Facebook for the Association?

5 Aug
I just read an interesting piece on the changes happening as enterprises try to figure out how to take advantage of social media. The article lists a number of different vendors who are working on social media platforms specifically aimed at businesses. At first blush, it might seem that these platforms might be well suited for associations too, but as I read through the article I realized that there are some aspects of associations that distinguish them from other businesses and more than likely meant that these platforms were a good fit.

I think that the first significant difference is that, at least to a certain extent, business can force employees to participate in their social media effort. Obviously, you can’t force people to contribute, but you can set up guidelines to make sure people are monitoring it and you can try to ensure that the platform is used for sharing content rather than letting people fall back on older technologies such as email.

But in associations, we can’t force our members to adopt our social media platform. Instead, we have to make the platform something that they want to use. It has to have features that they are going to get value from immediately. It has to align with their expectations of the role that they see the association playing in their life. Social media platforms targeted at business often miss the mark on both counts because these are not critical factors for their adoption in a business environment.

The second difference that comes to mind is that social media in a business context is normally put in place to create more value for the business. That is not to say the needs of the users are ignored, but they are in some sense just a means to achieve the underlying goals of the business.

With associations, the primary purpose of a social media platform is to provide value for our members. It provides a means for members to find other with whom they have common interests, it provides a place to collect and discuss best practices, it has the potential to serve as the locus of ongoing learning, and much more. Of course, the association itself can benefit from the platform, as it can provide a unique view onto members thoughts and needs.

These two differences can significantly influence how software is designed. Here at AssociCom, we’re constantly asking ourselves how we can better serve the members of associations. It is the underlying tenet that guides everything we do. It doesn’t necessarily mean our product is radically different from some of the business-oriented platforms out there, but I think it does mean that we tend to be much better aligned with the way that associations and their members think and work.

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