Social Technologies within Associations

I’m not sure what impresses me most about the following post by Clarke Price, CEO of The Ohio Society of CPAs. The fact it was created on a BlackBerry during a presentation, the fact he just get’s it, or his openness to Bill Sheridan’s presentation on the topic. Regardless of my reasons, it’s nice to see Clarke be open and honest, and I think he hits a homerun with his message about Social networking within Associations:

I’m typing this while attending a conference session about how associations need to be more active in entering the world of social networking. It’s an interesting session with a good speaker, but what’s striking to me is the apparent resistance among an audience of association staff professionals. The discussion has shifted to all the downsides of blogs, in particular, rather than seeing the upside and opportunities that come from entering the world of social networking.

Why is that? Why do association executives, who are usually aggressive and focused on the opportunities they see, seem to lose their courage when it comes to being part of the social networking revolution?

I think the answer probably lies in a fundamental lack of awareness. Too many of us aren’t investing the time needed to appreciate the power that social networks represent. We’re all aware of what’s going on, but too many seem to be content to just read articles about blogs, Twitter, etc., rather than actually invest the time to understand and be part of this dimension of the online world.

Just as we all invested time in learning how to master Windows when Microsoft introduced it, it’s time for us to do the same with all the social networking tools. We need to understand how these fit into being part of the “community” we try to create in our associations and how we can leverage them as basic tools in our efforts to “tell the story” about our organizations. They represent great tools to create buzz, and in the future it’s just possible that “community” will be built around these social networking tools as the backbone of our associations. Do you want to be left behind as this happens? I don’t think so.

So what’s an association executive to do? First, spend some time immersing yourself in the social networking tools. Sign up on Twitter and find some people to follow. Then make some observations of your own. For many it will become addictive.

Among the association community, we need to expand the dialogue about how social networking fits into association’s communications strategies. Too few of us – including me – are spending enough time on the strategic side of how social networking is revolutionizing our organizations. The number of association execs who are really focused on social networking must grow – or we’re going to be left in the dust. And nobody wants to have their association be relegated to being irrelevant.

Translating Techno-Babble

Last week I had the opportunity to review the Association Social Technologies by Principled Innovation LLC. If you haven’t had the chance to review it, I recommend you check out the Executive Summary. The report was built by smart folks who really understand the use of Social Technologies within associations. While reading, one specific comment in a case study caught my attention.

This comment from Association Social Technologies, Exploring the Present, Preparing for the Future Report, Page 20:

We also learned that using the buzzwords sometimes confused people. For example, using the term “podcast” always was attributed to an iPod, using “blog” was attributed to something used for a political campaign, and using “Facebook or MySpace” was attributed to teenagers. We had to use different nomenclature to describe these services. We changed Podcast to “Recorded message”, blog to “a website that allows real-time communication by allowing you to comment”, and Facebook/MySpace were “websites that allowed people with common interests to network and define their own individuality” Odd, but it really helped.

This is an excellent example of how professionals can fall into the trap of looking from the outside in rather than the inside out. Techie folks are often quick to brand technologies, and market folks love to perpetuate brands. What we are quick to forget is these brands are often lost on those outside the inner circle of the tech world. In short, it’s no shock to me that it becomes necessary to step back and translate the techno-babble from time to time. I work in the field, and still have to Google terms from time to time!

What’s odd to me is the lack of organizations that are providing real definitions for the tools they deem so important. Our continued amazement that our members or customers fail to flock to these great new tools we are building. Perhaps we would all benefit from this shared knowledge and simply say what we mean.

I’d recommend investing in the Association Social Technologies reports available for $99 from www.socialtechreport.org. The report contains much more than this little nugget of information.

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