Web 2.0 (synonymous with social media) is a term which first made its appearance in 2004, to describe applications that harnessed collective intelligence such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. A web 2.0 world is dynamic, interactive and brimming with knowledge to be shared and communities to be made.
This is an exciting time for associations, as low cost web technology has now become available to allow your members to be readily involved in Association business without having to attend meetings or read a hard copy of your monthly Association newsletter. Web 2.0 allows your members to engage with each other in “conversation”, giving them direct access to more information, without involving Committee members and staff. High speed broadband promises to be available to everyone within a few years and this will encourage the development of exciting new web technologies.
Forward-looking organizations are using their online presence as a conversation tool to promote member-generated content, to gather member’s feedback and new ideas and to increase activity and involvement amongst members. Without making your members an integral part of your website’s content creation, your website can easily become a series of stagnant pages offering minimal value and interest to your members. Online web technologies such as blogging, podcasting, comments, Wikis and RSS feeds are the web 2.0 tools which will grow your organization.
Web 2.0 allows documents to be developed collaboratively without the need to meet face-to-face, and for those with a busy schedule, provides the opportunity to catch-up missed meetings and even participate remotely via a video and audio link.
The challenge for Association leaders is to recognize that your members are your most valuable asset and that all knowledge and wisdom does not lie within “the Committee”.
For some organizations, uptake of new technologies can necessitate a culture change; with fear of loss of control, resistance to change and breakdown of hierarchies inhibiting the process. Fortunately with an ageing and declining membership, many organizations realize that they have little choice but to move away from traditional communication methods. Social networking surveys show that it is not just your younger members who are ready for the change; the biggest growth in Facebook is from women who are 55+. Almost half of your members will already be participating in some form of social networking.
Change is often difficult and Associations need to plan so that changes occur smoothly and are well accepted. Having the Committee and Webmaster on-side and a well respected member to “champion” the change is critical. The Committee may initially need to “seed” the website to get the ball rolling, and although it won’t happen overnight, the increased interaction will be worth the effort.
Can you justify the time cost to your Committee? Do you have goals and are they compatible with your Association’s mission? Is social networking the way you want to go? What do you want to accomplish? Who can help make it happen? Who is your audience? Are your goals measurable?
These are all questions you need to be able to answer before you start to invest heavily in a web 2.0 presence. Remember that for every hour your Association invests in social networking, an hour is lost from other projects that might have been more productive.
How much time does web 2.0 take?
The time cost of Web 2.0 is not in development but in management, maintenance, and growth. It may take you only a few minutes to create a blog, but doing so means (hopefully) a commitment to frequent content posts. You could be a participant by adding to existing blogs or posting to online photo galleries (1-5 hours/week), a content provider by starting a blog or podcast (5-10 hours/week) or “community director” for your Association (10-20 hours/week). [Source: Museum 2.0]
Provide the means for your members to interact, to communicate, to learn, and they will grow together, becoming an interactive community, rather than isolated individuals. A sense of community will retain and involve your “old” members, and at the same time attract and welcome new members.
Some Web 2.0 Technologies for your Association
Do you want your Association to be found in a Google search? One of the best ways is to have new content appearing on your website regularly and what could be easier for your webmaster than having a member’s blog. Even better, good content will encourage others to link to your blog, positioning your website even higher in web searches.
Having a member’s blog means that members can freely contribute, but the consequences are that not always will the Committee agree with what they write. This should be seen as a positive, because it will allow the Committee to respond quickly to members concerns. A successful blog will allow comments, as it is the conversation created from the posting rather than the posting itself that is important. Conversations sometimes need “seeding” to get them started; an important role for Committee members. You might like to allow members to subscribe to new postings (RSS) and have your webmaster incorporate a member rating system for contributions to give you some indication of the topics which are popular.
It’s easy to record the audio from a meeting and especially worthwhile if you have a guest speaker. These recordings (podcasts) can then be added to your website or other freely available sites, so that those unable to attend can benefit and comment. If your speaker had a PowerPoint presentation, it too can be placed online for viewing and comment.
Share Photos or Video
Members can record video and photos with their camera or mobile phone and upload to online photo and video sharing websites. Photos can be geo-tagged and captioned with the event name/locality so that members can find them easily when planning an activity in a particular locality. Photos and video can be rated and commented upon to encourage interactivity.
Communicate, Collaborate, Show and Share
Why not use online tools to work collaboratively on a single document, rather than have multiple versions circulating amongst members. Use an online spreadsheet, calendar or web form to plan a series of meetings or coordinate an event. Wikis can be used to collect together the ideas from a conference or planning day. Share bookmarks for specific topics over the web.
Free calls, video calls and instant messaging over the internet are features of the many online chat services that allow you to remotely participate in a meeting, view the screens of other participants, send and respond to text messages in “real time” and audio conference with multiple members. How much better would a Committee meeting be if all its members were present?
Want to quickly remind your members of important meetings or events? Why not send them an SMS from your computer to their mobile? SMS is universal – nearly everyone has a mobile phone; it’s instant – messages are normally delivered in 10 seconds or less; and most people respond quickly, more so than to letters, emails or phone calls.
© Bob Geary 2009
This article by Bob Geary is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.