We’re taking part in the virtual book tour Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer are doing to explore concepts from Open Community: a little book of big ideas for associations navigating the social web. In this post, Maddie and Lindy answer a few questions for anyone interested in conferences and learning.
Maddie: Lindy and I have talked to thousands of association executives who have voiced their frustrations about the social web–from the overabundance of tools and the disorderly experimentation of staff (and members!), to the lack of organizational support and the unwieldy processes for monitoring and managing social media, and that’s just the beginning. We decided to write Open Community as a way to address those frustrations and redirect the thinking about using social tools to build community online.
So, what is “Open Community?”
Lindy: Here’s the gist. Your Open Community is your people who are bonded by what your organization represents and care enough to talk to each other (hopefully about you!) online. Connecting with and supporting your Open Community is really important, because if you don’t, someone else will.
Why is Open Community important for conferences and learning?
Lindy: Haha… If you read this blog regularly, you’ve already been thinking about that.
Maddie: If we’re lucky, maybe Jeff will post a much more comprehensive answer than we can provide. But I can say from personal experience, most of my learning takes place online in informal discussions with peers and thought-leaders. For me the best conferences are the ones that kick-start and amplify the learning and sharing I do on a day-to-day basis.
Lindy: Agreed. A few years ago, when I was looking at grad schools, I decided I’d have better access to the professors I wanted to learn from by stalking them reading their posts online. Plus, so much of what I need to learn can only come from practitioners…informal learning channels (especially Twitter for me) have been invaluable for connecting with those practitioners.
So informal learning is one of the critical components that bonds your Open Community, and the better you get at feeding those learning channels, the more your community can thrive.
[Note from Jeff: I love that these association social media sages are talking about informal learning through peer connections! Right on target for me.]
What advice if any, do you have for event based e-communities? How do e-communities fit within a social media strategy?
Maddie: Event based community platforms are a small part of a much larger ecosystem and strategy. There are times when I see event organizers gravitating to “e-communities” because they feel more control and ownership over the platform and data. Unfortunately, you can never control or own the people who are your Open Community, so the reasons that a platform made sense becomes the reason it fails.
Lindy: The other big challenge with event based community platforms is the cyclical nature of events. Your Open Community may only be engaged with you on your platform during a short time-period immediately before, during, and after the event. Yet, they’ll be out in their own spaces, connecting in their own ways all year round, and you need to be able to connect with them out there, too.
When an event based community platform works, it works because the event organizers are already connecting with their Open Community in a number of ways throughout the year online, and the platform serves a specific community need that their website and their public outposts are not already serving. Which brings us back to learning–your event based community platform might extend learning in a new way, and by extension, provide great value to your Open Community.
Maddie: We’re interested to see how event based community platforms evolve–we’d like to see a much more wholistic approach that takes better advantage of social sign-on and public data from outposts like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and more.
[Note from Jeff: I like the eCommunity platforms that allow you to have events e-community within the larger e-Community. Then you can embed presentations (audio, video, PPT, etc.) within the event section of the association e-Community. You can also integrate an ecommerce function with the segmented events e-community.]
Any thoughts about resource deployment for e-communities for small staff associations?
Maddie: Small staff associations who commit using an event based community platform have a big advantage–they are usually much more collaborative, and have an easier time confronting and solving issues that come up around monitoring and moderating content, for example. If the staff also has close relationships with members who can serve as champions for the platform, all the better. Where small staff associations get into trouble is 1) if they don’t already have close relationships with members or 2) if they don’t commit the time to building and nurturing the event based community platform.
Lindy: Honestly, I’d probably advise against the strategy until the small-staff association had perfected their use of outposts, and identified a way to make their work more efficient using a platform. Resist the urge to rush in. By the time you’re ready, the platforms will be cheaper and better. I know Jeff has had great success with e-communities at a small association, so maybe he disagrees.
[Jeff note: I am more optimistic than Lindy. I think small staff associations should look for an association wide e-community platform and then intergrate the event e-community within it. On the other hand, ff the event e-community is turnkey and includes a website, registration with ecommerce, itinerary planner and other tools, then it is easy for a small-staff association to use it.]
Maddie: Well, we see the book as a conversation starter–we hope tons of people will get the chance to read it, and think about how the concepts affect their organization.
Lindy: And we hope to gather lots of great stories about Open Community in action, which we’ll continue to share in plenty of ways throughout the year. So here’s a question for all of you to consider…
[Note from Jeff: For full disclosure, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting purchased two copies of their book. We did not receive anything in exchange for this post. )
Are you using learning to help you build community online? What’s your strategy for connecting with and supporting your Open Community? Is it working?