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Using External Social Networking Sites to Your Advantage

by | May 14, 2009 | Industry News & Trends

Internal and external membership software - just like fruit, it's okay to have multiple kinds

Internal and external membership software - just like fruit, it's okay to have multiple kinds

Congratulations! You recognize the importance of providing value for your membership and you have already embraced (and created) your own online community and member management system. (If you haven’t but you sure do want to…well, you know where we are.) You keep trying to get your members to login but some days you feel like you’re beating your head against a Facebook wall. I feel your pain, believe me.

Your members are astute, involved Internet users and let’s face it, it’s impossible to compete with those crazy social networking sites that offer valuable quizzes like “what type of fruit are you?”. As administrators you know that your membership site is a lot more valuable (and safe) than those others but how do you convince your members of that? I think the question is not so much about how to get them off other sites but how to draw them to yours as well.

Don’t tell them not to use Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or Twitter (or whatever else is the latest, greatest thing). Those sites are great for fun and LinkedIn can be a terrific spot for networking (although limited in numbers and features.) But these sites aren’t your competition for anything more than time.

So how do you fight the time argument? Make it convenient for your membership to log-in and give them a reason to. I’ve mentioned in past posts’s feature “My Networks.” This is a great tool for your members to manage profiles. They can log onto a central site (yours) and manage all of their networks. Plus their contacts can see what sites they belong to as well. Now instead of searching Facebook to see if my college roommate has an account, I can look her up on our alumni site and see what networks are on her profile. Saves me some time as I’m not scrolling through countless pages of Carrie Millers.

Another reason to use your site as their predominant one is safety. The Internet can be a scary place but your members can rest assured that they are connecting with other members who are really who they say they are. Recently, I received a friend request from a famous alum of my college. I spent days trying to figure out if I wanted her on my list (I’m very choosy and being a Hollywood starlet is not an instantaneous opening into my friend list). I finally accepted her but it became obvious fairly quickly that this was not the person I went to school with and I deleted her as a friend (shhhh…she doesn’t know, or so the site says). Anyway, you never know who’s lurking or pretending to be someone else on those larger sites. Your organization approves each member so there is less chance and less opportunity for these lurkers to appear. Plus this gives famous members some consolation that they can stay connected without the harassment they may find on larger public sites.

Finally, one of the most important reasons to have a profile on your site (in addition to the others) is that your site gives your members a place to put forth a professional profile. Leave the college all-night party pics on their other social networking sites and concentrate on presenting a serious face to the organization. Not every 22-year old will value this advice but as birthdays come and go (and they inevitably will. Even with all our technology we haven’t figured out how to avoid that.), they’ll understand why keeping professional and personal lives as separate as possible is really a good career move.

Remember you’re not asking your members to give up those valuable, insightful features (quizzes like what fruit they are) of those public sites, you’re just asking them to log into yours to stay abreast of news, information, career happenings, job openings and networking opportunities. Plus you can always post your own invaluable quiz to your site. After all, it is hugely important to know the difference between apples and oranges.


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