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Live from Association New Media Summit 2009

Today’s guest post is from Doug Naegele, founder of mobile media firm TextandShout.com. An avid SmartBrief on Social Media reader and inveterate entrepreneur, Doug sent these notes from the Association New Media Summit in Arlington, Va., which brought together trade groups, technology vendors and new media thinkers for seminars and brainstorming.

One of the main reasons professionals and businesses join trade associations is to connect with other members.  This means that online social networking presents both a threat and a huge opportunity to associations. Yesterday’s meeting was all about capitalizing on the latter.  Here are the key takeaways:

  • Association members are uniquely positioned to be content contributors to their association’s social media efforts. They possess deep knowledge on topics important to other readers, the communication channel to them is already open, and they are usually willing to provide that content for free – a position that most publishers would kill for.
  • Two major roadblocks often stand in the way of unleashing this kind of user generated content are technology and upper management buy-in.  Associations, especially those with fewer than 50,000 members, don’t spend much money outside simple Web design (CMS vendors…are you listening?).  This can hamper efforts to obtain, tag and present content sourced from members.
  • Facebook, with its open comment, open membership structure, makes many association execs nervous. Traditionally, associations have been based on “Qualify for membership first, pay your dues, then get the content.” Letting just anyone in on the privileged conversation via Facebook and Twitter is seen as diluting the brand. Many attendees said that very small, low-risk pilot programs were putting nicks in the wall.
  • Examples of Associaitons using social media successfully:
    • American Library Association: Facebook page has 7000 fans and points to a host of free-flowing topics.
    • American Bar Institute/American Bar Association: makes sure an “Add This” button sits next to all its content, so readers can link to any manor of social media.
    • Beextra.org is crowdsourcing volunteers, via Web and iPhone apps, who only have 20 minutes to give.

Image credit, via iStock

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