This month I had the privilege of having a guest article on social media appear in Quorum Magazine, a publication of the Washington Metropolitan Chapter of the Community Associations Institute.
To read the article in its entirety, click here:
While it was written for professional community managers, lessons for all abound. Here are a few excerpts:
Visual social media is big and getting bigger all the time.
Commit to listening and engaging with your community.
Storytelling has gone to the amateur. You become the reporter, the editor, the storyteller, the photojournalist. People and organizations who capture what’s happening are rewarded with greater attention.
Think about campaigns and themes. Think about what you would find interesting. Be curious. Be spontaneous. Find a new angle on an old story.
Develop ways you can be a resource for your community. Pinterest is a great platform for this. You could put together boards on area restaurants or nearby activities.
Ask questions. Perfect for Twitter or Facebook, asking genuine questions and soliciting input is a great way to engage the community.
Think creatively and stay engaged on social media, and you’ll see both your online and offline presence strengthened in the community.
My first career was as a teacher, coach, and camp director. Being a camp director is the most fun I’ve ever had at a job, but there were also numerous lessons. Keep the kids active and happy, and the parents will be happy. They’ll keep coming back, and they’ll tell their friends. One way we saw success is that while growing in enrollment each summer we also filled all spaces with earlier registrations each spring. At its very heart being a camp director is community management. I share some of those lessons with you now.
Identify talent. One of the aspects of this position I really liked was recruiting the counselors from area colleges. They were student leaders and college athletes. They were future teachers and social workers. These students brought with them certain talents and interests. I set accountability and expectations and then let them go. They were motivated to contribute their ideas, their energy, and their time; and I let them. They exceeded my expectations many times because I gave them ownership. How are you identifying leaders in your community? What opportunities are you giving them to contribute, to take ownership?
Free swims are the best. In the heat of the summer (and we’re talking about the summer in North Carolina), there’s nothing quite like that time in the afternoon when it’s your group’s turn to cool off in the pool. Different groups form, and various activities begin. Boys race for dive sticks, a game of Sharks and Minnows forms, and kids initiate a largest splash contest. The worst thing you can do is schedule and dictate involvement. Let it be organic. Let members decide their activities and their connections. You give them the environment.
It doesn’t hurt to have a game room. Although a small space with just a few arcade video games and a pinball machine, campers enjoyed their time here. The lights and sounds captivated them. The quest for a high score motivated them. It was fun, and there weren’t a lot of rules. There didn’t have to be; each game had its own rules for success: avoid the alien spaceship, the ghosts when they turn blue, and the silver ball going down the middle. With an online community, have a place where members can gather and play. Let them define what success looks like in this space. Make it fun. Make it entertaining. Make it out of the ordinary.
Candy, candy, candy. Okay, it’s not just candy, but it’s also stickers and prizes and certificates and awards. The point is recognition. Rewards motivate. Whether it was at the end of the day or the end of a week, campers took pride in these moments of accomplishment. They would excitedly tell their parents and siblings about what they had won or earned. Are your members feeling valued? Do you regularly demonstrate your appreciation for them? Are you giving them reasons to talk about your community to their peers?
Sometimes you just have to get on a van and go somewhere. We had clubs that would take the kids for a hike or out on a boat. There were nearby resources we could utilize that were not on our property. A change of scenery and a varied activity breathed life into the day-to-day routine of camp. How do you utilize other environments to strengthen the community? In what ways do you bring the online community together elsewhere? What new ways of looking at this could breathe life into the routine?
If you attended camp as a child, there’s a good chance that you have a favorite story or a treasured memory. I know I do, and I also know that as a camp director I helped create some of these moments for children as well. They last a lifetime. Why not bring some of the camp atmosphere into your online community and see its lasting impact?
What are your favorite memories from summer camp? What lessons do you see for building a strong community?
Top DCWeek quotes and tweets (followed by my own reflections):
Technology catalyzes community; technology doesn’t create community. @spenceg1
Yes, no matter how much technology that you throw at it, community is still about the people. This is just as true of online communities as it is of offline communities. What are you doing to foster a sense of belonging, a sense of engagement in your organization?
When you’re building community, leverage pre-existing communities. @corbett3000
Peter’s quote here and subsequent comments gave me this sense that we all live in overlapping communities. Also, there are pre-existing communities. That doesn’t mean that there’s not room for more or a need for more specialized or localized (or global) communities. What it does mean is a lot more optimistic: you don’t have to start from square one. What organizations can you partner with to co-promote opportunities that would benefit both?
Design of interface creates a space just as it does in physical world, sends a message. @spenceg1
Spencer talked about how literally rolling out a red carpet would make visitors to an office feel welcome. This can be done in the digital space as well. Design sends a message. What does the design of your web site, blog, and/or registration forms say about your organization? What message are you sending?
Justin Thorp touched on how a limited budget doesn’t need to limit creativity, innovation, and impact. The project he cited went on to be one that the Library of Congress touted as one of its most successful for that year. What low-cost solutions could be game changers for your organization?
What really struck me in this session is how being an entrepreneur is not an either/or proposition. It’s possible that right now within your organization you have individuals who- given the right resources, time, and support- could develop the next great idea. Don’t force them out. Give them the opportunity to tap into their creativity, skills, and experience to make a difference.
I really enjoyed the Pitch Jam! session where 24 start-ups gave 60-second pitches and were evaluated by a panel of judges on their presentations. Below you’ll find the ones that stood out to me for their applicability to associations, non-profits, and other organizations.
@TeamVisibility (cloud-based service that lets you see, hear and coach a team)- A resource like this could prove to be useful for sales, customer service, or other teams that are not in the same location and are interested in improvement and effectiveness.
@Markerly (A highlighter for published content with powerful sharing functions to drive more visitors)- Incorporating a tool like this can make it easier for individuals to share content from your web site and increase engagement with repeat visits.
@BarrelofJobs (crowdsourcing for jobs)- What could this concept mean for Monster, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, etc.? What could the effect be for association and non-profit job boards or how could they tap into the power of friends referring friends for jobs?
@BlastRoots (free grassroots advocacy campaigns)- It’s important that associations, non-profits, and other organizations understand these kinds of tools and how to leverage them to motivate their constituencies to action.
@CrimePush (safety intelligence app)- A tool like this could have a wide impact as associations and non-profits work with college campuses, local jurisdictions, and conference host cities to create safer environments for students, citizens, and attendees.
@socialtables (event planning software)- “An opportunity for your target audience to connect with each other, your brand, and your cause.” is one of their mantras. Social Tables is finding a way to make putting events together easier and the end result more impactful. What could this mean for your organization and its conferences, fundraisers, etc.?
What stood out to you from DCWeek? What lessons did you learn? What speakers or blog posts did you find to be insightful?
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