Associations and member based organisations, particularly those which represent various professions and industries, may be on the verge of a new way of operating, if only they can see beyond the boundaries of their current practices.
I follow a few of these on twitter and it seems to me they are missing out on a wonderful opportunity, mostly because they are seeing social media as a mode of communication and not as a channel for action. They focus on their needs instead of their goals.
Why do professional associations and industry bodies exist? They exist to promote the skills and interests of their members. They exist to provide development and training opportunities to continue the evolution of their profession or industry. They exist to influence broad groups on behalf of their members. They exist to create the environment needed for thought leadership. They exist to ensure compliance with standards and ethics, and an avenue for customers and others to address issues.
If these are the major reasons for existence, how should they be using social media channels like twitter? The way most of them use social media now is like a glorified newsletter or advertising channel. Tweets about events, who’s speaking, what their latest magazine has in it. In other words as a channel for communication and engagement. There’s not a lot wrong with that but it could be so much more.
Social media creates the opportunities for them to implement their actions, not just their communications. Why communicate when they can “do” in such a public fashion that the communication effect is multiplied exponentially? They are failing to use the power of multifaceted relationships and not getting the benefits they should out of social media.
Want to promote the skills and interests of your members? Then post links to their blogs whenever they are updated (after checking for relevance) and retweet their professional tweets. Want to provide development opportunities? Then post links and messages from thought leaders within the profession or industry, or in associated professions and industries.
Want to influence broad groups on behalf of your members? Then follow key influencers in those groups and engage with them by posting comments and responses to them. And send out messages to your members to do the same, particularly where there is disagreement within the area and your members can engage in open debate in public, watched by the influencers who will see how passionate and thoughtful your members are.
Want to create the environment for thought leadership? Then follow thought leaders in areas apparently unconnected to your profession but who may spark innovation, and link and retweet their thoughts. Encourage your members to send you items of interest and then pass them on to your networks.
Compliance with standards and ethics? Post links to articles on community expectations and professional practices that provide case studies for your members.
And link up with other professional and industry bodies to share each others’ resources, tweets, links and news.
This all may seem like a lot of work, but when viewed as operations rather than as a mode of member communication, member organisations may see that in fact they have found a new, more efficient, cheaper and more effective way to operate. If used properly, social media can provide tremendous member benefits, and help them achieve many of the things they’ve always wanted to (because members want them) but haven’t been able to because of lack of resources.
This blog was first posted on Geoff’s Gobbledegook, Geoff’s personal blog site provided through the International Association of Business Communicators Xchange blog program