Posts filed under ‘Organizational Management’

Ad Hoc Learning – 7 Trends Pushing the Popularity of Simplified Web Video-Based Education and Learning in Associations

by Stuart Meyer

Learn as if you were to live forever”.  Ghandi

SM_12-4-12_edited-1A few years ago, I served as a contributing author and speaker on ASAE’s Decision to Volunteer research project and publication where we popularized the term “ad hoc volunteer”.  An ad hoc volunteer is one who engages in a single-task volunteer assignment as opposed to a volunteer serving a formal long-term commitment on a committee or project team.  While we uncovered the opportunities presented by ad hoc volunteer roles, including increasing levels of loyalty and personal investment, we also learned that the formal governance structure of associations needed to become better equipped to leverage the potential of ad hoc volunteers.

Today, we’re learning the desire for ad hoc association participation is not limited to volunteerism.  In simplified terms, “ad hoc participation” from a member perspective means I don’t presently have the time for formal participation but desire opportunities for informal participation as time and interest warrants.  Further transposed to the evolving media world around us, it could be characterized as the “I want what I want when I want it and how I want it” trend.

The notion of “ad hoc learning” is certainly not a new concept as just about every conference pre/post evaluation survey and focus group I’ve conducted over the years always highlights the transforming experience and value of peer-to-peer informal learning and education-based networking… that “aha” moment when we’re standing at a conference during a break having a substantive conversation with another attendee and suddenly the “light bulb” finally goes on and our professional plight feels a little less lonely.

The opportunity for associations is determining how to satisfy this “everything-on-demand” generation of customers/members as a bridge to strengthening value, engagement, brand sentiment, loyalty and deepening levels of involvement.  The question is… will we continue to make them come to us or will we find better ways to go to them.

As we look out upon current trends, the notion of learning and how we gather the information we need, it’s certainly far from a news flash that much has changed over the past 10-20 years.  The key opportunity and strategy I see each and every day in my work is to simplify learning and access to learning as much as possible as an “everyday learning” compliment to our more formal means of web-based learning.

Let’s take a look 7 key trends driving our associations toward the demand for on-demand video-based ad hoc learning.

1) Video vs. Text Preferences

In 2010, Forbes shared a series of findings relating to web-based video.  According to their data, 59% of senior executives prefer to watch a video instead of reading text, if both are available on the same page.  80% are watching more online video today than they were a year ago. Finally, more than half of senior executives share videos with colleagues at least weekly and receive work-related videos as often.  From a consumer standpoint, in 2012 Retail Touchpoints reported that consumers who viewed video were 174% more likely to purchase than viewers who did not.  Whether using informal video-based learning as a compliment to text articles or the other way around, the opportunity to deepen the experience and sharing is clear.

2) Mobile Technology and Rise in Screen Time

The explosion of mobile smartphones and tablet devices continue to require us to determine how we optimize our content/product/information/services to best suit life on a mobile device screen and situational consumption patterns.  Google has suggested that within the next couple of years, nearly 90% of web traffic will be video-based mainly due to the rise of mobile technology.  Single topic video-based ad hoc learning lends itself to the mobile experience.

3)  TEDtalks

TED, short for Technology, Entertainment and Design, is non-profit organization driven by a global grassroots movement to advance “ideas worth sharing”.  A major component of TED is their online video TEDtalk series which are typically highly topic-focused presentations delivered during TEDx events which take place all over the world.  In a nutshell, TED has conditioned us toward ad hoc web video-based learning and over the past year my company, Social Frequency Media Communications, has worked with a number of clients in producing TED-style web video series as a form of simplified ad hoc learning… ranging from virtual speaker showcases to multi-episode topic-driven video series.

4)  Time… or the Lack Thereof

Dr. James McQuivey, Vice-President of Forrester Research, has been quoted as saying “a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words”.  Produced properly, video is a simple yet powerful form of communication that is more like a sit-back form of entertainment as opposed to a sit-forward mental activity.  Where once we were only “connected” if we were sitting in front of a PC, today we are continuously connected to our devices and, increasingly, through web-enabled smart TVs.

5)  Every other aspect of your customers/members lives

Your association’s customers/members live in a world of on-demand instant gratification options and your competition is every other form of streaming media, including Netflix and Hulu.  The difference between today’s online association video practices and the early days of low-viewership poor quality flip cam video is strategy, quality, marketing and distribution.  A simple eye-opening exercise is to compare your current lineup of YouTube videos side-by-side with your glossy association magazine and ask yourself if there is an equitable commitment/investment in production quality.  When it comes to our magazines, webinars, conferences and annual meetings we leave very little to chance in terms of production, marketing and promotion.  It’s time for associations to invest the same amount of energy in web video broadcast practices as poor quality cheapens both brand and credibility where high quality serves the strengthen brand and credibility.

6)  Rise of Niche, the Decline of Linear

Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, advances the notion that “The niche is now king, and the entertainment industry – from music to movies to TV – will never be the same.”  Let’s face it, if your association’s video-based learning strategy isn’t generating series of content focusing on every possible niche topic within your profession the reality is someone else will do so.  The opportunity is great with the main risk being inaction.   Further, instead of producing a single linear 45 minute learning-based video, break it up into more “bite-size” narrow topics and present a series of shorter, more focused videos given the viewer the option to view everything or to focus only on the topics most relevant to them.  Additionally, putting the viewer in control of what they watch can also increase additional views and sharing.

7)  The Opportunity of Portability

When it comes to our association publications, we’ve always dreamed of the “viral” scenario in which each issue is carefully routed around the office getting in front of as many people as possible.  Today, online video is portable not only in the sense we can take it anywhere we go via mobile technologies but the url-based format simplifies online portability in our ability to easily share video with others either through email, text or social channels.  If video-based learning content is locked down in an LMS or only available via a live webinar, a big portion of the opportunity is lost.  For this reason, its important to treat your ad hoc video-based learning strategy as a compliment to your other formal education programming.

So there you have it, a look at the evolution and trends surrounding web video-based ad hoc learning within associations as a means to strengthening value, engagement and brand sentiment.  To see an example of what it looks like, click here to see a 4-part AAO-HNS web series which was produced by Social Frequency Media Communications.

Stuart Meyer is President and Founder of Social Frequency Media Communications, a turnkey new media innovation and production company with 12 years of association management experience dedicated to helping associations develop, integrate, produce and manage a strong web TV broadcast network and presence.  He can be reached at stuart(at)socialfrequency(DOT)net


June 26, 2013 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

Shifting Social Media Business Strategy from “What” to “Why” and “How”

Last week I delivered a presentation in Chicago outlining the generalized steps for developing a social media business strategy to a wonderfully engaged audience of around 80.  In connecting one-on-one with a number of those in attendance prior to the start of the session, my perspective is further reinforced that most organizations are generally trapped inside the rapid reaction phase of social media strategy, which often fails to take into consideration the true opportunity presented by the social web.

Many are treating the social web with a “gold rush” mentality which as I’ve written before very much feels reminiscent of the rush and bust of the late 90s.  I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that true social web strategy in my estimation is not a “get-rich-quick” scheme, rather it is an investment of time and disciplined business planning like any new business strategy.

Want a shortcut to getting on the right track in the development and implementation of social media business strategy?  My advice is to focus/refocus your thinking away from “what do we do?” mentality toward the better questions of “why” you are engaging in social media in the first place and “how” social media will help you advance the mission, vision and goals of our business.

While this sounds overly simplistic at first glance, the difference between the “what”-focused approach compared to the “why/how”-focused approach could be the difference between success and disaster.  In other words, the question you must ask yourself is whether you are rushing a series of half-thought tactics into the marketplace full of uncertainty OR are you investing in a solid business planning process unique to your organization geared toward evolving and advancing your business mission in an effort to adapt to the opportunities and realities of this new business environment.

Remember, the true successful practice of eCommerce emerged as a disciplined long-term business strategy in the aftermath of the craze which produced countless business models which have succeeded for new and existing business enterprise.  I predict the same will hold true for web 2.0 and social media in that once the smoke clears from the craze and “snake-oil” presently saturating the air, we will find that those who succeed in tapping into the social web did so through a deep understanding of the psychology behind social media participation as it relates to their business and the development/execution of a well-conceived creative business plan which is integrated within the overall business model of the organization.

December 21, 2009 at 6:23 am 1 comment

What Social Media Means to Associations – Beyond Mere Facebook Pages and Twitter Accounts

I’ve recently had the wonderful opportunity to deliver presentations to a variety of individuals and organisations regarding how social media is already transforming the future of associations.  Through these experiences, I’ve listened carefully to fears, perceptions and admirable admissions of a lack of functional understanding relating to what social media means to associations.

I also hear allot about Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, as if that is somehow enough to leverage the potential of the social web.  The reality is social media is more than a communication channel, rather it is a one-to-one and one-to-many conversation and relationship-building tool.  The same types of conversations and relationships we have been engaging in with current and prospective members for years.  It’s also a business strategy, just like other vital aspects of organizational operations provided it is already acceptable for staff to answer the phone and handle attendee questions at conferences.

Simply put:

The social web is an opportunity to expand your association sphere by listening, connecting, engaging and building vital relationships which expands your association sphere.

Why is this important?  Because conversations and relationships are what led to the creation of associations in the first place.  Further, social cohesion is the glue which holds together and propels our organizations.

A member’s commitment to an association is measured by the extent to which they feel a connected part of the organization.  The way members connect to an association is through some form of engagement or participation.  Before the social web, it required a greater sacrifice and investment to participate (planes, trains and automobiles), but today the social web provides an inexhaustible opportunity to connect and participate.

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.  The social web is simply a smarter tool with which we can adapt and greatly expand our mission.  With the right organizational foundation, we can all be ready when Facebook inevitably becomes tomorrow’s MySpace.  While the platforms will continue to change, the “rules” will always remain the same.

I designed the cluster symbol above to demonstrate the way in which a like-minded group of people bond together to form an association.  Clusters form within associations to initiate new projects and components.  Today, new clusters are forming outside the walls of your association, in almost every case not to replace you but to give rise to issues and concerns facing a trade or profession.  As associations, our goal is to reach out and create new bonds with individuals and groups working in support of our interests.  This symbol is also the official symbol of my new consulting practice, Social Frequency Media, which I started out of a deep desire to help associations transform their futures and leverage the potential of social media.  I hope you will find the above information and other postings here at Association 2020 useful.  SM

December 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm 3 comments

FTC Guides Suggest Social Media Policies and Procedures Might Reduce Liability Risks

100_2987At the onset of this post, I want to be very clear that I am not intending to send fear coursing through the veins of senior management nor should this be construed as a “let’s all find another reason to fear social media”.

Quite conversely, part of leveraging a strong social media business strategy is ensuring the appropriate operational controls are in place.  Policies, standardized practices and process are a responsible part of any business strategy and the business strategy of social media should be no exception.

This week, potential liability regarding the use of social media hit home as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released new Guides concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising.  Essentially, the new guides will work to ensure a higher level of honesty and transparency in the use of the social web for the purpose of marketing in terms of “pay to say” disclosure and factual representations.

Though I am not  a lawyer (nor have I ever played one on TV) and always encourage consultation with legal counsel, I did read through the 81 page FTC document yesterday and came across an important consideration which I don’t believe has been adequately highlighted.  That consideration is the liability an employer faces for the actions of employees engaging in social media activities either within or outside the scope of their work responsibilities.   The FTC addresses this scenario in response to a question which appears to have arisen during an open comment period relating to employer liability.  Below is a verbatim excerpt from the FTC’s response:

“…although the Commission has brought law enforcement actions against companies whose failure to establish or maintain appropriate internal procedures resulted in consumer injury, it is not aware of any instance in which an enforcement action was brought against a company for the actions of a single “rogue” employee who violated established company policy that adequately covered the conduct in question…  The Commission does not believe, however, that it needs to spell out the procedures that companies should put in place to monitor compliance with the principles set forth in the Guides; these are appropriate subjects for advertisers to determine for themselves, because they have the best knowledge of their business practices, and thus of the processes that would best fulfill their responsibilities.” see page 48 of the complete FTC document for full text

What this means is it is time to create social media policies and practices within your organization which carefully balance innovative business uses of social media with clear lines drawn on unacceptable practices.

While it is my intention to use my Association 2020 blog to add value to our community rather than endlessly promote my consulting practice, Social Frequency Media Communications, this is one instance where I want everyone to know that social media internal policy and procedure development is a core part of my services.  Click here to learn more about Social Frequency Media Communications or feel free to contact me directly at

October 9, 2009 at 10:24 am Leave a comment

Quick Tips and Ideas – The Role of Market Research and Data Analysis in Recession-Proofing Your Association

London Eye & PlaneDevelop “X-Ray” Vision through Market Research and Data Analysis 

Gather and maintain a 360 degree view of the direct and indirect opportunities and threats to your association by observing, measuring and monitoring trends and developments through market research and data analysis.

 Here are some actionable ideas to consider:

  •  Get into your member’s environment and shadow them regularly to see the world through their eyes and observe the spoken and unspoken behavioral truths.
  •  Conduct regular quarterly omnibus surveys with members to identify/track trends and developments.
  •  Monitor and track the social web regularly to identify trends, influencers, perspectives and groundswell. 
  •  Establish a “Membership Advisory Panel”.
  • Conduct one-on-one interviews employing the same questions until you begin to see patterns in responses.
  • Create an opportunity for meaningful participation through decision-based all member surveys… not forgetting to report the eventual data-driven action which is taken.
  • Conferences are a great gathering point for all types of members and a great place to conduct focus groups at minimal cost.
  • Conduct interviews with your conference exhibitors to explore additional insight into your member audiences.

Thoughts, questions or additions?  Share your comment below or contact me directly at

July 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm Leave a comment

In Praise of Organizational Simplicity: A Tip for Overcoming the Failure of Complexity

It’s easier to start simple and build complexity than to begin with complexity and try to simplify.

In a moment of clarity after a long meeting this morning, the thought above emerged in my mind like the glow of the first warm Spring day after a long Chicagoland Winter.

Many senior executives within associations pride themselves in falling somewhere on the management spectrum between business engineer and mad scientist working within their often transmorgified office laboratory… all in search of that elusively defining breakthrough, process, product, service, procedure, partnership, business model, strategy, quality measure, restructure or operational maneuver that will certainly transform their immediate organizational world as they know, lifting their organization to the envious accolades of counterparts round the world.

While the core concept nestled within it’s own complexity might truly be a great idea, the awful truth is that complexity often turns out to be less than a success formula.  Here are the reasons:  

Fundamentral Principles of Change:  While the complexity may seem as clear as that spring day to the executive mad scientist, chances are it is probably going to be pretty foreign to those who will be charged with converting the complexity into success.  When complexity is used as a starting point, it overhelms others drawing them away from their comfort zone into a sense of fear and insecurity.   Reducing complexity to simplicity after the fact can be a damaging and trust-eroding process.  Save your leadreship capital for larger battles.    

Investment/Participation:  Change always presents an opportunity to either strengthen or alienate an organizational team.  When an executive approaches the table with answers, rather than questions, there is suddenly little for other key stakeholders to contribute.  Remember, while we must work for a living, we choose a profession because we want to make a difference through our unique talents and abilities on some level. 

To come to the table with a complex solution is like kicking a chef out of a kitchen and telling him that he is only needed to set the tables in the dining room.  It leaves little for others to contribute or invest themselves in more deeply.   

Perspective:  Even the most visionary executive on her very best day is still a mere inconclusive piece of a larger puzzle, despite how revealing the piece might be.  A powerful idea can be an accelerated starting point but by no means a decisive end point.  We must bring our pieces of the puzzle to the table as starting point for others to place their pieces of the puzzle onto the table to construct a clearer picture.  Out of simplicty emerges clarity.

House of Cards:  As leaders, we must never become complacent or blinded by the simple fact that our reputations and credibility are like a house of cards that require countless hours of patience, focus and concentration to build up, but only a matter of seconds to come tumbling down.  Build up that leadership capital and hope you’ll never have to draw from those reserves.       

The Remedy:  Think with the complexity of a general, but act with the simplicity.


April 9, 2009 at 11:20 am Leave a comment

Responding to Challenges in Volunteer Management

reno-windowLast week I had the wonderful opportunity to co-present a program for Association Forum entitled, Essentials of Volunteer Management, with Monica Love from AMTA.  To our participants reading this post, thank you again for your valuable participation.

First off, let us all celebrate the motivation and contributions of volunteer association leaders across the country and all over the world.  We are able to enjoy our rewarding careers in association management mainly because volunteer leaders have stepped forward throughout time to form… well… associations.

At the onset of our session, Monica and I recorded a number of questions from our audience of professionals pertaining to particular volunteer-related challenges they were facing in their own organization.  Judging from the questions, I think by some stroke of irony we may all work for the same association.  In reality, none of us are alone when it comes to these familiar challenges.

To mine and Monica’s astonishment, the dialogue was so wonderful that we actually ran out of time after the 3-hour session.  Nonetheless, I promised our attendees that I would address some of the questions here on Association 2020.  So, without further ado:

Q1:  What do you do with a volunteer who won’t let go?

First, we should all be thankful to a certain degree for the volunteer who won’t let go.  The challenge arises when volunteers attempt to dominate a particular role leaving little opportunity for new volunteers.

From a policy standpoint, I have to say that after years in both politics and association work, I am a strong believer in term limits.  When I say “term limits” that should not be construed to mean “term breaks”.  Once a volunteer leader has reached the limit of her term, she should move on to other opportunities to serve the organization rather than recycle back after time.  To realize the full impact and benefit of volunteer engagement, we must afford as many opportunities as possible for members, and even non-members, to become involved.

So what happens when a volunteer reaches their term limit?  Work to identify the individual volunteer’s core strengths/interest and find another area of the association which will be mutually beneficial to both parties.  Remember, volunteers are not simply volunteers, they are loyal promoters and ambassadors of your association… they are attendees at your conferences.  To many, volunteering is a valuable member benefit, after all it is their association.  The more connected volunteers feel, the greater their association evangelism.  If necessary, identify a need and create new roles for your veteran volunteers.

Q2:  How do you overcome disruptions in organizational continuity during leadership transitions?

Be proactive.  If you approach your leadership about updating your strategic plan and they tell you its not necessary because it was just update five years ago you have two options.  Option 1, polish your resume and run for the hills.  Option 2, the preferred option, is seek to understand your leaders perspectives regarding strategic planning as well as points of shared vision within their group.

A multi-year approach to strategic planning should be a regular ongoing function of association boards and staff.  A commitment to a comprehensive strategic planning process will enable your association to:

  • Be objective in identifying the present and future needs of members and their profession/trade on a regular basis.
  • Factor environmental/industry trends and developments into the decision-making process.
  • Create alignment between governance and operations.
  • and, yes, instill a sense of institutional continuity between years and leadership transitions.

Beyond strategic planning, create a comprehensive leadership ladder which invests incoming leaders early on in the business of the association.  The usual succession consists of a “Vice-…” or a “….-elect” or perhaps even a year as secretary/treasurer.  But why not create additional levels of executive leadership or by-law requirements for certain areas of service in the overall qualifications for office.  Wouldn’t it be terrific to have top leaders who had served as volunteer leaders over the core areas of your association’s business, such as conference chair, education chair, membership chair, etc.? 

. . . . . . .

Stay tuned!  I will be responding to more questions in the near future.  In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts and ideas via a comment below.  SM        

March 25, 2009 at 10:47 am Leave a comment

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