Using Social Technology to Harness Rivers of Information

While many associations are focusing on the use of social networking/media as a way to communicate with members, the most powerful benefit may be in learning to leverage social tools to build powerful rivers of information. Very few organizations have really institutionalized this powerful aspect of Web 2.0 interactivity-a shame because there is zero cost, and huge upside when done right.

We live in a knowledge economy, and a big part of the value that associations provide is the discovery, aggregation and distribution of information about an industry to group members. In a knowledge economy, smart people win, which also means smarter organizations have a better chance of prospering. We get smarter by improving the volume of knowledge we can jam into our brains. Accept that simple formula, then you will understand that the Internet and social tools now supply the most powerful way to feed the brain that we have ever seen.

Defining the river

According to Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, “Every two seconds, the equivalent of 380 million 20-sentence news stories or articles of information are being created, filed and dispersed throughout the globe. If each news story were a single drop of water, this deluge of information would fill up Lake Erie every 13 minutes.”

We can safely assume that this means gigabytes of information will be created about your industry today and every day going forward. And the reality is that most of your members may be able to harness only 2 to 3 percent of this bounty and get it into their brains-a shame because most people agree that knowledge is power, and that means 97 percent of the powerful knowledge your members could absorb is dropping on the floor. The same dynamic holds true for the staff of your association.

Bloggers, Twitterers, vendors, governments, observers, consultants and consumers all supply this huge new flow of information and it will only grow. Not only is the volume increasing, but the speed at which information becomes public is gaining velocity. Twitter now averages around one minute from the time an event happens to the moment it is flagged online-29 minutes faster than any other form of news delivery.

Your goal must be to harvest as much information about your industry, members or applicable trends in real time, and get it into the brains of your staff. In addition, you must become a filtering source for your members so they can look to you as a substantive contributor to their rivers, instead of just a supplier of irrelevant information that becomes flotsam in the stream. If you fail to become a filtering source, members will simply disregard you, get the information and filter it themselves.