and cultivate your own development.
From the beginning with DelCor, I was excited that I might be able to do all those things and more! I was excited I would be able to apply what I did (make memberships stronger - make belonging to a group more fun) to so many other organizations...and train people how to build on the systems they already had in place. My desire was strong to check out the way other associations were set up, see the differences and similarities to my own experiences, and then come in with answers they could use. My immersion, research, and passion for making groups stronger using communication (especially newer forms of communication, like social media) would be in a new home...supported by my teammates at DelCor. w00t! At the same time, I'd be learning about a whole new world, CONSULTING, which I was half happy about and half scared of when I arrived at DelCor on my first day. I didn't want to be the slick salesman...I was all about being real. I was relieved to find out DelCor was happy with being real, too.
DelCor has a good reputation. That is a big part of the reason I felt safe to jump from working for an association to what many jokingly (or not so jokingly) refer to as, "the dark side." Another big part of my decision had to do with the other people I'd met who worked there. Namely, Gretchen Steenstra and Tobin Conley, both hilarious, extremely intelligent, and TALL people (if I worked for DelCor, I'd be among other tall people...good for someone who lives and sleep in her heels... I'm only half kidding). I'd be able to hang around smarties who live and breathe the association-world like I do.
Of course, nothing is perfect. There have been hiccups.
There have also been really cool things that I've been able to be a part of:
The other day I met with Bill Walker, our marketing guru, and Dave Coriale, the infamous "Cor" in DelCor, to discuss the next year for DelCor's social media offerings. We have a lot of great ideas, but one thing I can say for sure is that this has been one hell of a great year and I am thankful to all of DelCor's employees, clients, friends, and family who have supported me and the addition of a social media product line to DelCor's offerings.
Here's to another great year!
In a consultancy firm, you can't throw a rock without hitting someone who is a massive reader. At DelCor we have the library of professional books for browsing and a library of books for pleasure reading. Mostly, though, we all read our own literature varying from journals to blogs to the latest business management book on the market. There is a good reason for this...we are expected to be informed and knowledgeable in many areas and that means constantly educating ourselves along the way.
One great book that more than one consultant has suggested our clients read is titled, "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug. The book is all about making it easy for someone to do what they need to do for your website or program. I had to purchase this book on my Kindle after my boss, Jam Master Dave Coriale, suggested it during a meeting.
Although the principle seems simple, if you have ever been through a website redesign or tried to put together any kind of program, you soon realize how easy it is to forget the mission of simplicity. Ultimately, you want your audience to be able to act on your call to action.
Recently, I received an email asking for me to donate to the Annual Fund for Reasearch & Innovation from ASAE & The Center - a worthy cause and one I have given to previously. The message included a call to action: "Invest in Your Future Today!" and I was curious to see if they had made it easier to give than in previous years.
But when I looked for a link to the page for online donations, I found that it wasn't included. I then contacted ASAE & the Center staff to let them know they might want to resend with a link...because I really love ASAE & the Center and want to see them get the donations they are looking for.
My message is this: Make it easy. No matter how talented your staff and no matter how much you look at something, mistakes can still happen... but if you are constantly looking for ways to simplify a process for your members, you will end up with a much greater return.
UPDATE: ASAE contacted me to say within MINUTES of my posting this to say they had corrected this oversight and they even thanked me for the suggestion! Super FAST response. I'll have to blog about awesome customer service and quality monitoring next time! :) You can donate here: http://bit.ly/87mCBA.
I am not related to Nostradamus. I have no insight into the future. My crystal ball is a paperweight. My second sight is from drinking one glass of red wine too many at a networking event.
That said I can tell you the future…with two caveats:
Are you ready?
Are you sure?
Okay…here goes…I’m closing my eyes and connecting with the future…
(insert drum roll)
What? Not sexy enough? It should be. The days for discussing the newest online platforms and tools may not be entirely over, but with so many people already familiar with the typical “Twitter 101” session, there must be a next step. Something that will take associations to a better place using the technology available to us.
Providing media training for the executive office only is not enough. An emphasis on educating staff about social media policies, social media expectations, and customer service across all departments must be a priority. It isn’t only your association president in the public eye now. It’s 11 a.m.: Do you know where your interns are?
Here are some suggestions I have for associations in 2010:
Strategy: If you don’t already have a social media strategy, work on creating one for your organization. If you do have one, review it.
Policy: Create/Review your social media policy. Make it easy to understand. Share it with your organization. Every intern and employee should know what it is.
Training: Set up training sessions for staff with certain community building, customer service, or monitoring responsibilities and facilitate it with your internal evangelist or a outside professional. No one should leave the session without understanding his or her role.
There are many curious things that happen in the world of Twitter, lots of questions yet unanswered and mysteries left unsolved. One such question is this:
“What alias do I give myself when tweeting for my association?”
Is using the company name as a Twitter alias fine? What if you are part of a big group with a highly visible profile?
Would it be right if Company X has a corporate Twitter handle and then under the bio it says something like “Jane Doe, title, tweeting for Company X,” then the separate divisions have Twitter aliases as well?
Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder) discussed this on his blog post today and used Zappos as an example. Most employees of the company use the company name (Zappos), followed by an underscore, then the employee’s first name, or a variation on their own name that is unique within the company. The result is Twitter account names like@zappos_alfred and @zappos_dee. In some cases, the account name is simply the name of the department, such as @zappos_service.
The American Red Cross uses an official Twitter alias and has official Twitter aliases for their community chapters, but volunteers and staff tweet under their names. (An example @wharman tweets under her name for the ARC and blogs for them while the Red Cross National Chapter uses @RedCrossNCA.)
One more question…if Twitter comes up with a business account, will all of these questions soon be moot?
Please share your thoughts with me here or on Twitter @kikilitalien.
What if your members were able to opt-in and include their online profiles for easy contact with other members as they registered for a meeting or renewed their membership? What if your members could share their bookmarking sites, areas of interest, desired volunteer roles, along with their blogs and public profiles? Might associations consider tracking twitter IDs in the AMS? If it were easier to find fellow members who were also on Twitter, wouldn’t that aid in forging the kind of relationships associations strive to help members create?
Recently Twitter added the ability for its users to list people they follow into categories. This was a great benefit for many users who wanted the ability to look at one particular type of discussion, instead of using a third-party Twitter client, like TweetDeck. The benefit for this kind of segmentation is that one is able to categorize the people one listens to on Twitter.
Example: I can read the tweets of all people in the association world I follow by clicking on my “association peeps” list and see a conversation mostly about association-related topics. I can then easily switch over to my private Twitter list “Gadget Aficionados” to read up on the latest news there.
What does all of this have to do with missing opportunities to connect your members?
With so many online locations for members to communicate and engage, there is most likely not an easy way for them to connect to each other on popular sites like Twitter from your website or member portal. But there should be.
Associations are in the business of connecting people and organizations with one another and today there are too many places to look for that contact. Associations are in a position to provide valuable hubs of contact information and networking opportunities for their members. Just like Twitter fulfilled users’ needs for organizing followers into lists, associations might fulfill a need by providing better contact information for those members who opt-in to share that information.
There are arguments that say social networking might replace associations, but I can’t help but see that as an alarmist response. Social media provides fantastic tools to associations that have been in the business of connecting people for many years. But will associations adapt? Will associations learn new ways to provide service to members?
What are your thoughts?
Question: Would you let an intern write all your marketing copy? If so, then you can skip the rest of this post because nothing I write further down will matter much to you.
I recently attended BlogPotomac, a social media event bringing together some creative minds in the social media arena – and some newbies– who wanted to hear from the likes of Shel Israeland Beth Kanterabout trends in social media.
Following the day’s events, there was a wake (read: happy hour) held down the street in honor of it being BlogPotomac’s last meeting.
As I was walking down the street towards the wake, the person next to me started some small talk, asking what I’d thought of the day and what I did for a living.
When the conversation turned back to her, I discovered that she was a college student from Ohio interning for a local association and she had been put in charge of all things social media because she was young and automatically “in touch” with the Facebook crowd.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” she told me.
“I’ve figured a lot out, but they probably need someone who knows more about their organization.”
As much as I’d heard about interns being put in charge of social media (and there is a lot of talk about it out there in the Twitterverse), I’d never actually met one in the flesh, so I was fascinated with my new friend’s story. I like fresh voices and I think we can always learn a lot from new perspectives, but there are definitely times when more experience is advisable. I began asking her all kinds of questions.
“Do they have anyone who will take care of it once you’re gone?”
“How large is the organization and what are the members like?”
There are about 80 employees. I’m not sure what the members do.
“Do you think you’ll stay in this line of work when you leave?”
No, but I am interested in social media as it relates to marketing.
“Did they give you any goals or did they just point you to Facebook and let you go?”
They just told me to set something up on Facebook and then asked me to do something on Twitter. I’m just now getting the hang of Twitter, but I’ll be leaving them next month.
[She went on to tell me how her university wasn’t preparing their marketing majors with the appropriate courses to handle new media, but that’s for another blog post.]
I was impressed with her enthusiasm and willingness to educate herself on social media, but I found it absolutely astounding that organizations were really putting interns to work as a social media strategy. I mean, for real? Can you imagine doing this with other forms of communication coming from an organization?
Here are three reasons why hiring an intern to take care of your social media presence is a bad idea:
Your intern is not a social media strategist. Understanding your organization’s mission, members, and hot topics is imperative. Work with your employees who are your internal cheerleaders…and then add your interns with guidance – the interns (and your members) will thank you for it!
Sometimes you’re so proud of the team you have to talk about it (or blog about it in this case).
Last week’s DC area storms were particularly harsh. Several times throughout the week flash flood watches and warnings were issued, creeks flooded, roads were closed, and downloading ‘arc’ blueprint plans spiked on the internet. Really, we’ve had A LOT of rain.
One morning during a storm, our network monitoring agents alerted Ed Hunter (Manager of the Network Operations Center) that a client’s network was down. This client is part of our managed services group. We usually find it is simply a power or internet issue connectivity issue that is easily resolved. Ed called our client to let them know that there was a problem and we were already troubleshooting the issue. It turned out there was a big problem - the server room was flooded.
At this point Ed notified Brian (Vice President of Network Systems & Support) and Chris (CTO) and set our disaster recovery plan into action. Within 45 minutes Ed was on-site assessing the situation. He could see a ceiling panel had bowed down and buckled from the weight of the water entering from above. The balcony drain on the third floor had clogged, sending water through the doors and the ceiling to the second floor and into the server room.
Because of the unique aspect of the ‘issue’ and critical nature of the outage, Brian and Chris arrived onsite to assist Ed. By 11:00 am they were pulling the servers out of the rack and deconstructing them. Each time a server was removed it drained a few gallons of water. Six servers, representing the organization’s entire network and data, were removed from the rack and drained.
After many hours of drying the servers were powered up again. By 5:00 pm, five out of six servers were operational. However, the MS Exchange server was still down and required a motherboard replacement. We were able to obtain a replacement motherboard and install it by 7:30 pm. Everything was back up and running by 9:00 pm – less than 15 half hours later.
We had two other plans in place which included a virtualized server bank or co-locating their file servers at our data center. We, and they, were happy we didn’t need to go to plan B or C.
While not everyone can emerge from a situation like this quickly and with minimal damage, everyone can take steps to minimize their vulnerability to these types of disasters. It’s important to assess the location of your servers for dangers and try to eliminate them. What’s above your servers? How quickly would you be back up and running?
The bottom line is a significant level of effort went into our managed service offering and seeing the team execute it flawlessly is certainly worth the shout out to our network systems and support team.
I usually don't need, or want to be the first with a new technology 'toy.' However, I did want to be among the first with the Blackberry Storm. The Storm arrived in stores yesterday so I went to the Verizon store in Chevy Chase, Md about two hours after it opened. Put my name on the list and started asking
questions. It seems the store opened at 9:00 and so far only the first seven or eight customers had activated phones. The product roll-out rivals Apple's iPhone as one of the worst product roll-outs in the past few years. Verizon did a fantastic job building hype and anticipation for the Storm. What they didn't do is match that effort with a comparable production or distribution effort and they appear to have failed to engineer an activation system/network that could support the demand. The Verizon staff told us that the system had crashed at about 9:30 (nation-wide) and no one knew when it would be available again. It wasn't slow, like Apple's system was, it was down and out. To further frustrate customers, the store only received 20 phones. Later, it received another 40 but the system still wasn't up and running when I checked in again at about 2:00. Other stores reported receiving as few as 15 phones. What were they thinking? There were at least 60 people in line when I was there and they had all stood there for two hours and were willing to keep waiting. I don't know how long they waited. I stopped by the store again this morning and the sales team told me they are completely sold out of phones (what? you sold all 60 phones? remarkable) and don't know when or if they will get any more. I can order one and it is likely I will get it before Christmas.
Don't you wonder who is making the decisions that lead up to a situation like this? Granted, no one is losing their life because they can't get a Storm - but in tough economic times, shouldn't the company be smart enough to capitalize on an opportunity like this? Hopefully we all can learn from their mistakes as we roll out our products and services.
My daughter requested a pineapple upside down cake for her birthday yesterday. I went to Giant and found the cake mix and canned pineapples without any problems. The aisles are marked "Baking Supplies" and "Canned Fruit" so finding both items was easy. However, how about the maraschino cherries? Where were they? Where would you look? I looked up and down the fruit aisle. There were jars of cherries, but not the kind I wanted. I felt like I was in the right "category"- but no luck. What I really wanted was a search box to type "maraschino cherries" in and see where they were located. I did the next best thing and asked a person stocking the shelves. He looked at me like I was a nut and said he couldn't help me. I am not kidding. He'd never heard of maraschino cherries. [side note on the customer service aspect of this: he should have directed me to someone that could help instead of turning his back and resuming what he was doing] Feeling confident that this huge Giant had the cherries, I switched to a new "category search." I went to the ice cream aisle and found the toppings shelf. More forms of pineapple, chocolate sauces, sprinkles (or jimmies depending on where you're from), etc... were all very well stocked - no cherries though. Finally, I went to the Solutions desk and a nice young lady showed me the cherries were in aisle 11 next to the cocktail olives and onions. Of course!
My point is, your web content is just like the maraschino cherries. A user will look for content based on their particular frame of mind at a particular time. What you may think of as an event content, a user might think of as educational content because they are looking for continuing education credits. Neither is wrong, but if the content is only in one place, your user might not find it quickly and they will move on. Also, consider how easy it is to point users to a new location online. Giant has to stock the cherries in multiple locations if they want me to find it based on my frame of reference. Or, alternatively they could put a sign in the sundae toppings area stating, "maraschino cherries are in aisle 11." Naturally, online this is accomplished simply by placing a link to the educational conference in the 'events' area of your Web site as well as the educational content area. I know this seems like common sense, but we see the failure to complete such a simple step and the effects in our usability studies. And in some cases, the search function isn't much more helpful than the Giant staff person who didn't know what I was talking about.