals. Only plan to take on one of these tools at a time – baby steps. Remember, you can’t just create a presence and walk away, you need to stay engaged, and that takes time and effort. Break your plan down into immediate, short-term and long-term ideas, keeping in mind that your plan will change as your association learns.

Try not to go it alone. Talk to some of the staff whom you discovered are involved in social networking. Bear in mind that many will not want their personal social media life to be known at work but they can be allies and advisors to you. Contact some of the members and ask them for advice. Tell them that you are “going renegade” and investigating options to further your association’s goals through social media – you’re just in the research phase. Ask their advice and if they would like to help. Take advantage of this intelligence-gathering opportunity – you can find out a lot about their real perception of the association, what they want/need, how they envision their association.

This is a lot of work but you will learn much from it. A huge concern to any CEO about social media is the amount of time it requires. This is a valid concern and one that you should be ready to address. It’s why I haven’t mentioned blogging as part of this plan, although it may be something to consider depending on your association’s resources. Another reason to have allies amongst staff is that you may already have in place others who can assist with this effort. Social media can not belong to one department alone. It must be integrated across many departments and can be an aid in breaking down departmental silos since it will require collaboration.

Here are some recent posts that will help you prepare for this task and for the nay-sayers.

What else does someone need to do before they bring their ideas (and a plan) to the big guns? Some of you have gone through this at your association. What advice do you have?

New Members and Twitter Rookies – Why Do They Leave Us?

Nielsen Online reports that more than 60% of the people who sign up for Twitter leave within a month. This finding provoked lots of conversation on blogs and listservs about whether Twitter is a fad or here to stay. Some used the study to validate their perception that Twitter isn’t worth their time.

I’m not surprised by the low retention rate. New users of Twitter leave for the same reasons new members leave associations, online communities, chambers and other groups — they never learned how to use Twitter or their membership effectively, therefore they don’t see or get the value.

  • They enter the “room” and can’t find anyone to talk to. They don’t know how to find the right people to follow.
  • They fall in with the “wrong crowd.” There are a growing number of spammers, multi-level marketers and idiots on Twitter. They follow everyone, hoping someone will follow them back. They’re only after numbers and provide nothing of quality. Many new users follow them or people who only broadcast, never interacting, like celebrities. The new user remains lonely in a crowded room and hears nothing of substance.
  • They don’t look to see how others use Twitter effectively. They don’t know what to say and, believing all the hype about Twitter, they talk only about what they’re eating for lunch. Nobody cares. Or they use Twitter as a therapist and whine about their life or crazy siblings. Nobody cares. Or worse, they become broadcasters themselves, talking only about their company or product. Nobody cares. Don’t answer the Twitter prompted question — what are you doing? Instead tell us what you’re thinking about, what you learned toda, or what you read that’s worth sharing. Aspire to be interesting — easy to say, hard to do.
  • They don’t know how to manage the barrage of tweets. They don’t have time to read it all. Besides, so much of it is crap. Yes, it is, if you follow the wrong people and don’t have tools, like Tweetdeck, to help you manage your updates.

    (photo by mhalon/Flickr)
    (photo by mhalon/Flickr)

These poor souls never learn how to use Twitter as a knowledge and networking tool. They don’t get any value from it and they leave. Who can blame them? I’ve written about this before — it’s the same challenge with new members. If we don’t teach them how to use their membership appropriately and effectively, they’re not going to get the resources they need or develop the relationships they desire. We won’t meet their membership expectations and we’ll lose them after one disappointing year.

There is a great opportunity here for organizations to be their members’ social media coach and teach them how to effectively use not only Twitter, but also RSS readers, Facebook and LinkedIn.

If you know of someone who’s struggling with Twitter, tell them about your experience – how you learned to use it and what you get out of it. The web is full of resources about Twitter. I think one of the best directions you can point them is Darren Rowse’s TwiTip blog. He and his guest bloggers focus on how to use Twitter effectively. Or, for a more amusing (but helpful) introduction, show them the Twitter Rule Book.

Twitter has turned out to be more educational and rewarding for me than I ever expected, and my passion (there, I said it) for Twitter reminds me of the same passion some of our members had for my old association. Once they figured out (or were taught) how to “work” their membership, their opportunities to learn and develop relationships were unending. Many of those members learned from others – they had unofficial mentors. Maybe it’s time for us early adopters to be Twitter mentors to others, to share how we use it and help them find the same rewards we have. Reach out and save a Twitter Qwitter!

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