Category Archives: Social Media

Trade associations are in big trouble

In a world of Web 2.0 communities where anyone can reach out and interact with anyone else, why would you seek out membership in a trade association?

Up until last year, my company was a member of 12 trade associations from coffee to soccer to event planning to wedding planners. I have since cancelled all my memberships except one and my business has not shrunk one bit. I have not ceased to know about the industries I am in and I spend more time networking using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and our blogs more than I ever did as a member of the trade associations.

In truth, I can’t point to one piece of business I secured as a result of being a member of a trade association nor any network contact that I did not actively seek out myself. Nor can I recall any piece of industry knowledge and research that I couldn’t find on Google.

But, I can tell you I have more money in the bank now that I am not paying association dues and advertising in the trade press at “reduced rates.” I am not going to trade association conferences as an exhibitor any more, but I still attend trade shows and conferences, either by buying a day pass, getting media credentials or volunteering to lead a workshop.

The railroad companies should own the airlines, but they don’t. Why? Because they thought they were in the railroad industry, not in the people and stuff transporting industry. Trade associations are acting the same way. For the most part, they are not using Web 2.0 tools because they believe they are in the “people networking” and conference industry, not in the tech world. They are confusing the tools with the industry they are in.

Trade associations are in the networking industry. Words like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Delicious, Digg, Alltop and blogs should roll off their tongues as easily as networking and sponsorship. But they don’t

Through their short-sightedness, trade associations have allowed an entire industry of “social networking experts” to crop up, leaving them wondering, “Why do we need trade shows? Why do we need a networking middle-man?”

Young college graduates have always been on Facebook, MySpace and now are joining LinkedIn as they think more about their careers than their social lives. They are reaching as to professionals on LinkedIn for mentorship and each other for career advice through sites like BranzenCareerist.com, bypassing the traditional trade groups such as SHRM, and AMA

For trade associations to survive and grow, they need to be the glue that connects people together. They need to be able to provide an answer to the question, “What does my trade association provide that I can’t find using Google?” And they need to do it quicker than I can type 140 characters into my Twitter.

Trade associations need to embrace and push tools like RSS, blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace. They need to push out content that is authoritative and readily available. They need to be there to recruit young college graduates where they communicate; on Facebook and blogs.

Without Web 2.0 tools, trade associations have no voice on the Internet, even if they have Web sites. Without a voice on the Internet, you are essentially silenced.

Journalism 2.0

Like most of America yesterday, I was glued to my television, eagerly awaiting the ruling from the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While I had some personal interest in the outcome, discussing the pros and cons of the Act and ruling is best left to other venues. For our purpose here, I am more interested in the process of how the news was revealed and the business/trade groups’ reaction to it.

Later that afternoon, I saw the Cleveland Clinic tweet fly by in my steam. I was curious about what they had to say. Here is President and CEO, Delos M. Cosgrove, MD’s response, complete with video.

Notice the time slugs. The SCOTUS ruling was read at approximately 10:17am EDT. The page on the the clinic’s web site was slugged at 3:19pm EDT, a mere five hours later. If this were a news organization, that would be far from impressive but the Cleveland Clinic is a for-profit company whose primary business unit is in treating patients, not reporting news.

There is some B-roll on the video, but the reporting had a level of specificity to the ruling that tells me this was not pre-prepared. Cosgrove’s interview may have been pre-taped and there may have been two versions depending on the outcome, but for the most part, this appears to have been put together in real time.

As newspapers and television news departments shed reporters, this is where journalists are going — into private companies and trade groups. While Google and Twitter can report the news very quickly, it takes the skills of a quality journalist to analyze it and present it succinctly so that speaks directly to your customers or membership. They want to know what the news means for them. The message is even stronger when accompanied by the strong visual of a chief executive.

Not every news story will have the reach and gravity of a SCOTUS ruling on health care, but not every organization provides the goods and/or services your customers or members need either. Your customers or members can get their news from anywhere or they can get it from you, a trusted source who will work harder to let them know what it all means for them.

Your choice, but I’d look into hiring a journalist. While you still can.

Four skills every college graduate needs

I was shooting the breeze with a college professor friend of mine the other day because his son is getting married this coming June. We were musing over where the time goes and the topic turned to “kids today” as he was also trying to entice his nephew to an unpaid internship in his department. He is set to graduate after six years of pursuing a degree in journalism… no change that to communications… no, wait English.. oh, what I meant was education.

His mother — my friend’s sister — called him in a moment of panic, pleading with him to give her son an internship so he could build a reel or book of work. She does not want him sitting around the house, unemployed and unemployable for the summer and the following year. Worse, she does not want to foot the bill for grad school.

All of this led to a discussion about the core skills that every college graduate needs — regardless of the degree — but especially those with a Liberal Arts degree. They are; photography, videography, writing and social media.

The technical challenge of building web sites and containers to hold things has already been solved. Anyone can waltz into WordPress or Tumblr and set up an online presence in minutes without any coding skills whatsoever. You can set up a brand page on Facebook and Google+ without any design skills as the format is already handled. If there is anything more complicated, chances are you can buy a plugin to handle the task.

If you really wanted to branch out and customize your basic site, there are thousands of templates and skins to slap onto your site. While it may not make your site entirely unique, it comes close enough.

But what these sites need most is good content.

Photos. Videos. Blog posts. Social media engagement.

Learn these skills and you will never be unemployable.

   
SharktoothPress

I wanna get on Oprah

I know that Oprah is off the air, but work with me a bit on the metaphor.

If you are a writer, you want to get on Oprah and your book will sell. If you are a CPG manufacturer, you need to get into Walmart or your product will have lackluster sales. Facebook hopes to be the next “Walmart” or “Oprah” platform. And in the process, the writer, the brand and now the marketer will lose autonomy over their product and service. They now serve at the pleasure of Oprah, Walmart or Facebook.

Oprah is now off the air. What venue do writers now aspire to be on? I don’t know. But I do know that Oprah probably does not much care. She needed to move on for herself. The writers need to figure out their own path.

Walmart will eventually slow down or stumble, taking the business model of a lot of CPG companies with it. The CPG companies will be stuck with a production system they can’t scale back easily and debt they can’t service. They will implode themselves out of business*. Walmart — like Oprah — will not care. It has to do what is best for Walmart.

And now Facebook is looking to “own” all the marketers’ funnel into their customers. Will the marketers march blindly and rabidly toward that cliff? Yes they will. And they will find themselves existing at the pleasure of Facebook. Oops.

But nobody saw that coming, right? Hmmmm.

Scale is everything in America. How many units are you shipping? What is your annual revenue? How many twitter followers do you have? How many copies of your book did you sell?

Nobody asks how good you are. They just want to know you make a lot of “X”

In our quest for chasing big we gladly and blithely hand over the wheel to someone who drives the car to their own destination, not ours.

*This has happened many times to many smaller companies. In order to supply Walmart, they need to ramp up production by leaps and bounds and their product better test well in the 90 days or Walmart pulls it and ships it back unpaid. One day you’ve got a contract for millions; the next you are on the streets and saddled with debt. Or rich. It can go either way quickly.

White Room

The white room

White Room

I once saw this design makeover show on HGTV where the designer tried to get the family who was in the house to think about all design possibilities. She started out by removing all the furniture and painting everything white. The theory, as she explained it, was to start off with a blank canvass to illustrate that anything and everything was possible.

As I predicted, the family froze in the sea of possibility and lack of direction. The designer ended up guiding them into color combinations, design choices, etc., until they could see how everything was fitting together. Then, they came alive and started participating in the design of their makeover.

Very few people can see possibilities when presented with a blank canvass. Yet this is what happens time and time again with web sites and social media channels.

“You need to create content,” says the social media expert who has created the company’s new Facebook page, blog, Twitter account and Google Plus channel. “Y’know, stuff like videos and photos. Graphic content is always hot.”

And the client tenses up as if he is staring into a white room.

Unless you are prepared and skilled to provide the script, shooting and storytelling for the video or the art direction and shooting for the photos or crafting the blog article framework (or actually writing them) you may want to steer clear of advising a company to get into social media.

Simply setting up the social media channels and walking away is just painting a room white.