Mobile Messaging Wildfire

Best Practices : Article

One of my favorite urban legends (actually a true story) concerns my business partner’s next-door neighbor’s teenage daughter and the quiet “little party” she planned to have while her parents were out of town. Now, bear in mind that the party was completely sanctioned and pre-approved by her parents.

But in our age of ubiquitous smart phones and mobile messaging, quiet, little teenage parties are often hard to keep under control. At some point during the evening, word got out via dozens of friends’ mobile phones, and the little party became a blowout. By the time the police showed up, the host was in tears, as mobile messaging wildfire turned a small marshmallow-roast campfire into a five-alarm conflagration.

Andy Freed, my business partner, offered to help clean up the mess while his neighbors were out of town, filling up several lawn leaf bags with empty beer cans and bottles. After returning and surveying the wreckage, the neighbor called with thanks, but pointed out that Andy had missed a few beer cans. Some of the kids had been dancing on top of the kitchen table and used the blades of the overhead ceiling fan as can-holders before the party poopers showed up in their squad cars.

In our last survey of association management and operations practices, Virtual looked at vehicles associations are using for member communications, and we listed the following options: member emails, online discussion forums, blogs, printed and email newsletters, webinars and webcasts and all-member conference calls.

Notably absent, however (our bad) was text messaging, though Virtual has used it in its own association communications mix. Case in point: mobile messaging press attending a Barcelona news conference on a last-minute change to transportation arrangements for the press venue. I’ll be the first to admit that we should use mobile messaging much more and in many more ways than we do, given the rise of millennials among the ranks of our association members. And the likelihood that a majority of our members of all generations are now walking around with smartphones.

My sons, now in their 20s, are amazed when I tell them my email statistics. I’m likewise stunned to see how many text messages they exchange among their friends.

Meanwhile, association management communications are still largely rooted in store-and-forward email technology first developed more than 40 years ago. It is both dated and increasingly marginal to a growing percentage of our stakeholders.

Isn’t it time for an association communications shake-up? We’d love to hear your thoughts on bringing mobile messaging into the association management mainstream.

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