What We Need to Know

The Tree of Knowledge. By Knilram, via Flickr.I saw this post on the ASAE’s communications listserv last week:

“ I would like to hear from other associations on how they are using social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) – Which ones? Benefits? What’s worked?”

Wow … how many days do you have to listen? There’s no bigger question in communications today.

I sense stratification in our professional community. At a panel that I moderated at the ASAE Annual Meeting this summer, it was possible to pick out the genetically encoded early adopters from those who were struggling to catch up. You could almost tell by the body language.

The early adopters were foraging for ways to exploit what they had already mastered. The others were still learning. They seemed frustrated and fearful.

It was demonstration of what Seth Godin meant when he wrote in his new book, Tribes, that the cost of innovating too early is small, compared to the cost of acting too late.

But not everything new today will prove useful tomorrow. I think we can count on that. Since time is our most precious commodity, what must people know today?

That’s the challenge that the Communications Council for ASAE has taken on. We’re updating a document that outlines today’s core competencies in communications. No offense, but the current version, written only a few years ago, is badly  out of date.

Still, the basics are the basics. You gotta know how to write, pitch stories, research your markets, plan campaigns, etc. But of the new social technologies, what is now fundamental? And if you can’t experiment freely, what can you safely observe from a distance, for now?

We’ll take our best guess, because we can only guess at the future. No one on our team is clairvoyant, as far as I know. Maybe through the wisdom of our little crowd, we’ll get it right.

We hope the document will be a career roadmap for new communications professionals, and a learning menu for experienced pros. It will evolve rapidly and often.

We could use your thoughts. Among the new technologies, what is already a must-know? Conversely, if you must choose your experiments carefully, what is OK to watch for a while?

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8 thoughts on “What We Need to Know

  1. I think that blogs are a first step into social media that are now a necessity. They have evolved to the point that most websites now include them as a standard feature.

    I believe that they are a great starting point because they exist within the confines of your organization’s web presence and are more controllable for that reason. Jumping directly into initiatives like facebook or or linkedin groups that exist in a world of their own can often times be a culture shock to those who have never experimented with social media before.

    The verdict on twitter is still out there, while it may have been proven useful for individuals it is still unknown territory for brands/organizations. Because it is founded on the idea of interpersonal communication brands are still seeking way of using twitter effectively, and many experts say that it may never work.

    The most important thing to remember when it comes to social media is “what can you realistically support?” Initiatives should be started in small doses and expanded as success is measured. Too many people just in head first and try to adopt everything. All this does it create a wide array of weak presences, when 1 strong one could have been far more successful.

  2. A Ning-based online social network for registered members,vendors, (and, yes non-members – also registering) that enables network members to create groups is a good start.

    Have explicit rules for acceptable behavior.

    Perhaps have just one blog to begin with (rather than enabling all members to have a blog as it would be too much to track/moderate.

    In the blog, offer news, ask for feedback, as comments, enable members to rank/rate the blog posts.

    Sponsor a contest for best tips that serve the members. Invite all members to vote on 10 favorite tips.
    Give free annual conference attendance to 1- top contributors.

    Poll members re what they want for their annual conference speakers, topics, formats for meeting.

    Done right a small state association may attract more member activity/participation and thus sponsor/underwriting than the national association.

    Act to create the place that asn. members & vendors members want participate in conversations that improve the way they work,enable them to find help, customers, like-minded members etc.

    Don’t act and someone may start that social network to serve your kind of members – where ever they are in the world,

    • and keep honing the mix of social media ways to support those conversations, getting more underwriting for doing so,

    •then hiring some crackerjack professional meeting planners to manage the annual and other conferences that reflect what the members have indicated that they want.

    Per Frank’s advice, don’t let someone steal your members by the way they provide social media tools. i wrote about that possibility here
    http://sayitbetter.typepad.com/say_it_better/2007/10/how-an-online-s.html

  3. This will be very useful to those of us who work at associations whose leadership is hesitant (or clueless) about how to communicate to or engage members via social media — it will give us some standards/guidelines so we’re not perceived as wacky. It’s perhaps more difficult with state or national trade associations where membership is company-based and not direct (i.e. they join through a local assn) and the focus is on advocacy. I would love to hear about how other trade associations with those characteristics are using social media/networking with their members.

  4. Great question and bravo to ASAE Section Council for updating the competencies … as the staff to a chapter of PRSA I am often amazed at my member’s lack of knowledge and in some cases an even worse lack of acceptance and interest in learning about social media. So I would propose In terms of competencies, every communicator should be acquainted with social media, understand how the many channels can fit together to support an organization’s communications strategy (just as we were reguired to understand the mix of print, email, advertising) and be well-versed in the new modes of “listening.” I’m not suggesting that all show be experts in social media or even that they be active users – after all we still can bring the “experts” in to guide us in our jobs.

    You also asked what is OK to watch for a while? I’m wondering if we should just say that all is worth watching and a good communicator is always doing just that – along with exploring and experimenting.

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