Professional development is big for members of associations. We’re talking 30-bedroom-mansion-with-three-swimming-pools big.
In a 2013 survey done by Greenfield Services, education, networking and access to specialized information accounted for over 50% of the reasons why someone joined an association. These areas have one thing in common; they help members get ahead in their careers. Associations give their members a chance to make connections, learn new things and gather knowledge, which, in turn, will help them climb the ladder.
So, if a great professional development strategy is so important to attracting and retaining members, how does social media fit into this strategy? Here are five ways to incorporate professional development in your online communications efforts:
Twitter Chat With An Expert
This strategy checks off pretty much all the professional development boxes; education, specialized information and networking.
Just a quick refresher on what a Twitter chat is: A Twitter chat is a live, open-forum conversation that focuses on a specific issues that is important to a certain group of people. There is a moderator and questions are posed to generate conversation. For example, in this situation, your association may want to set up a Twitter chat where members can ask a lawyer about a new piece of legislation that will affect them.
A Twitter chat with an expert allows members to get information that will help them solve problems specific to them. It can also be a great way to learn new details of a practice they are already familiar with while also networking with their peers.
Over the years, LinkedIn has established itself as the go-to resource for professionals looking to up their game and get recognized. This quest to be heard among the thousands of other LinkedIn users devolves into the race for endorsements or becomes easy prey for spammers. Don’t let your association settle for this while leaving your members to fend for themselves. Create a well-maintained LinkedIn group as a haven for your members.
LinkedIn groups have the ability to be exclusive, meaning that access to specialized information can be just that; specialized. Keep a good filter on who is allowed into your group and keep your eyes out for spam accounts that will make members disillusioned. Encourage conversation and a sharing of ideas among members in the group. Members will learn new techniques from each other and expand their networks at the same time.
Drop Knowledge With A Blog
A blog can be a gateway for your association, one that has a sign over top saying, “If you think this stuff is good, just imagine all the other educational opportunities we provide to members.”
Blogs are a great way to share information with members and non-members alike and thus help them with their professional development. Your association can tackle everything from new techniques specific to its industry to general advice (such as resume-building tips for members). Not only does it spread the wealth of information your organization has, but it can help expose the great work of your members by profiling their achievements, which is an effective form of networking.
Google Hangouts is a feature of Google+ that works sort of like an updated version of a webinar. It allows groups to gather online to learn and have a conversation.
Hangouts give your association an opportunity to incorporate the three aspects of professional development (education, networking and access to specialized information). For example, recruit a member to give a talk to other members about a new and effective strategy they are using at their operation. Not only does this provide members with an exclusive educational opportunity, but it also gives the speaker member a chance to share their knowledge and be recognized as a special resource in the industry. It also allows other members of the Hangout to meet their peers without the restrictions of distance.
Live-Tweet An Event
Your association’s events are the headliners of its professional development strategy. There are educational talks, exclusive content and hobnobbing opportunities galore. Live-tweeting the event adds another layer that allows your community to get even more from your efforts.
There are many times when your association’s annual conference includes overlapping educational opportunities. Tweeting bits and pieces of these talks allows people to do the impossible; be in two places at once. This allows your association and its members to get a 2 for 1 deal on learning.
Live tweeting an event also helps your association connect attendees directly with speakers and other attendees. It brings all parties together on one platform to talk, plan a networking meetup or ask follow-up questions to a presentation they saw.