Facebook Privacy Breach? Get Over It!

The internet is all aflutter today over the story from the Wall Street Journal that Facebook apps have been passing personal data on to advertisers.

I wish I could care.  I really do.  But here’s the sad reality that everyone keeps forgetting:

Facebook costs you NOTHING!  It is FREE!  How else do you expect them to make money?

My dad taught me a very important lesson that nothing in life is free.

Yet it seems like everyone has assumed that they can use an online system which has millions of dollars of technical development, equipment, staff and other services required to make it  run and never pay a penny for sucking up that bandwidth.  I’ve got news for you….. Facebook never has-been and never-will be a not-for-profit company.  Otherwise investors wouldn’t be lining up and pouring their venture capital into these companies (keep in mind the expected return for a venture capitalist is 300%).

Facebook and other companies like it have to make money in order to justify the investment.

So for everyone that doesn’t want Facebook (or any other free social network for that matter) to share their personal information with advertisers, there’s only one thing to do…. delete your Facebook account.

Or, spend a few minutes to lock down your privacy settings and be comfortable having that information on the internet.

Because in the end, by keeping in touch with friends, sharing photos and videos with family and keeping tabs on your favorite activities, you are getting a much bigger return on your investment in Facebook than the investors will get.

Rant over.  I’ll go back to living online.

3 Steps to Launching Your Online Community – Upcoming Webinar

Online communities and private social networks are taking over the association space as organizations look for new ways to connect with members, keep them engaged and generate revenue.  However while it seems that the hard work is picking a platform and setting it up, your real work has just begun.

Next week, I’ll be giving a webinar for the Avectra Academy on the Care and Feeding of Your Association’s Social Network.

It’s free and packed with lots of information you can immediately put to good use so I hope you’ll sign up.  Here’s some more detailed information.

WHEN:  Tuesday, October 21 at 1 PM ET

While fall is harvest time across most of the country, for associations now is the time to plant the seeds of future success with the launch of a private social network.  While there are technical hurdles such as platform selection and integration, the real effort starts once the technology is in place and the field work is handed off to the program managers.

Join us for a look at the important steps and processes to put in place to make sure you plant a fruitful and engaging social network for your members.

This information packed webinar will offer:

  • Free or low-cost ways to promote your network and get members’ participation
  • Building a roll-out plan to ease your members into the community
  • Getting your members involved to ease the workload on your staff
  • Creating a promotional plan and launching your online communities
  • Creating a plan to keep the community growing

Register online today and I hope to see you there.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Since I’ve started using this blog for more professional than personal observations, I’ve stayed away from political discussions.  However, the recent primary election results have compelled me to comment.

Despite your political leanings, it is clear that the last two significant elections have been driven by voter sentiment that is the polar opposite of whatever party is in power.  The outcome seems to have become a divisive “I don’t want to work with you” attitude.  As I watch the evening news, I feel like I’m watching grown adults behave like my 6 year old having a tantrum because he doesn’t want to do his chores.

And the result is that we have a system dominated by groups that hold on to their opinions so strongly that no one wants to work together — and eventually nothing happens.

I’m all for strong opinions.  It’s why people like me have jobs and why companies and non-profits bring in consultants.  Let’s face it we don’t gravitate toward milquetoast personalities.

But the reality is that 99% of us get paid to get work done (unless you are a reality TV star).   And eventually you have to work with others to do that.

Some conflict is good and can help push conversations forward.  However, when faced with looming deadlines or a tense situation there is still work to be done.  Then it’s time to open up and figure out a way to work together.

I’m kicking off a web governance project with a client today.  This is sure to be a tense conversation involving people’s expertise, their feelings, perceptions of their work and more.  But at the end of it all, I am confident that the professionals I work with who are tasked with managing an organization will realize that they need to get things done and they’ll find a way to work together.

After all, we all can’t be politicians and reality TV stars.  So let’s check our egos, open our ears (and our minds) and find a way to work together.

Who Wants To Be at ASAE Annual but is Stuck in DC?

Yes, the ASAE Annual Meeting is possibly the most important event of the year for association professionals to learn and connect with their association peers.  Sadly, due to budget cuts, travel restrictions or just lack of funding… not all of us can go.

So if you’re stuck in DC and still want to connect with likeminded association peeps, you’re invited to a special I Wish I Were at ASAE Annual Happy Hour.

  • When:  Monday, August 23rd at 5:30 PM
  • Where:  Rock Bottom Brewery in Bethesda, MD
  • Sponsored by: Vanguard Technology — Thanks to Vanguard’s generous sponsorship, we’ll be providing 2 drink tickets plus some appetizers.

At a minimum look for me, Maggie McGary from ASHA (@maggielmcg), and several of the good folks from SmartBrief.  If you think you’ll be able to make it, please let me know by leaving a comment so we can have the restaurant set aside some space if we get enough people.

We’ll work on getting a sponsorship and will update this post with more information as it becomes available.

For those of you that need directions, here’s a map:

We hope to see you there.

Risk, Mountain Biking and Social Media – Buzz2010 Recap

Last week’s Buzz2010 took on a topic that those of us riding the trails of social media naysayers always end up facing – managing risk in social media.

Inspired by the small group discussion/case study of a trade association in the extreme sports industry I came home and was motivated to go for a mountain bike ride.  As I hopped over roots and downed trees, splashed through puddles and tried not to go over the front handle bars, I was suddenly reminded of my two biggest takeaways from the day’s session.

If you don’t want to wipeout, you’ve got to keep moving.

When I’m on my bike and working my way over a bumpy trail – trying not to audition for a crash and burn video – I tell myself “keep moving or you’re gonna fall.  Point the wheel where you want to go and the bike will follow.  Don’t hit the front brakes or you’re going over the bike.”

Where does this apply to social media?  The first point made during the Buzz2010 session is that the biggest risk is not doing anything at all.   Your audiences are out there and are moving forward – with our without you.  Try to stop it or not get involved and you’re gonna have a spectacular wipeout.

Also, once you do get going make sure there’s momentum to keep you going forward.

Wendy Harman from the Red Cross mentioned how she spreads that momentum across the organization.  She spoke of how she puts together a social media update with the best mentions and sends that around the organization.  The result?  People see the efforts and the results – and the momentum going.

Know Your Limits.  What You Will and Won’t Do.

There’s a hill right where I turn onto the trail that is mongo steep.  A good friend of mine tears down it and makes it look easy.  Every time I look at it, I step off the bike and gingerly walk down.  I know my limits and what I won’t do (and that I don’t want a broken collar-bone).

Knowing your limits keeps you safe.  Same for social media.

Mark Story from the SEC tweets and blogs for one of the most regulated and tight-lipped government agencies.  Why can he do it?  He defined what we could and could not do, set his limits and has stayed within them.

It starts with creating policies and what has been referred to as “defining your sandbox.”  A few suggestions to get you started:

  • Identify what you mean by social media and where you want to be
  • Clarify who is going to create the product. Individual? Team? Or is it open to everyone?
  • What you will and won’t share
  • Who should be monitoring and reporting

Mountain biking like social media isn’t without risk.  But by defining your guidelines and maintaining momentum, it’s a good bit of fun.

And that was the last point of the Buzz2010 session.  For the most part, people want to do the right thing and they want to help others out.  It’s why we join and participate in online communities.

Maintain a positive attitude and trust in your teams, and you’ll already be on the right path to minimizing risk.

There is No ROI in Social Media

There’s no “R” in the words “Social Media” but there’s definitely an “I” because it requires an investment.  However that’s just a play on words and an attempt to be cute (which it isn’t).

Part of last week’s TMA Resources webinar “This is Now, but What’s Next? A Discussion on Social Media” devolved into the usual ROI banter.

During the webinar, I made the point on Twitter that “Social Media is not a short term campaign. It’s a long term strategy with long term results.” And that’s the point many miss.

Social Media is a channel and should be viewed as an overarching business/operations tool.  As such, Social Media doesn’t have ROI.  It delivers no more ROI than your accounting or email software does sitting unused on your server.  It’s what you DO with it that delivers ROI.

Let’s take e-mail as an example since that can be a direct call to action medium.

Assume you’ve purchased email software – Constant Contact, Silverpop, Lyris or Mailchimp.  You’ve “Invested” time in setting it up and importing lists.

Then you send out your first newsletter because you want to keep members informed.  And since you have a conference coming up, you include an ad for that conference with a registration link.  Then a week later you send a direct response email that early registration is ending with another registration link.  And because you also have great creative and a really clean member and prospect list you sell out! (Don’t we wish it was that easy?)

So e-mail delivers a great ROI, right?  WRONG!!

E-mail was the channel.  The CAMPAIGNS were the ad in the newsletter and the individual email you sent.  You can measure and track response of those individual actions.  Then you roll it up to say “our e-mail CAMPAIGNS generated an ROI of X”.

However, you can’t say “E-mail generates the ROI”.

What about the emails sent announcing the new board president or an operational announcement that the offices are closed for the holiday?  Those have no call to action and therefore don’t have a “Return” to measure.  So are you diluting your “ROI” by including those in with the rest of the e-Mails?

Again, it’s about the Campaign.  Not the Channel.

So why is Social Media treated differently?  We constantly hear “what’s the ROI of social media?”  My response is that by itself, social media has no ROI.  It’s what you do with it.

In Open Leadership, Charline Li comments, “This emphasis on ROI is like asking what the value of a deeper, closer relationship is.”

As association people, we know what that deeper relationship is worth.  An engaged member is more likely to renew.  A recognized and honored member is more likely to step up and become your next generation leader.  An unengaged member who don’t see value moves on and don’t renew their membership.

Yes, there are innovators who have delivered great revenue through social media.  We love stories like Dell Outlet selling millions of dollars of computers through a twitter account and as an organization selling a product or service we want a piece of that.

But associations have a higher calling than shilling products.  They serve a community with common interests and work toward common goals.  ROI is measured in terms of engagement, advocacy, or professional advancement.  (Yes, they sell products, but that’s to advance the overall mission).

So next time you are asked “What’s the ROI of social media at your organization?”, ask “What campaigns for which products/conferences/services are we doing and what results are we expecting from those campaigns?”

If that can’t be articulated, you shouldn’t even be having an “ROI of Social Media” discussion.

“Good” is No Longer Good Enough

We live in a very fast moving world now.  Employee and team loyalty is won and lost in hours or minutes.  And customer loyalty (or disgruntlement) is created even faster.  This new environment requires a different leader type who can respond in a genuine way to get people to follow them.

A few weeks ago during Buzz 2010 I came to the realization that many of the principles Charline Li was talking about with Open Leadership (her latest book) were similar to the principles of “Level 5 Leadership” that Jim Collins outlined in his book Good to Great.

Good to Great has had a profound effect on me.  At the time I read it I realized that the reason my company was doing so well was because it was following so many of the principles of the book – and it was led at the top by “Level 5 Leaders”.  In many ways it formed the basis of my management style as I realized the emotional benefits of becoming such a leader.

  • Level 5 leaders build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.
  • Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.

Now as I work my way through Li’s Open Leadership I see more and more elements of what she describes that are fueled by this leadership approach:

  • Explaining: Creating Buy In – This isn’t a top down approach that many managers try to push.  It’s working with staff at all levels to get buy in and move forward as a team.
  • Conversing: Improving Operations – Li describes putting the community to work and funneling those efforts back into improving the operations.  As a leader, it’s realizing you might not always be the one with the best ideas and looking for help and support from wherever you find it.
  • Crowdsourcing: Solving a specific problem together – This is the ultimate setting aside of your ego as you open up to take help from large numbers of people.  But it’s all for the same goal – to make the company/product better.

See the parallels?  “Humility” and getting buy in at all levels. Focusing on the larger goal of building a great company and being willing to take in work/ideas from outside the company.

Ok, so maybe you’ve followed me as I’ve connected the dots between the two books and are ready to rush out and buy them (a good idea).  But now you’re thinking to yourself “Hey, what’s the point of this post?”

Good is no longer good enough.  Leaders now need to be Great!

The best and fastest moving organizations are embracing openness as they respond to the saturation of social technologies that are changing our business practices.  They are opening up and looking for leaders at all levels.

When Collins wrote “Good to Great” in 2001 the social web didn’t exist.  A company could be good in their self-contained universe and still make good money. It was the great companies that rose above that and generated amazing results.

Fast-forward to 2010 and you have companies starting up all over the place as technology has become more affordable and time to market has gotten increasingly shorter.  A new market emerges and without looking twice, a competitor pops up.  Customers give feedback in real time and reputations are made or lost with the post of a tweet or click of a mouse.  We now have “fans” of our companies and organizations who engage on an ongoing basis rather than buying the product/service every now and then.

As Li points out, this type of dynamic marketplace and environment requires a new type of leader.  And as you draw the parallels from Collins – these companies need great leaders.  “Good” is no longer good enough.

As you work with others throughout your organizations, mange your teams and interact with customers, I challenge you to rise above “good” and become “great”.  Your organization, staff and customers will thank you.  And as a result, you’ll see greatness for your company – and yourself.

Buzz 2010: Open Leadership is Inspirational

I had the pleasure of attending Buzz 2010 last week to hear Charlene Li discuss open leadership and what it means to be a leader in this era of rapidly changing social technologies.

Some key things that I walked away with include:

  • Openness is something that requires building a framework and defining what it means for you and your organization.
  • Openness pays dividends back, especially when you consider in how the lifetime value of a customer has changed (once you factor in sharing, recommendations, etc.)
  • Open leaders are at all levels of an organization.

As she points out “Be Open, Be Transparent, Be Authentic” are current leadership mantras.  However, as I have started reading the book and looking back over my notes from the session, I have drawn a conclusion that is more relevant to my own leadership and working style.

Open Leadership is Inspirational

When I look back on my career at the leaders that have made the biggest difference for me… they were open leaders.  These were leaders that taught me to value the contributions of the team, to be open and share insight so everyone on the team can succeed, and to make sure that them team gets the credit.

In the “free agent” economy it is easy to get caught up in constantly promoting yourself and trying to secure that next job (or keep the one you have).  But you do so at the risk of being open to honest feedback from everyone around you.  And I think that open dialog is key to being a strong leader in this age of open access and instant feedback.

When done well, you inspire others to be like you.  And I think that’s the greatest gift I have learned from other leaders throughout my career…. and one I hope I have passed along to people I have managed.

How does Charlene’s points affect leadership and management in this open style?

  • Building a framework. You still need to identify what you can and can’t be open about.  But after you have that open dialog and share both the good and the bad, when it comes time to have the “tough conversation” you have earned enough emotional currency with your teams that your sudden shift in persona carries weight – and gets results.
  • Openness pays dividends back. Managing multiple generations means managing competing motivations.  Openness opens up a whole new realm of tools at your disposal to manage your teams.  Additionally as you look out for your team’s ultimate career goals, when they “leave the nest” you have a vested relationship that continues to pay for itself as they and you open up opportunities to each other.  (Instead of “lifetime value of a customer” think about “lifetime value of an employee”.)
  • Open leaders are at all levels. To me, the way you treat both a CEO and an entry level employee says a lot about you.  Any one of your employees or team members could become the next big thing or you could be talking to them about your next career objective.  By being open and looking at the value of the team, you value each person’s contributions without worrying about your own individual role.

While the presentation was more directed to organizations coping with the realities of social media in a fast moving economy, I couldn’t help but take away some leadership lessons.  Because in the end, the traits that make for an open leader are valuable traits that will also enable social media success.

Steven Strasburg’s Open Leadership Style? Humility

As we get ready for Charlene Li to be the first speaker of this year’s Buzz 2010, leadership is on the minds of many in the association and social media community.  Charlene’s new book “Open Leadership” discusses what strong leadership looks like in today’s open media environment.

As I’ve been reading through the interviews with Charlene at the Buzz 2010 blog and in one of her interviews she touches on the need for humility to be an open leader.  It’s something that I inherently know, have learned from my most influential leaders in my life, and try to practice.

However, it’s not something you always see from people that are put in prominent positions and from whom much is expected.  And this is where my passion for Nationals baseball, social media and leadership collide.

Yes, watching Stephen Strasburg’s blistering fast-ball, speedy slider and wicked curve balls was awesome to watch as he made his debut with the Washington Nationals this week.  However what impressed me the most was his humility.

Here’s a 21 year old who has been welcomed to the city with more fanfare than even Joe Gibbs garnered upon his return to the Redskins.  He makes more money than I can fathom and has more people hanging on his every word than any other player on the team.

And yet….. he remained humble.  He showed his respect for a future hall of fame catcher.  He thanked his teammates.  He respected his manager.  He had a smile and was cordial with all.

And in 7 innings he instantly became a leader.  Not just because of his skill, but because of his openness.

We’ve all worked with that rock-star that can close any deal, create a piece of advertising genius or code his way out of any tough situation.  But if you think about the people you respected and looked up to they were open leaders… and humble.

It’s a good reminder as we remake ourselves for this digital age.  And one that I continue to live by.

Starting a New Adventure

The past 3 days have been quite tumultuous, but remarkably – I’ve approached each one with a smile on my face.

I was laid off on Friday.  In this economy one might be freaked out.  And yet, I’m not.

I’ve been contemplating for a while what it might be to work for myself and set up my own business.  Now seems like the time to give it a shot.  I’ve got about 3 weeks of pay left from my old job until I’m completely on my own, so there’s no time like now to start.

So, I sit here at almost 11 PM on Sunday night setting up my new computer and designing a business card for a Kinko’s run in the morning.  I’ve got calls to make tomorrow and even a proposal or two to put together.  I’m even speaking on a panel at a conference this week.

I’m oddly calm and feeling not-quite-freaked-out.

So tomorrow is the first day of business for van Hilst Communications.  Wish me luck. Send me client referrals. And keep an eye out for cool things to come.