Online Communities Bolster but aren’t Chapter Replacements

Understand that an online community is not a substitution for face2face and it won’t solve dysfunctional chapters. These were two messages from today’s ASAE Component Relations Section Council Virtual Lunch on Online Communities.

The call featured four veteran online community developers: Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer (both of SocialFish and the online community Yapstar, Cynthia D’Amour from the Chapter Leaders Playground, and Lynn Morgan from Social Networking for Association Professionals (SNAP) online community.

We also had the helpful guidance of social media (and make-up maven) guru who doubles as a great chapter manager for Optical Society of America, Kiki L’Italien as moderator.

The great take-aways for me included:

  • Fish where the fish are; start by finding out where your members are. If they aren’t anywhere now, time is right to start anywhere.
  • Figure out what you want to do – is the purpose is grow the chapters vs. build community within the board. WriteBoard for example is great way to get a board working together.
  • Be sure to listen first. Lurk where they are for if you don’t know what they are saying you don’t know what to offer them.
  • An online community is very similar to our traditional communities in so many ways. You still need a core group of passionate people to get it started and to stoke it.
  • Online connectivity will only exacerbate existing basic problems. So if a chapter is struggling, don’t expect a virtual version to solve the problem. Online communities can help though – if used correctly and with training to build energy, facilitate communication and make it easier to connect and engage.
  • Even in online space, the rules of volunteering apply. To get people to volunteer online you still need to connect 1:1. You need to make the direct ask.

So – technology can boost chapters but probably not replace them.

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