How do industry associations stay relevant?

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Full disclosure here, my company is a member of SNIA’s IP Storage Forum, and I’m the education chair.

So last week I found one of the biggest companies in our space decided they would opt out of the forum.  They were evaluating their participation in industry associations and the value they get out of.  This felt like the Bellagio opting out of the Las Vegas Tourism Board.  How is that possible?

So the question, why do people join these associations?  All associations, to varying degrees:

  • offer excellent networking opportunities
  • advance the industry (or profession or technology)
  • increase understanding of technology (or skills or area)
  • unify individuals (or companies)
  • create standards (or certifications or code of ethics)
  • host conferences
  • have dues

In the age of social media, social networks and virtual worlds, do we need these activities to happen via non-profits and governing bodies?  If everyone can be involved in the conversation, do they look for these “governing bodies” to drive the discussion?  Are the groups moving to LinkedIn and Facebook?
I think, for these industry associations to thrive, they need to create conversations, host conversations and provide a central place for conversations. Our group is planting the seeds of a blog, and working on ways to increase our influence and become a better source.

One of the biggest challenges is that typically these associations are the province of Fortune 500 companies (or the largest players in the space).  The little guys are left out because they can’t afford it, they are “outsiders” looking in, or maybe don’t feel like it is relevant for their company.

My thoughts?

  • Reach out to newcomers in the field (industry).
  • Set up a mentoring program
  • Appeal to some of the non-conformists
  • Make it social online and off with a web community, casual ad-hoc local or regional events
  • Give back to the home community (locally where the organization is based) goodwill is always good for awareness
  • Think different (or ask your members how they do)
  • Make it easy for individuals to get involved, with or without buy in from their company
  • Define the concrete benefits for participation
  • Maintain a low cost of entry for new members

Are you guys involved in associations?  Do you have any ideas?

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