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Charlene Li on creating a groundswell

Charlene Li, author of Groundswell, an influential book about how technology has enabled people to connect in ways never previously possible, keynoted the second general session at ASAE & The Center’s Annual Meeting and Exposition. Her key points:

Focus on relationships, not technology.

Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed – these all just sound like buzzwords. Rather than think about how first, think about what—think about the relationships you want to build. Doing this requires a strategy, and Li listed her four points to establishing a social media strategy: learn, dialog, help, innovate. Learning is more than just listening, it is internalizing what it is you are listening to. A dialog is not the message you want to shout at people, rather, it’s figuring out what they want from you. Helping is helping those you engage with meet their needs and goals. And innovating is not being afraid to try new things.

Start small, but start now.

Li was pretty good at listing the barriers associations talk about: no money, no time, no staff, legal issues, IT issues. Her point, and the point of most people who believe that the future of organizations will include social media, is that it’s happening anyway, with or without you. You can accept that or not, if you don’t, the message is really, “good luck.”

But if you do accept it, Li had some straightforward advice for starting: find the people who will be the foundation for you, that key audience that is either already familiar with tool or who share the passion of creating relationships and can act as a change agent. Nurture them, and allow them to move you forward.

Prepare to let go of control.

Li asked these questions: why do you need control? What is it you think you are in control of? The answer is pretty clear, you don’t really have control anymore anyway. Part of letting go of control she says, is figuring out what to do with failure. She gave Walmart as the classic example. After several years of high-profile social media failures, the company kept at it, and eventually found a strong presence to have. You have to be ok with failure and have the tenacity to keep trying new things.



I had a different take on giving up control. I think that in the give and take that is SocMed, when, how, and why you respond continues to be a crucial mark of how well you manage the interaction, not too differently than from a face-to-face event. I also believe how the message is crafted and through which delivery method is another control factor. Most importantly, how well you provide your service - well, that is the ultimate form of control, isn't it?

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