Persistent versus Transient Information

9 Oct

Association Managers that are wondering why their members are not engaging on Facebook or any other online community that is primarily designed to be a social meeting place, may want to consider that online social communities are designed primarily for transient information and communication. Most do not deal well with persistent information because they were not designed for that.

Persistent information does not go away. It can be searched and collected. Think of a book in a searchable library that you can borrow from.

Transient information goes away after a short while, often because it is really only important at the time. Think of many Facebook comments on current news items or events.

Twitter, Facebook and other primarily social online communities are much like water cooler or coffee shop discussions on the latest sports score, recipe, vacation plans or whatever. The purpose of the software is to make it simple for people to express themselves with one click “likes” that are automatically shared with friends. These lightweight social exchanges are most often transient communication. They are not searchable and a couple of days later they run off the bottom of the page. Most people do not hesitate to engage with others when the topic is why the home team lost last night or what they think of the latest recipe craze.

Another aspect of transient communication is privacy and considered opinion. Most often, no one really minds these fast paced, multi party conversations being overheard. Also, there is not much thought or serious reflection in many bull sessions. That’s OK; we are social animals and this type of conversation satisfies many needs including getting to know people. We need to get to know people before we can trust them and we need to trust people before we deal with important issues or expose our innermost beliefs and value systems.

Once a level of trust is established, it makes it easier to discuss, comment on or question more serious topics. It is also easier to put yourself out there a little bit and make a personal pronouncement on something that is considered important or to share something that is valued with others. Comments that take more thought are correspondingly more valuable. Someone that puts themselves out there and poses a question that may expose a lack of knowledge is doing everyone a favour because if they don’t get it, they are likely not alone. The answer to that question likely has value to many.

Primary association benefits are networking and access to specialized information. Many online community platforms assist networking but what is needed for an association is one that is specifically designed to allow networking on a professional level and at the same time to store that persistent valuable information that the membership feels comfortable sharing with colleagues.

We can actually do even better than persistent information. Socially curated information is when you get an assist from colleagues as to what information is important. Think of perusing the books in the personal library of the thought leaders in your association. Then imagine that you can make notes in the margins without damaging the book, ask questions, make a comment or even set a poll that all the interested members in your association will see.

The Bottom Line

  • Members may not be interested in a purely social connection with their colleagues.
  • Association online communities benefit from specialized information that is persistent.
  • Encourage the creation and collection of socially curated information.

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