Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Hourglass Blog Gets a Plug at the WSAE Meeting

I participated in a panel discussion called "Get Linked! Using Social Networking to Energize Members" at the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) meeting yesterday in Madison, WI. In addition to having a great time discussing all kinds of social networking with my local peers, I also got the chance to plug The Hourglass Blog, and spend some time talking about my initial impressions as an association blogger.

I spoke of the need for passion. Not a passion for blogging, but a passion for the subjects you're blogging about. Any effort built on enthusiasm for the mechanism rather than for the message is probably a passing fad.

Everyone was very kind to me, and there were a lot of thoughtful questions and comments made by folks in the audience—some boomers, some Xers, maybe one or two Millennials—all trying to define the personal and professional value of social networking for themselves and their associations.

I encouraged people to think about this passion issue when trying to decide how to use social networking tools with their members. Who should drive your new initaitive? The twenty-something with 600 friends on Facebook? Maybe. Her familiarity with the technology will undoubtedly help you avoid some deep pitfalls. But unless she has a passion for what your association does, you probably don't want her to be the only one involved in constructing the new virtual environment in which your members will be interacting.

If you attended the WSAE session and you're reading this now, please leave a comment on this post, even if it's just to say "hello," or to let me know you heard what I was saying and it connected with you. I think it would be great if we could establish a discussion here about how different generations view and utilize social networking technologies.


Krist said...

Eric - as always, your comments are thought provolking and get me to think about things in another way. You are right, the passion should be about the subject, not the delivery system. Although important, it takes a backseat to the message. You did a great job at the meeting and I look forward to reading your comments.

Caley Kleczka said...

Wish I could have been there for that discussion, Eric!

While it is not specific to social networking, USA Today published an interesting article in late January taking a look at how the different generations are using online technologies --

I am a GenX (or so I have been catagorized by my physical age; mental age is another category entirely), and do see that up until the last year or so, my online pursuits have been primarily business-oriented, as defined by the article. But my activities continually evolve, and I suspect others are experiencing something similar. I have long used e-mail like the Boomer+ generations (well, since the web was a text-only interface, anyway). And now, I am infiltrating GenY territory, where, as the article indicates, social networking has some prominance.

So in considering generational differences and use of online technologies, is it that older generations are less able to learn how to use emerging technologies? Is it a lack of interest? Is it a lack of need (Flickr might be great for sharing photos of the grandkids, but do I really need to "tweet" instead of e-mail, to stay in touch with family and friends)? Or, as individuals from all generational categories come into contact with emerging social networking and other online tools and technologies, and begin to cherry-pick the ones that work best for them as individuals and groups, will the differences become less definable, and ultimately disappear completely? Does it really matter, one way or another?

And when it comes to the social networking activities, I think your comments, Eric, about passion and enthusiasm for the content vs. the mechanism, are well taken. I, for one, am absolutely primed to "tweet", but without passion and enthusiasm for tweet-able content, it becomes rather an empty tool.

Eric Lanke said...

Jamie's got a great comment on this subject embedded in a longer post about generations and leadership on his Get Me Jamie Notter blog. The whole post can be accessed at, but here's the part relevant to this discussion:

"Enabled by the social web, Millennials do a lot themselves, and it's going to change what leadership means. These days associations debate at the leadership level whether or not they should create a Facebook page for their association, and when they finally get approval to do so they discover that there are already 28 different groups on Facebook about them, most of which are using the association's logo! How will leadership in our organizations adapt to a group that won't necessarily wait for us?"

Thanks, Jamie. It's almost like you were in the room with us at WSAE!

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