31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

Still haven't picked this year's resolution.

In the running:
BMW Performance Driving School
Attend Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp
Visit all the Washingtonian Magazine's 75 Best Bars


30 December 2009

What I'm Reading

Lots of good stuff floating around the blogosphere this week!
And, more End of Year Listmania:

29 December 2009

Big Idea Month: So what will YOU do TODAY?

Innovation can come from a big idea:
"What if we took ARPNet and made it available to everyone?"
Innovation can come from a small idea:

And really, it all comes down to:
How can we be better today than we were yesterday?
The thing is, all this big thinking or small thinking or medium thinking doesn't matter a damn unless you actually DO something. I'm going to quote JNott again:
The time may not be right for everything...but it's ALWAYS right for something. Do something, and learn from it.
Or, to quote Shelly Alcorn:
Political environments are generally about protecting the status quo. Innovation in the governmental and/or non-profit arena is generally seen as a threat to the status quo. Chief staff executives are generally seen as protectors of the status quo. Ergo, innovative executives are generally seen as a threat to the organization.
What does that mean for you? If you're not the CEO/ED, probably good things - innovation, in most of our organizations, is going to need to come from somewhere other than the top spot.

The New Year starts in a few days. And I'm not a fan of Big, Serious Resolutions. But I might make an exception in this case.

I'm challenging myself and the association community to ask ourselves, every day:
What can I DO TODAY to make myself, my job, my association, and/or life for our members better than it was yesterday?
Big idea. Small idea. Medium idea. Doesn't matter. No excuses. "But I'm not the Grand Poobah!" Good! Be better.

24 December 2009


Best wishes of the season
To you and all those you hold in your heart
Happy Holidays!

23 December 2009

What I'm Reading

Short list to match the short week:
  • What do measuring engagement and measuring email deliverability have to do with each other? Quite a bit, actually.
  • More year-end lists: top 10 marketing tips for 2010.
  • How to have a corporate blog that doesn't sound like a sales pitch.
  • If you're not following all the great Big Ideas Month posts, you really should be.
  • Still reading X Saves the World. It's definitely entertaining, but three things have occurred to me: 1) it's very much a boy book 2) I think Nirvana had more of an impact on Jeff Gordinier than it did on Kurt Cobain 3) Just because Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are vapid doesn't mean ALL Millennials are. It's easier to be funny if you write that way, but it's a little harsh.

22 December 2009

Big Idea Month: What if associations offered no agenda at its next staff retreat other than "show up and talk about how we can be better?"

My third entry in the Acronym Big Idea Month rodeo:

What if the only thing associations focused on was "how can we be better?"

Or, to quote Jeffrey Cufaude from the December 8 #assnchat, what if we had "calls for ideas" just like we have calls for papers/presentations?

I think this gets to some of the other questions, like what if we forgot about petty internal politics and focused on the mission, what if we weren't afraid to share new ideas, what if we removed "we have always done it that way" from our vocabularies?

Anyone who knows me knows that this is what I try to do, and I know a LOT of others in the same boat - you can find us without looking too hard (the association blogger community, association geeks on Twitter, the YAPstars, etc.). And we're all tempted to think that other people think/reason the same way we do. But that's demonstrably not true. Particularly not in this case, or "petty internal politics" would be an oxymoron.

So the question becomes: if "Ideas BAD!" is the focus of a sizable contingent of the association professional world (hell, of the world in general), AND we accept the premise that people act in ways that make sense to them, what's going on here?

No, "my colleagues are all crazy" is not an acceptable answer.

And those of us on the side of "Change GOOD!" *need* the answer, because we have to persuade at least some of the "Change BAAAAAD!" crowd to at least not oppose us if we hope to accomplish anything other than a big ole headache from whacking our heads on our desks repeatedly.

I think - and I certainly could be wrong - that it comes down to fear. But I think it's more than the traditional flip "they fear change" answer. Because that begs another question: why does this person fear change? What happened in her/his past to cause this? Did she have an idea - or multiple ideas - that were shot down in their infancy? Did he get to implement an idea that failed, and then get punished, or just totally hung out to dry? Did she have a great idea that was implemented and worked, only to see someone else hog all the credit?

I'm not saying that you'll be able to somehow fix those past bad experiences. This isn't therapy, and sitting around singing Kumbaya gives me hives anyway. But if you can get some idea about what's happening in your detractors' heads, you can think a little more constructively about what might help them be more comfortable with what you're proposing than "very well, then let it be war between us!" And that's when you can finally get some of those great ideas off the ground.

21 December 2009

Always the Last to Know - Earth911

"Can I recycle my old computer?" Maybe. It depends on where you live. Just in time for the holiday influx of new stuff, Earth911 can help you find out.

18 December 2009

Friday Top 5

Top 5 Things to do in DC to Celebrate the Holidays (shout out to Deb for the idea!) (and yes, you have already missed some of these this year, but you can put them on your calendar for NEXT year)
  1. Going to hear the Eric Felten Orchestra performing the Duke Ellington Nutcracker Suite at Blues Alley. They perform one night only, and this has become an annual tradition with my spouse, followed by driving around the monuments with the top down (assuming it's not raining or snowing). It was December 8 this year, and usually takes place within the first two weeks of December. Also, it's awesomesauce.
  2. Visiting the National Christmas Tree. Not to see the big tree, which is hideous, but to see the 56 smaller trees around it that are each decorated with ornaments provided by the 50 states, 5 territories, and DC.
  3. Going skating in the rink in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art. Rockefeller Center, schmockefeller center!
  4. Visiting the US Botanic Gardens. Not only do they decorate very nicely, it's a good place to go warm up after your skating expedition!
  5. The annual Santa Stumble bar crawl, benefiting the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Fund. You also missed this for 2009, but that gives you almost an entire year to put together your costume for NEXT year.

17 December 2009

Twitter - One More!

Just in case you're not totally burned out on Twitter, a blog reader emailed me this great list of Twitter tools.

16 December 2009

What I'm Reading

  • Trying to encourage socmed coverage of your event? Lindy Dreyer gives you the run down of what your community needs to make it happen (you have to join Engage 265 to read the article, but it's free).
  • 3 things about Twitter that are not so great. I would definitely follow the advice under the DM spam point about checking what programs have access to your account.
  • The babes at SocialFish are doing an interview series with socmed managers in associations - check it out.
  • It's that time of year - social media predictions for 2010 have started coming out of the woodwork.
  • Guy Kawasaki's 6 Twitter types are funny and instructive. I aim to be a mensch (actually, that's pretty much my goal in life), but I don't think I'm quite there yet.
  • Are you ready for real-time search?
  • And finally, I just started Jeff Gordinier's X Saves the World and so far, it's hilarious and true.

15 December 2009

Big Idea Month: What if associations decided that sometimes, telling a member 'no' is an acceptable practice?

Post two in my contribution series to Acronym's Big Ideas Month:

What if (perish the thought!), we actually told members NO?

I actually suspect that most associations already do this, but we do it in the wrong way. We say "no" all the time. Only it's called, "That's against association policy." Which, aside from "we're out of bourbon," might be my least favorite four words in the English language.

You know what "that's against association policy" REALLY means?
  • "I'm only line staff - I'm not actually empowered to decide anything."
  • "I don't want to/feel like it."
  • "Member service isn't my job."
  • "Some day, far in the dim, dark past, someone decided that we don't that. I don't know why. Just because."
  • "We have always done it that way." (my least favorite seven words in the English language, other than "by the way, also out of chocolate.")
Members are absolutely not always right - they know the industry/profession, you know how to run your organization - but what if every request was considered on its merits, rather than whether or not it's "against" some random policy that some person put in place some time ago for reasons known only to him? What if ALL levels of staff were allowed, even encouraged, to make decisions? What if we really measured what we're doing on "does this serve the members?" (Not just *this* member, all members - which can help resolve conflicts when a member asks for something that would be bad if universalized.)

Giving every staff person the ability to make decisions implies that sometimes she might say no. Which means it's really important to know how to say no in the right way. "No." "Why?" "Because I said so." Not the right way to handle members. "We can't do X (and there better be a reason other than "Because you were mean to me and I don't feel like helping you"), but we do want to make this right. What about Y instead?" Or "what else can we do to make this right?" Get the member involved in producing a solution, and you'll get her mind off the fact that you just said no to what she asked for and on to the fact that you're working with her to resolve the situation. Detractors can become your most passionate fans/evangelists *if* you handle them right.

14 December 2009

Alawys the Last to Know: Good Guide

Looking to inject a little social responsibility into your holiday shopping, but don't have time to do all the bloody research yourself? Check out the Good Guide - it helps you assess the full environmental impact of a number of categories of goods (food, personal care, household cleaning, and, most important at this time of year, TOYS), and, as you use it, it learns what issues are most important to you in choosing how to spend your dollars.

11 December 2009

Friday Top 5

Top 5 Holiday Specials I Love To Hate (thanks for the idea, Maggie!)
  1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Shout out to my spouse, who has pointed out that Santa's a bigot, except when he needs a red-nosed reindeer to haul his fat ass around.
  2. Frosty the Snowman. Insipid. Who makes an entire show about a song that's not even very good in the first place?
  3. Martha Stewart - the Ice Queen makes me crazy. And she has NO sense of humor. Did you ever see the one where she and Julia Child are making croquembouche? Julia's having a ball and getting spun sugar all over the damn place, while Martha's all, "Mine is perfect. I win."
  4. Anything on the Hallmark network.
  5. Anything on this list (click it - it's a HILARIOUS parody).

10 December 2009

Cancer Awareness Video

Providence St. Vincent Medical Center just happens to be a NACHRI member.

NACHRI members = awesomesauce.

Just sayin'.

09 December 2009

What I'm Reading

This is must be Official Smartness Week in the blogosphere. Check it out:
  • Kevin Holland is smart, "branding" is (often) stupid.
  • More awesomeness from Shelly Alcorn on what Star Trek can teach us about leadership. Not only does this totally warm my geek heart, her points are REALLY, REALLY relevant.
  • DARPA uses balloons (and a cash prize) to study game theory and human behavior in social networks. This is just like grad school, only without the soul-crushing angst!
  • Smartness from Jeremy Epstein about online marketing. It's all about cultivating relationships, as any fundraiser can tell you. Why do so many of us have such as hard time with that?
  • Smartness from Seth Godin on "protecting" your ideas in the digital age. Short version? Don't - but make sure there's a way for people to pay you for them, and use them as a way of establishing your rep as an idea generator.
  • You know who else is smart? Jeffrey Cufaude, who asks if your ideas are "spongeworthy," and if that's even a good goal.
Edited to add: HAD to include this post from Jamie Notter: The time may not be right for everything...but it's ALWAYS right for something.

08 December 2009

Big Idea Month: What if associations required every staffer to cold-call one member each week just to connect and listen?

I'm just a little late to the party, but I'll be devoting the next 3 (edited 12/23 to add: nope, FOUR) Tuesdays to musing about questions from the awesome list at Acronym in honor of Big Idea Month.

So what if EVERY staff member had to talk to members on a regular basis?

Despite the existence of the idea "Membership is Everyone's Business," too often, it's really not. Membership retention, for most organizations, is the business of the membership department. If retention goes down, the membership staff gets blamed, even if the reason people are leaving is because, for instance, the receptionist is rude. Or they hate the monthly magazine. Or they've decided to focus their energies on their local chapters. Or they're organizing online. Or the annual meeting's too expensive. Or whatever.

(And, while we're on it, why are we always so concerned with affixing blame? It's pointless. It stifles innovation, because people think "cover your ass" not "come up with and try amazing new idea." And it wastes time and mental energy that would be better spent FIXING the PROBLEM. But I digress...)

I was hired for my first association job as Director of Member Services and Technology not because I knew anything about associations or management, but because I was from the profession, and the executive director figured I'd empathize with the members. And she was right. And that was great, as far as it went. Which was to one staff person. Not far enough, by a long shot.

We all talk about the idea that we exist to serve members, meet their needs, etc. But most of us have no freakin' clue what those things are. We do annual satisfaction surveys and listen to and repeat conventional wisdom and swear that we've been doing this long enough to know every little thing about our members, their industry or profession, and what's best for them.


You know the easiest way to find out what people want and need? Ask them. And not in some "1-5/very dissatisfied-very satisfied" BS survey, either.

"Hi there, . This is Elizabeth calling from NACHRI. If you have a few minutes to chat, I'd love to find out what's going on in your children's hospital and general area, and if you have any questions or comments about what's we're up to here at NACHRI."

What do you get? Information, sure, but also connection. Community. A source of new ideas. The feeling that the association cares about me. Early warning of problems that might be cropping up, whether in your industry, or related to your association.

And, more importantly, it's unfiltered. This is not meant to imply ill intent to your CEO or membership staff (the only people who commonly have contact with members). But everyone filters information they receive through their own mental maps. And someone with a different map might interpret the same data differently.

How would your association benefit from deep understanding of your members, their needs and wants, and industry or profession spread widely across the entire organization? What could you do with that? Would your members think different about the association when the renewal notices show up or when they arrive at your annual meeting if they felt connected not only to other members through the agency of the association, but to the association itself through contact with staff?

07 December 2009

Social Media Counter

Coolness shared under a Creative Commons license by Gary Hayes:

04 December 2009

Friday Top 5

Do you know what tomorrow is? It's Repeal of Prohibition Day! 66 years ago tomorrow, the US finally came to its senses and ended the disastrous experiment that was Prohibition. Which means it's time to celebrate. But how?
  1. Go to the 2nd Annual Repeal Day Ball, sponsored by PS 7's and the DC Craft Bartenders Guild.
  2. Visit one of the Washingtonian Magazine list of 75 Best Bars in the DC area.
  3. Accomplish at least ONE of the things on this list.
  4. Throw a cocktail party, Roaring Twenties attire preferred.
  5. Go to the National Archives and pay your respects to the Constitution of the United States.

03 December 2009

Recapping the Twitter Stories

Well, I've reached the end of the task I set for myself: trying to help associations think about some potential answers to the "why" of Twitter.

To recap, Twitter can be used for:
And probably a host of other things I haven't even heard about, thought about, or seen yet.

If your association is NOT using Twitter, I hope this series has at least given you some things to think about as you consider what are the right platforms and level of involvement for your organization in the world of social media.

If your association is already on Twitter, I hope this series has sparked a few ideas about what *else* you might be able to use the platform for.

Either way, I hope it's been as much fun to read as it was to write. And, of course, please bring up all the groovy uses I'm sure I missed in the comments, on your own blog, or on Twitter!

02 December 2009

What I'm Reading

Not too much other than my email this week - the price one pays for going on vacation - but I did read a few good books while I was in New Orleans:
  • Riven Rock, TC Boyle - fictionalized account of the lives of Stanley and Katherine Dexter McCormick. Not my favorite Boyle, but certainly an entertaining read and an interesting look at a very different time and culture in the US.
  • The $64 Tomato, William Alexander. If you've ever even tried to garden, you will bust a gut reading this book. Seriously. Oh Superchuck, you are gone but not forgotten.
  • A Firing Offense, George Pelecanos. The first of the Nick Stefanos books. I loved all the DC color, and the fact that it is clearly set in DC (and not Washington, and yes, there is a major difference), but it seemed a little dated with all the references to bands and clubs that don't exist anymore, and I'm not a big crime novel fan in general. Not sure if I should follow up with more of the Nick Stefanos books - opinions?
  • The Neon Rain, James Lee Burke. I always try to read a book about or set in New Orleans when I'm there, and this time I chose, perhaps poorly, another crime novel. I know this is supposed to be the first of the Dave Robicheaux novels, but it really, really felt like I was coming into the story mid-way - and not in the good way. Again, not sure if I'm going to bother with any more of these - opinions?
  • Finally, because I can't *completely* ignore the association world, I finally read Lynn Morton's great article in the October issue of Associations Now. If your organization is looking into or using social media (which you really, really should be by now), you should definitely check out her colorful and easy to understand breakdown of AAPA's use of some of the major platforms and what they've learned from it. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be available online, so go get yourself a print copy!

01 December 2009

Twitter Story: Fundraising

I have to admit, I don't have a story to relate about using Twitter for fundraising. And in fact, the whole issue of social media and fundraising is a bit problematic, to say the least.

A lot of cause-related nonprofits were really excited about the potential of the Facebook causes app - until they realized that, while it's pretty easy to get people to join/be a fan of your cause, it's not so easy to actually get them to open their wallets - Facebook causes provide a very weak sense of affiliation.

Blogging is a great way to raise awareness of issues (just Google changeblogging if you don't believe me), but again, most blogs don't see enough traffic to generate a lot of cash (and I'm not even talking about fundraising asks here - I'm talking about ads, product placements, and endorsements).

You know what's still the most effective way to fundraise? Direct mail. You know what's still the second most effective way to fundraise? Email campaigns. No skool like the old skool.

But some organizations have experienced success using SMS, and that leads us to Twitter. Much like it's older sibling, Twitter can be a great way to raise microfunds. Now for the average association, microfunds may not be worth it - the funds we need to raise tend to be more in the major donor/capital campaign arena or be related to advocacy work (which comes with a whole range of legal requirements that would be tough to verify in 140 characters), so getting $5 here and $10 there may not seem worth the trouble.

But Twitter provides, as always, another platform to get the word out. Are you going to recruit a major donor through Twitter? Probably not. But you can use it as another method to maintain your relationship with an existing major donor. Can you run a capital campaign entirely on Twitter? Probably not. But you can use it as another way of spreading the word about your campaign and providing campaign updates. Can you do your silent auction 100% on Twitter? Probably not. But you could allow people who aren't present to bid via tweet. And if you have a compelling story and a connected group, you'd be amazed at what you can accomplish in a short amount of time.

And I haven't even touched on the concept of Twestivals.

What is your organization doing to get the word out about your fundraising goals? Could Twitter help?

30 November 2009

Twitter Story: Marketing

I'm back from my blogcation, and continuing my Twitter tales. This one focuses on using Twitter for marketing.

Three exemplars of what can be done with Twitter to market your organization are:
  1. Dell
  2. Zappos
  3. California Tortilla
All three companies use their Twitter presence for a combination of marketing and customer service/interaction.

California Tortilla provides periodic free giveaways to their Twitter followers - everything from burritos if you say the secret phrase to Twitter-only coupons to periodic swag bags. The main Zappos account is tweeted by CEO Tony Hsieh. He drops in tidbits like "follow the link for FREE LIFETIME VIP CLUB status" (hey, that's a good offer - and there's still one day left!) amongst a little personal news and a series of interesting quotes from various famous people. Dell also shares a lot of online only coupons, pre-sales and other deals, in addition to running a CheapTweet store.

OK, you're probably not going to attract the 1.5 million followers Tony Hsieh has, or the 1.4 million Dell has. But you don't need to, because you probably don't have 1.5 million members. California Tortilla has more like 2200 followers, and they've done it through word of mouth because of their great deals.

What great deals could you offer? Could you offer a special discount to an upcoming event, or a free preview of a forthcoming publication, or information about a "secret" chat with an expert in your field to your Twitter followers?

What are you doing to market your association and your products and services through Twitter?

23 November 2009


The spouse and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with a week in The City That Care Forgot, and I am, consequently, not blogging this week.

I do encourage you to spend some time thinking about what you're thankful for in this harvest season, though. We all spend too much time running around striving mightily (particularly in the DC Metro area), and not enough time appreciating the good in our lives. Don't be that guy, at least not this week.

(Twitter stories will resume after the break.)

20 November 2009

Friday Top 5

My spouse and I are headed to New Orleans for Thanksgiving. The top 5 things I'm looking forward to:
  1. Being on vacation - last stretch of more than 3 days off (i.e., a long weekend) was in April.
  2. Thanksgiving dinner at Commander's Palace
  3. Big Al Carson & the Bluesmasters at the Funky Pirate
  4. Getting a Ramos Gin Fizz at Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone
  5. Rebirth's late night show at the Maple Leaf

19 November 2009

Twitter Story: Broadcast

Although social media can facilitate conversations and relationships, it can also be used pretty effectively as a broadcast mechanism, Twitter included.

One of the truisms of association management is that our members don't pay attention, don't read what we send them, and often don't know what's going on, even when it's something that *should* be really important to them.

Twitter can provide an additional platform to get the word out.

I'm going to call myself out here. I never seem to know when the ASAE calls for presentations for various conferences open and close. Yes, ASAE sends emails and posts the information to the web site, and yet, somehow, I always seem to miss it (see above re: not paying attention, not reading what they send me, and not knowing what's going on, even when it's something that's important to me). You know when I spot the announcements? When asaecenter tweets them out (i.e., Nov 9th tweet about AM2010 call, which I actually spotted and am currently working on a submission as a result).

Guy Kawasaki is the master of Twitter broadcasting. His use of Twitter is somewhat controversial, but he's up front about the fact that he uses it as a medium to broadcast his answer to the question: "What's interesting?" It's not a conversational mechanism for Guy.

This is not to say that it has to be all one or the other - I would hope by now that it would be clear that Twitter can fulfill a number of functions at once - but could your organization use an additional platform to get the word out about what you're up to? Could Twitter be useful for that?

18 November 2009

What I'm Reading

  • More ideas about what will be required to fix US health care. This particular article focuses on evidence-based care (treatment by what works as opposed to by everything your insurance company will pay for).
  • Some docs are tweeting from the OR to reduce stress for the patient's loved ones.
  • How to write a mission statement that isn't dumb. You know who you are. Go read the article, and then get yourself a quantifiable goal and go do it.
  • The harsh realities of social media marketing. Reality #1 - no one is reading your blog. Uh oh :)
  • Follow up posts to #smw09. (That aren't on this blog.) There are some interesting debates going on - you might want to check them out.
  • Another Always the Last to Know bonus: 22 cheap or free tools to improve the usability of your web site.
  • I just finished The Book Thief. I'm not usually a big fan of fiction around WWII/Nazi Germany for a variety of reasons, but I really liked this.
  • I'm currently reading Riven Rock, another TC Boyle joint. Reviews have called it his best book, but Tequila Curtain and The Inner Circle remain my top picks for Boyle goodness.

17 November 2009

Twitter Story: Member Engagement

We all know that the Holy Grail of Associations is member engagement. Engaged members care, participate, evangelize, volunteer, and, most importantly, renew. There are LOTS of ways you can engage your members, and you should do as many as your level of staffing and organizational culture can support, but Twitter can be one of them.

My favorite current example of member engagement through Twitter is the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Rather than having a faceless organizational Twitter account, they've chosen to have 3 staff people tweet officially for the association as individuals: AAPALynn, AAPABrooke, and chemonesiacjan.

Twitter is a good platform for AAPA because of the demographics of their members, who trend heavily to GenX and Millennials and work in healthcare, so they're on mobile devices all day rather than sitting at a computer. And Brooke, Lynn, and Janette certainly use the platform for other functions - broadcast, marketing, etc.

But in a recent conversation, Lynn Morton (AAPALynn) shared with me a few examples of how they're using Twitter to facilitate actual conversation and connection both between physician assistants and between the PAs and the association. My favorite? A PA student tweeted Lynn in a panic, not knowing what to wear to a critical interview. She re-tweeted it out to everyone who follows her, and the student got some useful advice to help her choose a good interview outfit. Sounds trivial, right? But I'll bet that PA now feels a deep connection to her association due to what, for her, was extraordinary customer service.

What are you doing to provide extraordinary customer service for your members and other constituents? Could Twitter help you create those magic moments that turn people into evangelists?

16 November 2009

Twitter Story: Chat

Is your association using chat at all to reach out to members?

NACHRI used chat, as embedded in Adobe Connect, rather successfully this past summer to host a discussion with a panel of experts on a critical, time-sensitive policy issue (for the curious, the idea of community benefit in hospitals and how it might affect their tax status). We were able to go from idea to hosting the chat in about 2 1/2 weeks, we had about 60 participants on the day, and the transcript was later posted to our web site (on the linked wiki that does require membership to access). All in all, a very successful event.

But there were a few downsides - you had to register in advance (and be a member even to do that) and have the client side of Adobe Connect set up properly. If you found out too late or had technical difficulties with the platform, you were out of luck.

What if that same task could have been accomplished without all the hoops?

It can - chatting through Twitter, a good example of which is #assnchat.

What is #assnchat? A large group of association pros regularly gather on Twitter (weekly, Tuesday, 2 pm ET) to chat about association related topics.

What do they talk about? Anything and everything. You know how great it is when you end up at the Right Table at lunch at a conference, or standing in the Right Group at the cocktail party, or you meet someone who's really smart and engaging and knowledgeable? That's what #assnchat is like every week.

Want to participate? Follow #assnchat on Tuesdays.

Feel like it would be too hard to follow from Twitter, TweetDeck or Hootsuite? Check out TweetChat next Tuesday.

Does your association use chat? If you aren't using chat, why not? If you are, have you tried it on Twitter?

13 November 2009

Friday Top 5

I've been in Chicago (OK, actually at the Hyatt Regecy at O'Hare) this week for meetings, and it reminded me of how much I love Chicago and how I never get to spend enough time when I'm here. My top 5 favorite things about Chicago:
  1. Probably the best, most interesting architecture of any city in the US.
  2. Great views from the tops of a lot of the buildings, and they understand that you put a BAR up there so people can enjoy.
  4. Fab live music scene.
  5. I love being in any city where people are as sports-obsessed as where I grew up. I don't feel so much like a freak.

12 November 2009

Twitter Story: Conferences

I am definitely not the first person - and I'm sure I won't be the last - to have my Twitter epiphany at a conference. Mine came at Great Ideas 2009.

I seem to have developed a tradition of being a relatively late adopter of social media technologies, and then caving to peer pressure at the Tech Conference. My 2008 cave? Facebook and LinkedIn. My 2009 cave? Twitter. After being pestered to get with it for at least 6 months, I finally did. But I wasn't quite Getting It until Great Ideas.

"I Get It!" #1 - I gave up on the Twitter interface and installed TweetDeck. If you're still using the basic Twitter interface to try to manage things, don't. Get TweetDeck or Hootsuite ASAP. Actually, there are lots of great apps that can help you manage (and have fun with) Twitter. But, if you do NOTHING else, at least upgrade your own user experience.

"I Get It!" #2 - Tweet the main points any speaker is making in any session you attend. Your own tweet history = instant session notes!

"I Get It!" #3 - I was tweeting away during a session given by Lindy Dreyer and Scott Briscoe using my shiny new TweetDeck install and I noticed that I had a new follower - @jeffhurt. And he was @ replying me a question for the presenters. And not only wasn't he in the room, he wasn't even at the conference. And I asked it and got an answer for him and @ replied back.

Now I know what you're thinking: if everyone can get the content through Twitter, no one will come to my conference. Nope. Because they still miss the networking and hallway conversations. As a matter of fact, if *some* of the goodness of your conference gets out on Twitter, it could potentially increase attendance, as more people see what they're missing.

I know what else you're thinking: what if people don't like the speakers and say mean things? And I'll be honest - that could happen. But we're back to the standard answer that's always given to the "what if they say bad things about us?" question: they're saying it anyway. Wouldn't you rather know? The real problem with the feedback mechanism is that most presenters (I include myself) lack the ability to pay attention to the crowd in the room, keep the flow of the presentation going, and pay attention to the Twitter stream, which might tell us that we're missing the mark before it's too late and the presentation is over and we get back our evaluations weeks later and it turns out, people weren't getting what they came for and if only we'd known we might have been able to make some adjustments. (Also, most of us save the really catty comments for direct messages :)

So how are you using Twitter to make your organization's meetings better and/or enhance your own experience as an attendee or virtual attendee?

11 November 2009

What I'm Reading

10 November 2009

Twitter Story: Advocacy

One answer to the "why" of Twitter: advocacy campaigns.

This past spring, a little issue popped up. You may even have heard something about it. "Health care reform" ring any bells? Sure, we all knew it was on Obama's agenda, but we didn't realize it was FIRST on his agenda. We figured he'd be busy settling in and house training Bo for a while, but the man can multi-task. Another concern? Kids and kids' needs were pretty much being ignored. Seeing as NACHRI is an association of children's hospitals, you can see how we might be a little worried.

Grassroots campaign to the rescue!

Now normally, in a situation like this, you fire up the ZIP-targeted direct mail for key Congressional districts and blitz people with email action alerts. Only our members are the hospitals. And it's not like we could start calling up members and asking, "Hey, we know you're really busy and stuff, but could you possibly send us the names, emails and snail mail addresses for every patient and her/his family you've treated in the past 3 years? Kthxbai."

So how else were we going to reach people? Power of social media, aka Speak Now For Kids.

You can check out the slides Caroline Fuchs and I did for DMAW to get the details on all the components of the campaign.

Twitter has been primarily a broadcast mechanism for the campaign to date. We didn't have any connection to the grassroots, but there are a lot of medical people, a lot of moms, and a lot of journalists on Twitter. The Speak Now Twitter account has served as a great way for us to bring attention any time a key vote or action is going on. We can't send you an action alert asking you to contact your representatives, but we can tweet it. It's also a great way for us to get the word out when new videos, pictures, and written testimonials are posted to the site or to our YouTube channel. It also allows us to share quotable information like the fact that 17,000 kids have died in the past 20 years from lack of health insurance.

Sure, we've made some mistakes. First of all, the Twitter handle is probably too long - takes up too many characters in re-tweets and via and @ replies. Early on, we weren't remembering to include the http:// on our URLs, with the result that they generally weren't clickable. And we weren't using URL shorteners to make our tweets easy to share. And we were using #speaknowforkids as the campaign hash tag (that's been shortened to #hcr). It's still mostly broadcast rather than conversation. But we're learning and fixing things as we go. And Twitter had allowed us to reach 2200 people we otherwise wouldn't have had access to and ask them to raise their voices in support of kids' health.

How is your organization using social media to support your advocacy efforts?

09 November 2009

Forget the "How" - Worry about the "Why"

Leslie White and I did a two hour (well, actually 1:15 after you took out the breaks and the fact that the predecessor session went long) session on Twitter at ASAE's social media workshop last week. We had planned to talk a little about the mechanics and a lot about what associations are actually doing with Twitter. But we got bogged down in the how - how do I set up an account, how to I protect/unprotect my tweets, how do I use re-tweet, @ messages, via messages, direct messages, URL shorteners, etc. I was not thrilled at the time, and upon reflection, I'm even more dismayed that we got so sidetracked, not least of which because I'm sure a certain percentage of participants were totally bored.

The biggest problem is that, if you lack a solid answer to "why," no matter how easy the "how" is, it's too hard. And if you have a good answer to "why," you'll figure out the "how."

When I asked how many participants had Twitter accounts, probably 75% of the room raised their hands. When I asked how many had tweeted within the last month, maybe 25% still had their hands up. When I got to how many had tweeted within the last day or hour, it was pretty much down to just the presenters.

Now why is that? Is it that it's SOOOOOO hard to go to www.twitter.com, compose a 140 character message, and hit "return"? No.

But if you haven't a good answer to "why am I doing this?" ANY "how do I do it?" is too hard. Because you know what's easier 100% of the time? Doing nothing. You need a reason to move. And without that, any "how" is too much trouble.

And the thing is, the "how" of Twitter is really, really simple. (And yes, I know I'm techno-friendly, but I'm definitely not a bleeding edge early adopter type. And I'm not a rocket scientist, by any stretch of the imagination. Which means that if I can figure it out, so can you.)

Step 1: Sign up for account.

Go to www.twitter.com. Click on the big green Sign Up Now button. Type in your name and email address, select a username and password, type in the captcha, and click on the Create My Account button. That's it. If you want to get fancy, click on "settings" to add a little more information about yourself, and maybe a picture, and decide whether or not to protect your updates (I recommend no), but to start tweeting - and, more importantly, paying attention to conversations - all you have to do is have an account.

Step 2: (recommended but not required) Set yourself up one of the alternative platforms.

The thing about the Twitter interface is that it's kind of like when you first got cell service. And you got a free cell phone. And you were really excited about that free phone, until you realized that all it did was make calls (if that). The alternate Twitter platforms are like smart phones - they make the basic functions of Twitter easier to use and provide additional features. Most people use either HootSuite (a web site you log into with your Twitter account information) or TweetDeck (a piece of software you download and install on your computer and log into with your Twitter account information).

Step 3: It's a cocktail party.

You wouldn't charge into a party where you don't know anyone and start making loud declarative statements, would you? (I hope not.) You'd start by listening to what's happening, getting a feel for the room, and then joining a conversation that sounds interesting. Twitter's the same way, only online and in 140 character bursts. Who do you follow? Start with this group, then see who they're following. You can also go to What the Hashtag and look for topics that are interesting to you. Follow any bloggers? You can do a people search on Twitter and see if they're there. Going to any conferences? Many organizations assign conference hashtags (like #smw09), which means you can follow what's going on at that event and, again, maybe find people to follow.

Oh - and all those "cool kids" comments? While there are some genuine social media rockstars (and no, I don't mean Ashton Kucher or Oprah), I'll tell you the secret to becoming one of the "cool kids" (and I won't even make you pinkie swear that you won't tell anyone): get on the social media platforms (blogs, wikis, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), talk to people, and say interesting things. That's it. It's a total meritocracy.

See? Easy how.

So what's the why? You have to answer that for yourself, but I'm going to try to help you, by relating some stories of ways I've used - or seen others using - Twitter to engage people and benefit their associations over the next few weeks. Want me to talk about what you've been up to? Email me at ewengel at yahoo dot com. And check back - I post 5 days a week, and I plan to focus on this (barring my Wednesday blog roundups and my Friday Top 5 lists) until I run out of stories to tell.

06 November 2009

Friday Top 5

So if you saw my tweet stream and/or Facebook this week, you saw I was looking for "heroic" songs for a playlist for something for NACHRI. Here are my top 5 favorite "hero" tunes in the playlist:
  1. Theme from Rocky (gimme a break - I'm from Philly)
  2. Nothing Else Matters (James Hetfield may be an ass, but Metallica ROCKS)
  3. Lift Every Voice and Sing (Mahalia Jackson version)
  4. Redemption Song (Bob Marley version)
  5. The Harvest Song
Don't know that last one?

Our hands will work for peace and justice
Our hands will work to heal the land
Gather round the harvest table
Let us feast and bless the land

05 November 2009


Hey! I'm at the ASAE social media workshop today and tomorrow presenting on Twitter with the fabulous Leslie White. Follow what's going on in real time via the #SMW09 hashtag!

04 November 2009

What I'm Reading

Super quick, as I get ready for #SMW09 tomorrow:

03 November 2009

More Google Awesomeness

Those smarties at Google are at it again! You can now export your docs, if you, say, want to send an attachment rather than inviting someone into your Google Docs area. 'bout time! (I wanted to include a cool screen shot, but it was coming up all fuzzy. Damn.)

And they're testing social search, which uses your public social network profiles to help display more relevant search results, at Google Labs.

02 November 2009

The Future of the Workplace

Jeremy Epstein (of Never Stop Marketing) interviews Adriana Lukacs (of much cool stuff) on social media, disruptive technologies, collaboration, co-working, innovation, and the future of the workplace.

(The vid is a little jerky, but stick with it anyway.)

30 October 2009

Friday Top 5

I'm not a big horror movie fan, but there are some good scary movies out there. In honor of the season, my top 5 favorite scary movies:
  1. Scream. The first - and still the best - horror/comedy mashup. Wes Craven, you're the man.
  2. Blair Witch Project. I know "nothing happens!" but if you've ever spent much time in the woods alone or in small groups, you can totally see something like this going down, and it will scare the hoo-has out of you.
  3. Psycho. It's a classic, and the first Hitchcock movie I ever saw, I think when I was in the 5th or 6th grade. Yes, I went through a period afterwards when I was afraid to take showers.
  4. Night of the Living Dead. The first - and still the best - zombie movie.
  5. Halloween. Yes, the original. How could I have this list and NOT include Ms. Jamie Lee Curtis, the scream queen?
Go get your spooky on!