A little book of big ideasOpen Community offers social web approaches for associations (and more!)

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My friends Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer have just launched Open Community, "a little book of big ideas for associations navigating the social web". (I was fortunate enough to get to do cartoons for the book, which meant I got a sneak peek – and I was impressed with both the scope of their vision and the practical suggestions they have for their readers.)

And while those big ideas are aimed squarely at associations, there's a lot here for businesses, governments and individuals – anyone who's ready to take engagement with audiences to the next level. So as part of their virtual book tour, Maddie and Lindy are here on SocialSignal.com to answer a few questions for anyone interested in building community around their business, non-profit or agency.

Open Community: Little Book of Big IdeasHow did Open Community come about?

Lindy: So first of all, we want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to you, Rob, for creating the cartoons in the book.  They are so awesome, I know our readers will love them too!!


Lindy: Maddie and I have talked to thousands of association executives who have voiced their frustrations about the social web – from the overabundance of tools and the disorderly experimentation of staff (and members!), to the lack of organizational support and the unwieldy processes for monitoring and managing social media, and that's just the beginning. We decided to write Open Community as a way to address those frustrations and redirect the thinking about using social tools to build community online.

Maddie: It's funny, I was just re-reading your recent blog birthday post looking back at the last five years of social media. All of the stages of business social media adoption that you talk about really resonated with me – our experience has been very similar.  And the stage we're in now, where you mentioned that we've gone from "Why would I want to have these conversations?" to "How can I have better conversations?" – that's exactly why we wrote the book: to distill all of this mass of information about social media back to the real crux of why we're doing it and how to do it better.

Can you say a little more about the title?

Lindy: Here's the gist. Your Open Community is your people who are bonded by what your organization represents and care enough to talk to each other (hopefully about you!) online. Connecting with and supporting your Open Community is really important, because if you don't, someone else will.

Maddie: Yes.  In the book, we talk about five elements we've identified as being crucial to pay attention to as you're building relationships with your Open Community - things like why it's important to become a social organization, how to embrace the messiness of your "ecosystem", how to engage your stakeholders the way they want to engage with you.  These things and many more will nurture and grow your Open Community.

I especially like the ability to embrace both a disciplined approach to the social web, and the messiness that an ecosystem entails. It's one of the places where your advice can apply to non-profits, but also to businesses, government and individual people.

Maddie: Well, we see the book as a conversation starter--we hope tons of people will get the chance to read it, and think about how the concepts affect their organization.

Lindy: And we hope to gather lots of great stories about Open Community in action, which we'll continue to share in many ways throughout the year. So here's a question for all of you to consider... How is your business building community online? What's your strategy for connecting with and supporting your Open Community? Is it working?

Thanks for coming by, you two... and for the opportunity to make a contribution to your book.

And if you're interested, you can buy Open Community online, or learn more about the book at OpenCommunityBook.com.

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