Belonging to a professional association can be a valuable experience. I belong to two professional associations, which I believe have helped me develop a vibrant, fulfilling career.
Despite this, I often wonder if technology will eliminate some of the membership advantages or perhaps even eliminate the need for having professional associations at all.
One of my biggest pet peeves in the world is wasting time. So if technology gives me the ability to network in a fraction of the time it would take offline, why wouldn’t I incorporate it into my daily routine?
If professional associations are going to survive in the era of social networks, they will have to adapt to suit the needs of the members. Most organizations have recognized this need and have incorporated online newsletters and webinars. These are great for professional development, but what about the actual networking? How can professional associations use social networks to provide their members with a place to connect and build relationships at their own convenience?
By offering an interactive place for members to build profiles, promote their businesses, upload resumes and get involved in discussions, professional associations will fulfill their networking mandate in a fraction of the time – and cost. If they fail to do so, people will turn to creating their own communities online by using free or affordable tools like LinkedIn, Ning, MeetUp.com and Upcoming.org.
Unfortunately, social media doesn’t follow the old saying “if you build it, they will come.” In order for professional associations to be successful using these tools, they require community managers to facilitate discussions and engage in conversations. By keeping information fresh and engaging people in conversations, you will have a better chance at getting people to revisit the site. Once a online community is developed, it can complement in-person events and other programs that are being run by the professional association. But, most importantly, they have the potential to give professionals a place to network in their own home, on their own terms, and in their own spare time.