Archive for June, 2012


What my 60 year old father reminds us about Facebook

This is my dad with his granddaughter (my niece), Bella, during a visit to North Carolina.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my dad doesn’t actually turn 60 until this October. Nevertheless, he’s nearly hit this extraordinary milestone, so I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.

The story, itself, is pretty simple. I was traveling from Grand Rapids to Lansing yesterday in my mobile office. As is generally the case, I took this opportunity to call my mom for one of our weekly gab sessions. You know how those calls go: “Here’s everything important that’s happened in my life since last week,” and vice versa.

By the way, my sister and I both have a proclivity for doing this – and yes, mom, we know it makes you crazy, but it doesn’t mean we love you any less. I’ll take a moment here to publicly blame it on generational differences. Right or wrong, outside of client engagements, I generally text or Facebook or Tweet or LinkedIn way more than I actually pick up the phone to “catch up” with someone.

Anyway, I mentioned to my mother how surprised I was that:

  1. Dad set up a Facebook account.
  2. Dad and I were now friends on Facebook.
  3. Dad responded to a Facebook status update.
  4. Dad “liked” a Facebook status update.
  5. Dad “liked” my Facebook business page.

I’m surprised not because of my dad’s support. Rather, I’m surprised because prevailing assumptions in the association community is that Baby Boomers either aren’t on social media platforms or aren’t actively engaged with us in those spaces.

Certainly, my dad could be an outlier, but I don’t believe that to be the case. In fact, I think there are a number of people out there – just like my dad – who are beginning to take the leap. The only problem is that we’re not providing these individuals with the support they need to be successful in our online communities – and, more importantly, we’re not giving them unique, valuable content.

Here’s what I mean:

  • My dad needed help. So do your members. My dad just this year got an iPhone. I don’t even have an iPhone (I’m a loyal Droid fan). He’s certainly interested in experimenting with all of the features of his new phone, but the sales reps at his store only have so much patience and it’s not likely he’ll Google or YouTube directions. That’s where you can step in. A simple social media kit identifying which social media platforms your organization is on, as well as very basic tips, tricks and best practices for actively engaging with others in these communities.
  • My dad is watching. So are your members. Whether they’re still actively engaged in the workforce, have long since retired, have received life membership with your organization or volunteer for your cause a couple of hours a month, most associations have a subset of Baby Boomers they’ve written off when it comes to social media. I hear it time and time again: “They’re just not interested,” or “We’re not reaching them.” I think these are myths – and I think it comes down to sharing appropriate and informative content with this demographic.

Following are a few additional thoughts that have bubbled up for me since chatting with my mom:

  1. Know what social media platforms your members, volunteers, speakers, advocates and supporters are using – and don’t be surprised to find them there. With a steady stream of updates and valuable content, as well as an approachable identity, Facebook can be an important mechanism for membership development, sponsorship procurement, attendance building, reminiscing, recommending and more. (The sky really is the limit.)
  2. My dad has nothing but time on his hands. Yes, he is retired. And, yes, he still works full-time to stay busy (the man could not sit still for any extended period of time if his life depended on it). Nevertheless, he still has time to check Facebook and engage with his peers. Won’t you please set him up for success?
  3. Believe it or not, my Dad is using his iPhone to check Facebook posts, updates, news and information. I was sure he was using the computer, but that’s just not the case. My mom claims he hasn’t even turned the thing on in two weeks or more. This has strong implications for your website, as well. If it’s not yet mobile-friendly, it’s time to start moving in that direction.
  4. With a little help and the right content, I think there’s an entire group of individuals out there who are, first and foremost, loyal to a fault. In many cases, they’re either new to the idea of online communities or they just haven’t been actively engaged with their professional associations in this space. A little resources could go a long way to developing your fan base. Ultimately, I think you’ll find a pretty significant return on your investment.

So, my question to you is this: Has your organization found this Baby Boomer presence online? What have you found most successful in actively engaging this important demographic? What outcomes have you experienced as a result of this renewed commitment to more seasoned veterans like my dad?


What American Idol and Food Network Star teach associations about mentoring

As another season of American Idol comes to a close (congratulations Phillip Phillips!), I can’t help but reflect on all of the changes the show has undergone over the years. From two hosts to one, a bevy of new judges, a remarkably flashy set, amazing new musicians and back-up singers, celebrity stylists and now, quite arguably, the best talent in all of the reality show singing competitions.

Not to ignore or outshine past Idol alums like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, but the talent this season was consistently more impressive than in years past. Certainly, the possibility exists that talent – in general – is just better in 2012 than it was nearly a decade ago. However, I have to believe that mentor Jimmy Iovine has had something to do with this transformation.

For those who don’t know, Jimmy Iovine is an acclaimed music executive and record producer, and is Chairman of Interscope Records. Interscope works with diverse and gifted artists such as Eminem, Lady Gaga, Dr. Dre, U2, Sheryl Crow, The Black Eyed Peas, Mary J. Blige and Nelly Furtado. A little something for everyone.

Additionally, Iovine co-produced the hit films “8 Mile” starring Eminem and “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” with 50 Cent, as well as two consecutive Super Bowl Halftime Shows: one in 2002 featuring U2, and the other in 2003 featuring Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting. Additionally, he executive-produced the critically acclaimed LeBron James documentary “More Than A Game.”

For the last couple of seasons, Iovine has also donned the hat of Idol contestant mentor. In this capacity, he gets to know the contestants, the range of their voices, their style and their swagger (that’s right, I said “swagger”). He supports song selection, unique arrangements and the creation of special moments in each performance. He also mentors and coaches contestants to ensure they put their best foot forward on the stage each week. After all, he is a producer by trade.

And although I certainly don’t credit him single-handedly for the remarkable show we experienced each week on the Idol stage this season (some of the contestants are more vocal about their direction as artists than others), I have to believe he’s had a pretty significant impact.

The same can be said for this season of Food Network Star. The show has undergone a major transformation this year. Celebrity chefs Alton Brown, Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay are no longer hosting challenges or judging competitions, but rather have selected their own contestants this year from the thousands of audition tapes and are mentoring them each week to best showcase their talent.

Not only has this ramped up the entertainment value of the show (we’re cheering for both the contestants and their mentors while learning more about what makes each of them tick), but the cooking acumen and personality of each contestant seems to be better showcased in this format. Instead of hanging the talent out to dry, the seasoned veterans are deliberately coaching their newbies through challenges, teaching them little tips and tricks, and honing their celebrity prowess and star power.

I have to believe this will result in a better outcome at the end of the season when a new Food Network Star is crowned. When this season’s winner begins taping his or her own cooking show, I envision a better-prepared and more confident host. Interestingly enough, the mentor of the winning contestant will stay on to produce the show – which should offer additional consistency to the contestant’s point-of-view, as well as continued growth and refinement as an up-and-coming celebrity chef.

So, my question to you is this: How do you actively support the development of your young/emerging professionals? How do you engage more seasoned professionals in the mentoring process? What positive outcomes have you experienced in your own association as a result of a thoughtful and well-organized mentoring program?

meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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