Tech 13 and Social Organizations: Day 2

Social Organizations Graphic

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A few years ago, when I was just beginning to dip my toes into the social media space, Chris Brogan made a statement about loving the serendipity of social media.  I remember thinking, ‘What was a strange choice of words to use to talk about social networking.’  Now that I’ve been engaged in Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook for the last 3 years, I fully appreciate the accidental coincidence of meeting new people and finding new information.  This post is a case in point.

As I was following the feeds for #tech13 on Twitter, I ran across Sean Soth . Sean is the founder and owner of Hi Fidelity Media, Inc , a sales and marketing consultancy for business services, products, media and events.  I really liked some of the Tech13 tweets Sean was posting about Social Organizations, so I suggested we do an interview together. I concurrently reached out to Jamie Notter of , who was presenting the CEO track idea lab “Lead Your Way to a Social Organization,” along with Maddie Grant , of ICF International and Tom Hood , CPA and CEO of the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants .

What follows is a conflation (big word for combination 😉 of thoughts from Sean and Jamie as well as tweet quotes of Maddie Grant and Tom Hood.

Definition of Social Organization

What exactly is a “social organization?” Sean explained that he understood it to be one that is willing to allow experimentation.  The organization needs to be willing to try new things and adapt.  Jamie added that a social organization, “integrates social tools, technology, AND concepts into the way it leads, manages, and runs the organization.”  Maddie Grant stated that you need to ask these two fundamental questions when looking at growing a social organization:

1—Who do you want to reach?

2—What do you want them to do?

The Importance of Social Organization

When I asked Sean why the concept of a social organization was important to Associations he shared Tom Hood’s comment, “there isn’t anything more social than an association.” Social media is everywhere and you need to be engaged. If you don’t keep up, you’ll fall behind.

Jamie Notter described how most associations have joined to social movement by using social tools and technology.  However, many associations haven’t “actually integrated the ideas and concepts behind the social media revolution into their organizational cultures and processes.” One example that he uses is that social media requires transparency and a letting go of control of the message.  This is heresy for most associations whose management “best practices” are built on a hierarchy of limits and restraint.  Jamie emphasizes that the associations that are making these shifts are seeing better results—in attendance, recruiting, and relationship-building, etc.

Leadership and the Social Organization

Sean was very excited by Tom Hood’s concept of ROA—Return on Attention. Social is about pulling in your members not pushing your message out.  This is a real turn around from the way associations typically engaged in the past, and it’s a critical difference.

When I asked Jamie about leadership, he first defined it as the top of the org chart—CEOs and the C-Suite. He also defined a social leader as one who embraces the social toolset and uses it to her/his advantage.  He used Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, as an example of a successful social leader. Jamie explained that Tom blogs regularly and is very active on Twitter.  One tweet post I saw in the feed had this to say, “Though his organization is not one of the largest, @TomHood is listed as a major CPA industry influence because of social media!”

What I found really interesting was when Jamie expanded the definition of a social leader even further by claiming that she/he needs to, “support the use of social media inside the organization. That means creating smart policies but also “running interference” to enable staff to really use the tools fully.”

Maddie reminded the group that people like to do business with people. This is an important argument in support of personal/professional Twitter profiles, not just official association accounts.  Members are looking for transparency.  She also shared this interesting statistic—100% of the Senate and 90% of the House are on Twitter!

Tom Hood explained that the concept of ROA, or return on attention, is critical to the way his association engages. He challenged the crowd with this question, “Do you listen as hard as you talk in social media? We need to turn the bullhorn around.”

Social Organization and Technology

As Sean and I talked, he reminded me that until recently, decisions about content were left to the IT specialists, who were focused on keywords and SEO. He suggested that organizations now need to think about making business decisions first; and then IT decisions based on business objectives. Tom Hood reminded listeners that it’s the technology that creates the social space to share ”:

Jamie stressed that it’s more critical than ever to “integrat(e) social technology into the internal and external communications infrastructure of an association.” Just like the changes that demanded we have a website and give employees their own email addresses, social is an integral part of doing business today. For years associations have invested in technology heavily focused on databases. He recommends that associations, ”need to shift towards more social tech in developing (their) budgets.”

Maddie claimed that it’s a big mistake to think you need to create new content for new channels. She suggested using curation as the tool to spread similar ideas/messages across channels.

Key Takeaways About Social Organizations

Here are some key takeaways that Sean and other tweeters shared from the session:

Internal collaboration is easier and conflict is a normal part of the collaborative effort

Member communication is more challenging; they aren’t willing to wait for your organization to resolve your silos

Communicating across generations is a skill that needs to be learned

Social media is the digital dial tone; get on with it.

Social media policies are REALLY important

Owning up to your mistakes on social is also REALLY important

Now’s the time to think of IT as a business unit

Best Practices of Social Organizations

Tom Hood shared ideas for CEO best practices for being social

Do social first thing in the morning

Keep it simple

Use “social” time to turn on for the rest of your day

You gotta have a plan!

Challenges of the Social Shift

When I asked Sean about challenges ahead, he saw the greatest hurdle as C-suite buy-in.  In order to be effective they need to be visible. Visibility will require allocating time and resources. They will also need to be comfortable with experimentation.

Interestingly, Jamie’s focus was different.  He said he kept hearing a theme over and over at the conference about association CULTURE. He observed that the tech community is responsive to change. They almost seem to thrive on challenge and work to solve problems quickly.

Jamie feels tech experts are beginning to recognize that accomplishing the technology shift is ultimately being slowed down by organizational cultures unable to keep up with the pace of change.

His prediction: “(T)he associations that can strengthen their internal capacity to shift culture quickly–even one process at a time–will be the ones who end up on top of the technology challenges as well.”

My question to you—is the problem with organizational cultures not keeping up a staffing issue or a mindset matter?



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