Upstart online communities like our Biznik, physicians' Sermo, Ladies Who Launch and Downtown Womens Club may be attracting the people who'd otherwise join traditional, older professional associations.
We are drawn to the "high touch / high tech" mix of meeting online and in-person, supported by systems that enable us to find each other online and in-person, to cross-consult, lead seminars, host events, rate and reward member contributions.
Traditional associations are slowly adopting these social media tools, yet it may not happen in time. As a speaker at many association conferences, I am eager to see adoption happen faster - for the camaderie, efficiency and community they make possible, even if it could reduce my "job" opportunities ... as a speaker.
In writing about this, I hope to spur more innovation in the association world and to reflect my enthusiasm for the opportunities that happen here at Biznik and at other well-moderated, well-designed communities with off and online features.
One of the biggest status-quo traps for associations is their cautious, iterative moves towards the use of the new social media tools. Instead, association leaders might consider crossing the chasm before a college drop-out does.
In brief, many associations are vulnerable. They can be co-opted by a member(s), exhibitor(s) or a complete outsider who chooses to launch an online social network to serve their kind of members. One might even launch one for free via Ning.
It might include a tagged directory of members of member-generated tips, tag clouds, forums and group and individual (also tagged) blogs, captioned photos, vlogs and podcasts. It could attract smart content with monthly prizes for the "Top Ten" best tips/content provided by registered members who joined the free network (as voted by the registered members) - with prizes provided by a big company in the form of e-gift coupons.
Once the network attracts 25,000 members minimum, according to Seattle-based, social media expert, Bart Barden, it can hunt for underwriters/ advertisers to not only underwrite the cost of serving a true member-based community but make a profit in such service.
Then the owner of the online social network could hire or sub-contract out professional meeting planning staff to plan the annual conferences (with, of course, yearlong follow-up via the blogs, etc. to keep the community converations going.) Alternatively, perhaps Federated Media Publishing might sell ads for it and turn this membership service into a revenue generator for the association.
Love to see more of these social media gurus (mashable, TechCrunch, PaidContent, Federated Media Publishing, etc.) in a MC-led panel at MPI, PCMA, ASAE and/or SGMP - (or maybe sponsored by Primedia’s Betsy Bair?) where each panelist gets 10 minutes to rock our world with their best two pieces of advice re success scenarios that associations could adopt for "the Power of Us" to flourish - then take questions from the "audience."
Vlog, blog and podcast it all of course. As a non-geek who speaks at conferences I am eager to see ways that more organizations can support and deepen the community-building that starts at them. Let's involve the social media experts as partnersto see how we can multiply the times, ways and places that members, vendors and others in the group can connect and collaborate.