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.