Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ Category

Experts, consultants and pundits like to share their opinions of trends and issues affecting businesses or associations. When it comes right down to it, that’s all they are, opinions. For this blog posting, I cannot help but throw my opinions out there about some trends I see affecting businesses and associations. More importantly, I would like to offer suggestions for how leaders can address these trends. Hopefully, my thoughts will spark some ideas of your own. If so, please feel free to share them by replying to the blog posting.

1. Mobility. Every day your employees, customers, suppliers and members become more and more mobile. People can literally conduct business from anywhere in the world. The result of this trend is people are connected 24/7. Fewer people are able to shut down the connection even to relax over a weekend or during a vacation. I believe for people and their organizations to remain healthy, they must disconnect occasionally. Leaders must encourage and even set the example for their people to disconnect. Creativity can be inspired and new ideas can be generated through disconnecting, even if for a short time.

2. Social Media. If mobility has created the opportunity for us to be connected all the time to our work, social media has actually connected us – both for social and work reasons. There is a definite trend toward businesses and associations creating ways for their customers and members to stay connected with each other through LinkedIn and Facebook groups, twitter postings and more. Businesses and associations that aren’t taking advantage of these media are losing marketshare and probably the respect of their customers. How can leaders help their organizations address the inherent challenges that come along with social media? Does your organization have a policy that provides direction to your employees about their use of social media during work hours? You should. Does your organization’s social media policy address how your employees can and should represent your company online? As leaders, you should be at the forefront of this issue – start a blog; participate in the social media groups on behalf of your organization. Not only will you be leading by example but you will be better connected to your employees and your customers.

3. Effects of economic downturn on personalities. This is the most challenging of trends. The last several years have been difficult for most people. Businesses have struggled. Many have gone out of business. Unemployment is high and the fear of becoming unemployed is higher. A result of these challenging economic times and the fears they have caused, is people have shorter tempers; people are less willing to accept mediocrity; and people are applying more emphasis on price and less on value. How do we deal with this as leaders? We have to listen more carefully, we have to respond more directly and we have to communicate, communicate, communicate.

These certainly aren’t the only three trends in the business and association world. They strike me as three of the most prominent trends. What other trends do you see and how do you recommend leaders deal with them?

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I read an article recently published by NPR about the future of associations. The article was titled, “Time for Associations to trade in their past?”. You can read the article by clicking here.

Don’t have the time to read it?  I’ll summarize it for you:  There are thousands of associations in the US.  Many would seem to be associations for outdated industries or purposes.  Traditionally, associations provide information to their members.  They provide their members with an opportunity to network with each other.  They may also lobby the government for favorable laws and regulations.  The article suggests associations may be out dated.  Information is after all, available at the click of a mouse.  Many people connect with each other through social networking technologies these days.  What is left for associations to do?!

I think the future of associations is bright – if they continue to evolve.

Associations are no longer repositories of information.  They have to be knowledge centers for their members and other interested parties.  Yes, people can get information with the click of a mouse.  However, they cannot turn that information into useful knowledge without interpretation of experts – that’s where associations come in.

Most associations aren’t going to compete with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter from a technology standpoint.  However, associations can utilize these and other emerging technologies to provide value to their members.  Members of associations will always need a way to connect with other members.  Some will want to do that face to face by attending a meeting – associations can provide that opportunity.  Some will want to connect online – associations can provide that opportunity as well.  In fact, smart and leading associations are already merging tradition with technology by providing attendees of their meetings with 24/7 access to networking and knowledge through websites and mobile applications.

Most importantly, however, I believe successful associations of the future will be “market makers”.  In other words, associations will actually help increase the market for the products and services their members sell.  They will do this through collective and cooperative marketing efforts, through influencing acceptance of products, through lobbying for favorable legislation and regulation, through supporting and conducting market research and other studies to identify new market opportunities and much more.

Associations were traditionally a place where people and companies with common interests or in similar industries could get together to share information and network.

Associations of the future will be that AND will create new markets in which their members can compete fairly.  Let me know what you think.

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Social networking is the current big technology buzz.  Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter encourage their members to update their friends and colleagues with “what they’re doing” on a seemingly constant basis.

I must admit I have an inherent problem with this.  I can’t get over the question of “Who cares what I’m doing right now?”  No one cares that “I’m writing my first blog” right now; or “I’m at the grocery store right now looking for velveeta cheese to make queso – why do they always move the velveeta?”

While I can’t get beyond this challenge with so called social networking sites, I have another beef to share.  Why do we call these online communities “social networks?”  Is the face to face networking that so many of us have experienced in our lives and business careers not also “social?”

Now that my biases are clear, let me get to the point:  Associations are the original “social networks”.

Associations provide the forum for people (since at least the colonial times in the United States) with common interests or in common professions to get together (whether in person, online or some other way) to share ideas, debate issues and most importantly arrive at consensus.

Consensus is the “What are WE doing.”  It is the most important result of social networking.

I think online communities used for networking are wonderful.  I just think we need to recognize they are one more tool for associations to use to accomplish their goals.  Further, for these online communities to become a truly valuable tool for associations, they need to discourage people from thinking about the “I” and get them thinking about “WE”.

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