We’ve talked quite a bit here on the blog about social media and how to engage members in an online community, but who needs to lead the charge? Association staffers are logical choices for online community administrators and organizers, but they are not necessarily the best placed to consistently seed conversations and spark discussion about industry topics on your social network. In fact, we’ve found that that the most successful online event-based communities are driven by carefully selected and highly energized members of the association’s professional community.

With all of the potential champions, you’ll have far better responses to your request for involvement if you personalize the invitations. Instead of sending out “hey everybody!” letters to the entire committee, take the time to call up each volunteer to explain how to “socially” interact in the community and what you’d like them to do. You’ll get a better response, and you’re more likely to make the volunteers feel valued.

Five Potential Champions for Your Online Community

  1. Speakers/Presenters
    You invite speakers to come to your events to share their expertise and energize your attendees. Thus it makes sense that these industry experts would also energize your online community members. Ask speakers from your past events to take a special role in leading conversations, responding to questions and posting resources. The speaker cements his or her relationship with future attendees, and your online members feel more connected with your programs and education. It’s a perfect trade off.
  2. Active Volunteers
    Generally your board directors, committee members, chapter leaders, PAC organizers and section volunteers are some of the most engaged members in your organization. Tap them to help lead discussions about their specialties, and ask them to identify and engage key leaders in their areas.
  3. Young Professionals
    It’s kind of a given that young professionals may be more likely to adopt the new technology of your online event community, but you can give their involvement a little extra push by tapping a few up-and-coming young professionals to help achieve your social media objectives.
  4. Veteran (and Retired) Members
    You can really make some headway in engaging multiple generations of your members by asking more seasoned members to lead some conversations. Look for members who have built reputations after years in the industry, and ask them to chime in with the expertise they’ve earned. Even a retired member is an excellent option. Sometimes these people are looking for ways to stay connected via social media (and they have the time).
  5. Consultants and Vendors
    Sure, these members have an agenda… they want to get their names out there so they can find more business. But these members can be some of the most knowledgeable in your industry, and as long as they follow the guidelines for smart social media interactions, they’re likely to keep people engaged with both frequent interactions and intelligent commentary.

Any other online community / social media champions you can think of?