Monday, November 28, 2011

Association Pareidolia

 The poet, the artist, the sleuth - whoever sharpens our perception tends to be antisocial... he cannot go along with currents and trends.

Alfred North Whitehead
English mathematician & philosopher (1861 - 1947)

"We need a Google+ Page for our association by the end of the day."
I think too many association folks are seeing the Virgin Mary in their toast.

That is to say some associations are jumping in with trends too quickly because they are convinced they have seen the "writing on the wall" and not taking the necessary steps in thinking things through all the way. I've seen this a lot lately with regard to mobile apps and Google+ pages.

It is human nature to see patterns. There are many reasons why this is part of our biological makeup. Our DNA is haunted by our need to recognize patters for our survival. But sometimes we make assumptions or move forward without pausing long enough to ask simple, clarifying questions and that can pose some problems for us in the long run. The problem isn't in seeing patterns - the problem is in how we interpret them and many times our primal instincts takes over for our more advanced problem solving skills. Those primal instincts can occasionally lead us down the wrong path.

Pareidolia (play /pærɨˈdliə/ parr-i-doh-lee-ə) is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse. Wikipedia
In addition, some association executives get so excited about the potential, that many of these trends can seem like the miracle technology that will transform the association overnight. 

To be clear, I am not arguing for taking longer (or too long) to make decisions. Associations can be painfully slow when it comes to making things happen. I am suggesting association executives and staff make suggestions and changes based on thoughtful deliberation. 

For example, before you proceed with creating a Google+ Page for your association, answer the following questions (and any others that seem appropriate) in your own mind:
  • Who is the audience? Who will monitor and update the site? Who needs to be a part of the project? Who needs to sign off on it?
  • What are you trying to achieve with the page? What are your goals for it? How will you reach them? How will you measure success?
  • When will it launch? How will it launch? How will you tell people about it?
  • What will you use to monitor it? Will you integrate it with other social media tools? What kind of measurements will you take from it and what will you use for benchmarking?
Once you have answered these questions you can feel better prepared to move forward on your initiative with deliberate steps in the right direction. Will you still make mistakes? Probably. But they will be a lot fewer than if you hadn't thought through your new technology project. 

What do you think? What should association executives always think through before moving forward with new technology or projects?


  1. This is so true, Kiki. It's so easy to want to jump on the latest thing without fully thinking it through. Here's another question for anyone thinking of creating -- or being asked to create -- that Google+ page: How many of your members/target audience are using Google+, and are there other social media that they're using more frequently but you have neglected?

  2. Great addition! With so many associations barely scraping the surface of what they can do with social media networks with an enormous following, it seems strange to even ask about Google+ until they are further along.

  3. Interesting. I'm fully on the other side of the fence on this one. I think it's important to experiment, and even more important to plant your association flag - even before you know if something will be viable or not. Social media is organic and ever changing, and the only way to be agile and nimble and go where your people go is to bake in curiosity and experimentation into all of your social media work. It's not about being everywhere, because you can't, but it is about staking out territory (even while linking back to your more active social spaces).

  4. Hey Mads! I don't know that we're on opposite sides of the fence...maybe our fences are different. I think it is great to experiment and wish more organizations built in support for that. I think what I am trying to get across is that with so many associations grappling with the basics, I'd rather staff go through a process of asking seemingly common sense questions before starting, or at least talk to the right people before "going rogue."

    I say this as a person who tends to naturally fall on the "going rogue" side myself. In fact, two weeks ago I created a DelCor Google+ page to play with (alerting our resident marketing director before publicizing it) and was reminded of the fact that we needed to talk about it first so we were all on the same page before I represented DelCor on that network. I agreed with his point and reminded myself to practice what I preach.

    So, to sum it up:

    ...experimentation = hell yeah!

    ...making sure to go through the process = okay, right on.


Thanks for your comments!