January 30, 2009

Love Working in the Non-Profit/Association Community?

Then read this article that appeared in the February 2009 issue of Fast Company by Nancy Lublin, CEO of the non-profit, Do Something.

For-profit practitioners beware, you that you may not have what it takes to work in our world!!

January 23, 2009

Gold Circle Awards

Take a few minutes to check out Cecilia Sepp's post on the 2009 ASAE Gold Circle Awards! Hope you'll apply this year!

January 22, 2009

The Art of Defriending - Is it Generational?

Earlier today, I read a post by Cecilia Sepp called "Defriending: Hot Social Media Trend or A Dose of Reality?" It got me thinking about this trend of quality or quantity in our social interactions on the web, and that I feel it's more generational than anything else.

Cecilia points out the following:

It seems to me that technology is making it easier to stay in touch, but also easier to hurt feelings or cause people to feel perplexed. Clicks seem to be leading to online cliques as people create their personal "in" and "out" lists -- or, just clean out all the names they shouldn't have added in the first place... We should know from our experiences with mailing lists, fax lists, and email lists that it's quality, not quantity, that counts.

Cecilia mentions that quality in interactions over quantity of friends is what she is looking for in her social media interactions. In working regularly with members who are Gen Y who add anyone and everyone who wants to be their friend, I have seen that isn't the case with a lot of Gen Yers... In many cases, they really are not so worried about quality of interaction like many Xers and Boomers. They crave interaction with as many people as possible, and are fostering and renewing relationships in cyberspace as opposed to face-to-face - the preferred way to interact of the earlier generations.

I am on the fence personally, both in the generational aspect being right on the edge of X and Y, and the way I feel about my social interactions. I have not defriended many people on Facebook or LinkedIn, mostly because I use those tools as my ways to get back in touch with folks who I am not in close proximity to. Since I am not actively talking to all 295 Facebook friends at once, it's less daunting for me and doesn't cause me to feel the need to defriend them regularly. I have and will defriend someone, but it would take a lot for me to do so since it's not hurting me to have them as friends.

Twitter on the other hand has been different. With it being such a moment by moment update and ongoing conversation, I find myself having a very short leash with who I follow. If I am not finding value or entertainment in what the people I am following are providing, I unfollow/defriend them. They don't even know it's happened, and I am finding more value and entertainment in my minute by minute interactions in that space.

So, is defriending going to be the hot trend of 2009 in social media? Personally, I think it depends on who you're talking to - a college student, an Xer or Boomer...

January 20, 2009

The New Obama Administration's First Impressions on Me

Today was a historic day in DC. Nothing like stating the obvious right? I am somewhat glad I WASN’T there and that I was able to watch it on the television in the comfort of my home office. It was fantastic theater, and was really outstanding to watch.

One of the most interesting things that I found with the whole transition was the timeliness and forward-thinking of the Obama administration’s transition team as it relates to the White House web site. Just a few minutes after Noon, the site was already transitioned, and the first blog post announcing the change was up.

Another great thing that has happened is the Obama administration's embrace of social media with their blogging, use of video for his weekly addresses, RSS for easily being able to keep updated, etc. The fact that they have realized that social media is an important component of communicating with the people of the country is refreshing.

Lastly, Obama has made it a point to have a completely transparent government by posting his agenda loud and proud on the site, and by his announcement that they "will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment." Very cool stuff about being transparent, allowing the people to have a say, and showing that they were not all talk that there will be change in the way the country is governed.

Here's to hoping that these first impressions as the administration will be the positive change that we need to move forward as a country!

January 11, 2009

A Lesson from Personal Injury Lawyers - Understand the WHEN of Communications

Let me first start out by stating that I don't condone many of the tactics of ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers... However, I do believe there is a lesson to be learned from them - getting your message in front of the right people at the right time is imperative...

I really hadn't thought much about this before my wife was recently in her second car accident within a month. She was recently rear-ended in her car, the police were called, and a report was made. (Don't worry, she's fine.)

What happened next was interesting... About three days later, she received two packages in the mail from personal injury lawyers saying essentially "we noticed that you were recently in a car accident in which you may or may not have been injured... Now is the time if you have been injured to get a personal injury lawyer."

I think the lesson here is that while chasing ambulances is not the way I would want to make my living, the fact is that had my wife been injured, having that message there at the time that it arrived would have been beneficial. They know their audience (injured people), know the right way to reach out to them (in the mail), and know the timing when it would be beneficial for their audience to have received the message (immediately after the accident.)

Our organizations should have similar planning and understanding of the "when" our messages are most relevant to our audiences. We do it with membership reminders, but do we do it well enough with our other communication pieces?

Take a lesson from the ambulance chasers out there - getting your message in front of the right audience at the right time is important. Who knows what might happen - you get a new member, a new volunteer or a new advocate because you were on the ball.

January 10, 2009

LinkedIn Groups - What to do once you have one

So yesterday, we talked about the steps to take in managing the rogues within your membership who have started their own LinkedIn Groups using your trademarks without your consent. While those were some good beginning steps, I would love to have your thoughts on what I missed.

Today, I wanted to discuss an important topic also relating to LinkedIn Groups – important steps to take once your organization has one to make it work well.

1. Promote, Promote, Promote – Once your group is set up, be sure to have a promotion strategy in place to get the word out about it. This will not only give the group some visibility and legitimacy, but make the community larger and of more value to your members more quickly.

2. Pre-approve key members – Once you have set up your group, pre-approve a list of people who are likely joiners to take the step away from them having to request entry. That will let them know that you were thinking about them specially when the group was set up.

3. When a member joins, reach out to them – While this can become cumbersome when a lot of requests are made to join on a daily basis, it is a nice touch to show the members that you appreciate them joining and that you hope they will find value in the association’s group.

I have a pretty standard message that I send when someone joins: “Good afternoon (Name) – I have added you to (organization)’s Group on LinkedIn. I hope you can make some great connections! Please let me know if there is anything that I can do for you as we move forward. Best Wishes, Bruce Hammond.” Short, sweet and to the point, and there are times that I will add other personal messages to the notes if I notice something in their profile that I think is interesting. That leads me directly to my next point:

4. Mine the Data in their Profile – Taking the minute or two to take a look at their profile to glean any necessary information is another very important element of having a LinkedIn Group. These members are sharing information with you that can be of a lot of use to you as you try to segment and personalize your communication efforts with your members. If you see from their profile that they received an advanced degree that you didn’t know about, that might be helpful. The profiles show their previous employers, which also may be beneficial in some cases. It also provides a great deal of additional information like personal web sites, widgets with upcoming trips and travel, a photo, etc. Mining this data that they are freely providing when joining your group is important.

5. Encourage Connections by starting and participating in the discussions area of the Group. – The group’s members joined for a reason, and in most instances it’s to connect with other members. Helping to make those connections happen is something that you on the staff can help with. Post discussion topics, comment on topics that already have been started, share other resources that you know about to aid in those conversations. If you show that you are a part of the community and the conversations happening within it, the members can see the tangible value of the association in its interactions within the group.

These are five tips that we are using in our LinkedIn Group. The group started in January 2008 and we have engaged nearly 1,500 members since. The connections are happening. The excitement continues to grow. And, the organization is benefiting from increased engagement, knowledge, and conversation with our members.

January 9, 2009

LinkedIn Groups - Managing the Rogues

There has been a lot of conversation this week on the ASAE Communications and Membership List servs about LinkedIn Groups, and how to handle certain situations that arise with them. Instead of responding to the messages on the list serv, I thought I would do a post because I have a decent amount to say on this topic.

The Issue

The main issue in the discussions on the list servs was about how to "police LinkedIn Groups that are using your logo and representing the organization without the org's permission." Many people responded that the association should talk to their General Counsel about this.

There are a number of steps to take before you need to include your General Counsel:

1. Prepare your response and plan of action. - Do you want to take over the group and manage it in house? Would you like the person who has started the group to serve as a volunteer moderator for the organization who can serve as an extension of your office in this capacity? Do you already have a branded social networking site that you are pushing to members, and not want to have a presence on LinkedIn at all?

It really depends upon your association's workload and philosophy on how you handle social media efforts on how you want to handle this. If you are restricting membership in the group to only members, you may want to have a staff person managing the group so they can check the credentials before someone can join. If you are having it as an open group, having the member who took the initiative handle the group as a volunteer might be a great way to engage them in the organization. It's really up to your association's philosophy.

2. Reach out to the member who started the group. - There's a good chance that if you reach out to the person who started the group and engage them in conversation about how you'd like to handle the situation, they will follow your advice. It's my guess that in most instances someone has started a group in LinkedIn because a) there wasn't a presence for the organization on the site in the first place, b) they didn't know you already had a group set up, c) they just wanted to help get the name of the organization out and network with fellow members.

By reaching out to the member and explaining your reasoning for wanting to take the action you want to take, you are creating another opportunity to engage a member and explain how the association will benefit by taking your course of action. By going in guns a blazin' talking about the legal ramifications and that you have spoken with your General Counsel, you may lose that opportunity to educate your member, and may end up losing them completely.

3. If engaging the member doesn't work, contact LinkedIn. - LinkedIn has policies (see the bottom Note) about how to handle situations where someone is misrepresenting a group within LinkedIn. It is easy to handle, without having to bring in the organization's General Counsel.

One great idea that I read actually in the discussion on this topic in the YAP discussion came from Andy Steggles, who said about handling groups who don't want to fold in with the main group's presence:

"I would create a slightly different version of your logo with something like "Proud Supporter of" in front of it. That's what we've done at RIMS and then we ask all our "partners" to use it with a link to our site. This way it indicates they are not "RIMS" but are a supporter of RIMS which more accurately reflects what they are trying to do."

You can read the whole discussion here, which was actually about groups using your logo on Facebook. You may need to join the YAP Group to be able to access it, but we hope you'll join us anyway!

These are three easy steps to take to help when there is a situation that happens like someone using your logo or starting a group on LinkedIn before you can do it yourself.

I would echo many people who in the past have said that LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for not only the association, but for your members. They can connect with people for employment, for business purposes, and for networking.

Just think about it... They made those connections because YOUR ASSOCIATION made it possible by creating a group. What better PR can you get than that?

January 3, 2009

A Cool New Program to Provide Value to Customers... (Learning from the Corporate World)

We association-folk always talk about providing value to our members, and what people value in these tough economic times are both piece of mind and stability, whether from their associations or the companies from which they buy goods. These two little-mentioned aspects of the psyche of our members should be something that all of our associations understand, and are always working to address in our efforts.

Perhaps we can learn something from the corporate world...

I recently learned about an innovative program that Hyundai, the Korean automaker, has instituted to help American car buyers during these tough economic times called Hyundai Assurance. Essentially, it is a program that allows Hyundai buyers who for some reason are unable to make their payments within a year after buying the car to return it with no obligation. There are some restrictions, but all in all, they make complete sense, and provide the buyers with the piece of mind they desperately want as they contemplate a purchase like this.

That's innovation, and just might allow the company to gain some market share because they are giving their potential buyers what they value - piece of mind in these trying economic times.

How can we look at this innovative program to help provide piece of mind to our members as they struggle economically to fulfill their membership payment obligations in this downturn?

Are there any good ideas/programs out there in the association world that addresses the piece of mind aspect of providing value to members in these difficult times?