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Connecting with Members and Creating Community Online

November 01, 2012

Section News

At the 2012 STLE Annual Meeting, held in St. Louis, MO, panelists met during the Local Section Leadership session to share and discuss new ideas as they relate to all aspects of leading and maintaining a local section. Key topics included membership, programming (regular meetings, education day, plant tours and social events), leadership and volunteering, providing services to students and sponsors, and new ways to reach out and create community online.

Making members feel like they’re part of a community heightens the feeling that they’re among friends, they belong there and that they want to stay. Read on for ideas on creating connection and community, the focus for this issue. If you’d like to read the entire article, click here.


Website If you’re considering a website, talk to the sections that currently have websites: Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Philadelphia and Toronto (you'll also find a brief overview of each setup in MyCommunities). They will be able to provide some insight on what it takes to set up and maintain a website. Generally, having a member who is tech savvy can be helpful, but is not necessary. You can outsource the website creation to a professional or consider outsourcing it to students at a local university. The STLE office can set up a micro-site for your use, but you'd have to send us any updates. In the future, you will have that capability (for now, staff needs to update the page). Look forward to that in 2013!

LinkedIn, Facebook & Google+ These are just a few of the free social media options you can utilize, and they make a lot of sense if you want to build an online community, but aren’t at the website stage yet (or want to supplement your website). You can create a LinkedIn Group, a Facebook Page/Group or Google+ Circle where members can join, start discussions, share information and more. You can make the groups open or limit them to members only. If you’d like more information – just try a Google search or look at the tutorials offered on each website. You can also contact us at the office before starting any social media efforts. More in depth articles will be available soon on how you might use each outlet for your section. You can see what STLE is currently doing on Facebook and LinkedIn.

YouTube & Flickr These two sites are available for free to post videos and photos, respectively. Get creative and tap into your membership by having members create short how-to videos, tutorials or even provide quick best practice notes on their area of expertise (i.e. how to install a bearing properly, proper lubrication for gears, etc.). You can also post sponsor videos, if they have some already made. Flickr can be used to house your event photos, and you can link to photos on your blog or in your e-newsletter. You can see what STLE is currently doing on YouTube and Flickr.

Blogs & RSS Feeds Blogs are handy for building community, but they are more centered on providing content. A blog is essentially a website (available for free, but with less functionality than a traditional website), that allows you to post content on a regular schedule. A blog has posts (short articles) which can be used to do many things, including: tout your education program (accompanied by links to the registration form), talk about your latest technical meeting, provide summaries of presentations and cover events through photos. An RSS Feed is “Really Simple Syndication” – essentially a way of signing up to receive an email whenever the blog is updated, allowing members to subscribe and receive automatic notifications when something new has been posted (a great way to avoid sending out constant emails). An alternative to creating your own blog – send information to us and we can post features and/or news announcements on the STLE blog, or create a blog for your use.

Content & Promotion With any of these options, you want to make sure you have great content you can share. These are all just tools—they are not an end, they are a means to an end. You want to create engagement whenever you can, and members will only be engaged if you give them something to talk about, read or discuss with each other. And remember that no matter what kind of options you’re providing online, be sure to let members know about it – mention it at every meeting, or have a handout of some kind you can provide to newcomers.

Technical eNewsletters This is something new to STLE—a technical newsletter sent out via email and posted on our website, which is fed through content submitted and reviewed by members and our technical committees. If you’d like to start creating content, this is a great way to get involved. Simply ask a member, volunteer or speaker to write up an article on any of the topics listed here. You can see our sample of the Metalworking Fluid eNewsletter here. It’s gotten a great response so far, and we’ll look to continue that and expand our other technical offerings. If you provide an article that summarizes a recent technical presentation, showcases a video from your section, or otherwise give them solutions to their everyday problems, you’ll be a hero to your members (and remind them what they get out of their membership on a regular basis).

Networking is the starting point to build a community and that's you offer that at every meeting. If you’d like to try expanding to online tools and avenues, these are just some of the available options.

For more information, questions, or how you might apply these concepts to your section, contact Kara Sniegowski at klemar@stle.org, or at (847) 825-5536.

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