How Social Media Broadens the Association Sphere and Transforms the “Nature” of our Future

June 4, 2009 at 8:01 pm 1 comment

stuart-meyer2With the announcement of the Google Wave, the internet’s newest and next “big thing”, many associations still continue to ponder whether or not social media threatens the very fabric of their existence.

My answer would be an emphatic “absolutely not”.  As our associations move rapidly to join our future… already in progress… the opportunity presented by social media for associations is just the opposite of threat. 

Whereas the traditional “social sphere” of associations has been nestled within the physical core of actively involved members who like to get on airplanes and fly thousands of miles a year to get connected, social media will continue to expand and broaden our “social sphere” if we chose to reach out, engage and replace our tall ivory walls with a more transparent and porous material.

In other words, the tide of social media shifts our social sphere in a good way because the challenge of connecting and creating cohesion within our association’s broader professional community is now shared.  Our job is to shed our illusion of control, celebrate those who are connecting outside our walls, reach out, be present, listen carefully, connect, build relationships and cultivate the type of powerful social capital which will draw those in the broader social sphere into the “nucleus” of the association.

Always remember, people complain because they care and simply want to be heard.  There is immense and transforming power when you listen, engage, establish the conversation and watch the relationship grow.  

Think of chemistry and how an atom is formed by a strong nucleus (the association) with electrons (traditionally loyal members) that are bound to the nucleus by “electromagnetic force”.  An atom can be positively charged (progressive) or negatively charged (change averse).  The social web is sending new types of atoms into the larger sphere within which associations have traditionally operated creating the opportunity of atoms joining together to form new and powerful elements.  Elements are the building blocks of “nature” itself.

Let’s be very clear, people connect with the social web not because they want to be isolated and enjoy hearing themselves speak, but rather they are attempting to fulfill the basic human need to connect to something larger. 

It is essential that we transform and expand our thinking in knowing that social media strategy is a relationship-building and engagement strategy which should be driven by the mission and goals of the association.  In addition to serving members we are now in the position to reach farther in connecting with and serving a larger sphere of participants and influencers… all of which are prospective electrons moving toward that electromagnetic force which will ultimately draw them toward the nucleus.  Staff at all levels, with basic rules of engagement, have the opportunity to monitor, listen and make these connections.  

Further, think of non-member social web participants and influencers in your space as “surrogates” who care and want to be heard.  The bar is not as high as one might think in creating relationships that will move these individuals into the role of promoter and prospective member. 

Remember, control is an illusion and the next time a discussion of social media turns to fear and threat, you can now tell the group to not worry because it’s positively “elemental”. 

You may now be excused to connect with your former high school chemistry teacher on Facebook to thank them for making you suffer.

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Entry filed under: participation, Social Media, Web 2.0 and Beyond, Web Me.0. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

The Role of the Emotional Value Proposition in Cultivating Member Loyalty and Activism My Thanks to SCSAE Annual Meeting Attendees and Leadership

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Deirdre Reid  |  June 10, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I love your “positively elemental” view of social media for associations and think that you are so right about this.

    Reply

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