Andy Steggles, CIO of the Risk & Insurance Management Society, Inc (RIMS) and well-known association technology visionary, led us through a whirlwind tour of the extensive RIMS social media offerings, many of which are built on the Higher Logic platform (Higher Logic being represented by Suzanne Carawan).
After reviewing what Web 2.0/social networking is, Andy provided some background. RIMS had initially considered both Facebook (too risky because of the high level of goofiness) and Linkedin (too boring and limited), and they quickly concluded that any public socnet was likely to have the same problems. Which led them to create a private socnet using Higher Logic. And it took off from there to include member blogging, a wiki, an online resource library, slick email-integrated online forums, and even a conference that's being held in Second Life.
I think the most interesting part of the session was seeing what's possible. Associations are not known for jumping right to the bleeding edge on anything, particularly on technology. Andy was able to demonstrate how far an organization can get and how fast if the leadership is willing to take a few risks and the membership is engaged and willing to try new things.
A few take-aways:
Of course the topic of moderation came up. It occured to me that there are two sides to top-down moderation: moderating to avoid things like anti-trust governed topics (a good thing) and moderating to avoid things like flame wars (not a good thing). You can't let your members put your organization at legal risk, but it's better to let community standards deal with things like flame wars, because deleting those kinds of posts can open up a major can of worms. And frankly, the socnet media itself can and should be used to educate members about the kinds of topics they can't discuss.
Socnets allow members to contribute in way more ways than money (which not everyone can afford) and volunteer leadership (in which not everyone can participate). Andy pointed out that we're moving from a Return on Investment age to a Return on Engagement age. I have an article coming out in the September issue of Membership Developments on recognizing member volunteers and the short version is: the more, the better. This is an easy way to have more.
The marketing toolbox keeps expanding. The thing is, we're not going to get every member to use every engagement channel. We need to focus on critical mass. Web 2.0 technologies are generally cheap and easy to set up. That allows us a level of experimentation that, say, a 100,000 piece direct mail drop does not. We're throwing some stuff out there and trying to find out what sticks. Does that mean that some of what we try is going to fail? Hell, yes! But if you read my recap of Bill Toliver's recent session at AMA, hopefully you're beginning to realize that it's past time to start taking some risks (more on that later).
So how do you know where to start? Ask your members, listen to your members, and ask your members. What Web 2.0 technologies are they already using in their personal lives? What are they asking your association to provide? There's your answer.
If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten. Isn't it time to try something new, and maybe change the world for your cause, industry, or profession in the process?
Get Andy's full presentation.