25 August 2008

ASAE AM Conversation 3: BloggerCon and BloggerUnCon

This year was my first BloggerCon. It was also the first year that BloggerCon was part of the official program. So it was kind of a mixed group: long time bloggers about associations like Jeff, Mads, BMart, and JNott (aka McLovin), new bloggers about associations like, well, your truly, and lots of people whose organizations are blogging or thinking about starting blogs about the profession, industry, or issue they represent. So it was a pretty mixed bag.

A few thoughts:
  • This session really demonstrated to me the importance of the social aspects of social media.
  • The typical question about moderating came up. Andy couldn't be there, since he was giving his own session at that time, so I represented and brought up his/RIMS's practice of allowing members to self–moderate through “mark as inappropriate.” The truth about moderating is that pretty much any level of control from absolute to wild west free-for-all can be appropriate, as long as you're consistent and have a reason for choosing what you choose. (But personally, I'm in favor of writing a strong disclaimer and then letting the chips fall where they may.)
  • I kind of feel like we should be past the "what is all this stuff?" questions at this point. But as was demonstrated in all the social media sessions (including many of the Social Media Labs), we're not. Educate yourselves people!
  • Participants also asked if an organizational blog won't result in diluting attention and interest in the organization's other properties. And the answer is really no. Different audiences are going to want to get information in different formats. If you, as you should, think of at least 3 ways to use anything you write/produce, this is just one more method to get the word out. And it can provide nice cross-promotional opportunities.
  • Voice is key. (This came up in my Social Media Lab session, too.) Your CEO/ED doesn't need a blog just to have a blog. Only start one if you can make the commitment to write frequently and authentically. Having your PR firm write pieces "from your CEO" is going to come off as fake. Sometimes it's more useful to see what's already out there - like maybe some fab member blogs on your profession or industry - and link to them rather than trying to force the creation of community where it doesn't naturally exist.
  • And it's OK to mix up format of your posts. It’s not the same as writing articles. Some posts can be be long, some can be short, some can be links, whatevs. They key is QUALITY CONTENT. If you can make it good, everything else is icing.
BloggerUnCon was a completely different experience. It wasn't part of the official program, and it took place in the out-of-the-way CAE Lounge at the end of the program day on Monday. The information was only in the association blogosphere, too, so it was mostly the people doing the heavy lifting of association blogging. I definitely got the sense that this session was more like previous years' BloggerCons.

Bob Wolfe kicked us off with a really great question: Why do we blog?

The answers were fascinating.
  • Ben talked about starting his blog to help him when he was studying for the CAE in 2004. Then he realized that he was helping other people, too, and just kept going. And helping people.
  • Matt spoke about how much he enjoyed hearing about other young association execs' experiences and wanting to contribute to the conversation.
  • Jeff launched his blog as the original Principled Innovation website, after he'd been running the business for over a year, in order to "initiate the converation I wanted to have with the association community about innovation."
  • Jamie indicated that blogs are better than resumes for getting a sense of who a person really is, as the cleverly named Get Me Jamie Notter would attest.
  • Bob himself pointed out that "thought leaders blog."
In fact, several people mentioned the importance of blogging in creating a personal brand as an association professional and as a source of professional opportunity. It's about creating a personal body of work.
Shifting employment patterns means that there are increasing opportunities for those thought leaders who work in or with associations to create and market personal expertise and a personal brand while still keeping their day jobs.

That was a huge driver for me in starting T4P. When I found out with 3 weeks notice that I was going to be laid off this spring, I considered - briefly - kicking off my own consulting firm. And I realized that I wasn't known in the association community, at least not well enough to start consulting on my own without having to KILL myself to get clients. It was a real eye opener. (Also, I really, really love to write. And have for a long time.)

The conversation then shifted to the idea of voice, audience, and focus. What are you writing about and for whom? The participants had a variety of focuses (focii?) within the association space, but the common theme was the idea of the conversation, and participating in it.

We then drifted into a discussion of some of the technical details of the newly-launched A List Bloggers, in preparation for our plans for (association) world domination, before talking about what role we can - and should - play in convincing The Powers That Be of the power of social media.

The problem is, we aren't where they are, and we're not speaking with them in ways they understand. Which I think is a really valuable lesson in member engagement. You can't expect people (CEOs/EDs or members) to come to you, and you can't expect them to speak your language.
We have to learn to use terms that are meaningful to the people we want to convince - things like “engagement,” “community,” “collaboration,” and “attracting younger members.”
Even the medium of a Social Media Lab or socnet sessions may be the wrong way to go about this. What we need is to get social media experts on panel sessions about board relations and advocacy and creating vital educational experiences and recruiting and engaging members. Which is why every social media session ends up being a 101 session on "this is a blog, this a wiki, this is a social network" and it's really, REALLY hard to focus the conversation on the "so what?" We have to get out of the social media ghetto and into the executive suites, the membership departments, the publications areas, the meetings teams.
As Ben put it, "It’s a simple calculation: engagement increases the likelihood of renewal. Renewal increases the likelihood of creating organizational evangelists. And virtual communities are an increasingly popular form of engagement."
So I leave you with a question: what would your organization look like if your individual staff members didn't focus specifically and exclusively on your journal, or getting out the renewal notices on time, or managing the membership database, or creating press releases, or your legislative fly in day, but instead worked as fluid team of engagement specialists on increasing engagement in your organization, your industry, your profession, for your entire universe of constituents? What would that world be like?


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4 comments:

Lisa Junker said...

Wow, great post, Elizabeth! There's so much here it's hard to decide what to comment on. I will say:

1. I really wish I could have made the Unbloggercon. It sounds like it was a great discussion.

2. You talk about the importance of blogging for building a personal brand, and you're absolutely right. What I think people miss sometimes is how great it is that blogging is something you control yourself that builds your brand. You don't have to get someone else to accept an article, you don't have to write based on the needs of someone else's publication--you just write whatever you choose, and comment on others' blogs however you choose. It's all in your control. It's surprising that more people don't take advantage of it.

Which leads to the part of your post where you say "I really, really love to write." I think that's pretty important for potential bloggers, too. If you don't enjoy writing, blogging may just be a misery to you. (Although there's always podcasting and videoblogging for folks who don't like writing, but do like developing content.) But for those of us who love to write, blogging can be so much fun!

Ben Martin, CAE said...

Thank you for posting this, Elizabeth. Easily the best roundup we've EVER had of a bloggercon (not to mention the fact that you covered TWO of them in one post!). You're right, the UnBloggerUnCon was more like previous BloggerCons. I think I preferred the Un. We got to talk on a higher level, and I needed that.

Ben Martin, CAE said...

Sry. Forgot to sub to comments.

Lisa Junker said...

Seth Godin just put up a great post related to the importance of voice, which made me think of your notes about the bloggercon. Here's a link in case it's of interest!