Monday, October 15, 2012

SigEp and Social Media, the story continues to grow.

Thanks to Michael Ellis, member of the SigEp Technology Task Force, for this post
5,000 Volunteers, actively engaged with our undergraduate chapters, filling every key role on our AVC boards.   WHAT?  Are you KIDDING ME?   So says the SigEp Strategic Plan of our goal to expand volunteerism in SigEp in dramatic new ways.  

We have no more than 2500 today.  To get to that level of volunteerism, we must change what we’ve been doing for the last 25+ years.   We must find new ways to engage volunteers and to match them with the chapters and undergraduates who need them.    Social Media can give us the tools to achieve that goal.  Let me explain.

Facebook, Twitter and yes, LinkedIn have each attracted their own unique followings.  Each system offers something interesting and useful for the community in each.   Many SigEps have signed up for all of these networks and find value in being a part of the unique communities that each of these networks has spawned.

Now comes a young upstart, Google+.   A new social network, a fledgling in a world dominated by Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter.  Where on earth would a new social network find a following?   What would be its niche?  And Google?  I mean, c’mon.....Google has tried and failed several times to invade Facebook’s space and they have always fallen flat on their virtual face.  Why would this time be any different?  What’s the case for people to use Google+ instead of Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn?   Where is the compelling function that will draw an audience?   What, exactly, is the problem we’re trying to solve for?  And for SigEp, why would our beloved fraternity want to invest precious resources in this new, potentially also-ran social network?  The answers to these questions take a bit of explanation, but the conclusions to be drawn are unmistakable.  

For most undergraduates, and some alumni, Facebook connects them with their families and their old friends.  It has the power of incumbency, which, especially in these particular months, we know to be very powerful indeed.  LinkedIn persists as the de facto winner in professional social networking.  People serious about their careers (and who isn’t?) use LinkedIn to build their professional networks with the hope of improving their employment and business prospects.  Many of the same people often look to Twitter as the mastermind of the “text message communication” medium, on topics that can command their immediate attention.  

SigEp finds itself reaching out, searching to use these profound new technologies in ways that are relevant to our purpose.  As is so often the case, breaking ground comes from the grassroots of our organization.  Thus our LinkedIn group grew to 14,000 members under the direct leadership of two dedicated volunteers (Bryce Giesler and Eric Chan).  Facebook was more obviously a choice for the national fraternity to sign on to and encourage, lead there by our youngest brothers.  Today, our Facebook presence generates hundreds of interactions every day.   Twitter as well extends to a large segment of our audience, helping us share important, pressing matters.  We reach large swaths of our stakeholders with these tools, with some significant overlap.


How would Google+ find itself a niche?  Why should we bother with another social network when Facebook is so obviously dominant?  The compelling case for Google+ is not that it would or should replace FB or LinkedIn or Twitter.  What makes G+ something different and captivating from alternative social networks comes down to advantages that the others simply don’t have and have little chance of offering in the foreseeable future.  

Google+ is not a social network.  It is the platform that unifies all Google products, including Google Mail, Google Maps, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google’s Youtube and of course, Google Search.  An overwhelming majority of SigEps members of all ages already use many of these Google products.   Today, you won’t find your friends from high school on G+.   Go ahead, use Facebook for that.  You may not find your current or even your future boss there.   Use LinkedIn to find them.  Hoping to find celebrities telling you about their latest movie release or politicians hinting at a link to their websites?   Head straight to your Twitter account for most of that.

Google+ is about engagement and interaction along the interest graph.  Powerfully integrated with Google’s stronghold on the search for information, Google+ lets you find people who share your interests, your passions.   You might be near them geographically, but that would only be true if you specifically intended it.  Instead, Google+, using powerful collaboration (Google Docs) and interaction tools (Google Hangouts and Youtube) lets you find people whom you wish to find and to build a community based on strongly shared interests, even values.  Starting to sound familiar?   What binds us together nationally as a fraternity is our powerful shared interest in the principles that help to building balanced leaders and living a fulfilled life based on those principles of Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love.  

Google+ is 100M active members strong today (400M members, with common agreement on the active number), just over one year after it was created.  It is still dwarfed by Facebook at over 1B members (with widely disputed guesses at how many are active and what active means).  
The Next Web says “Think whatever you like about Google+, but there’s no doubt that the search giant has direct access to a wildly high percentage of global Internet users thanks to it’s extreme dominance in areas like search, video, advertising and mobile. No matter its current popularity, there’s a lot of power behind it and that means something.”

Our strategic plan says we want 5000 volunteers actively engaged with our undergraduate chapters, filling every key role on our AVC boards.   We have no more than 2500 today.   To get to that level of volunteerism, we must change what we’ve been doing for the last 25+ years.   We must find new ways to engage volunteers and to match them with the chapters and undergraduates who need them.  Google+ gives us (along with our foundation with Chapterspot) the platform to eliminate the geographic barriers to volunteerism in SigEp.   Forget the social network.   Think of it as the SigEp network.

“This fraternity shall be different....” comes alive once more by our starting a new way of recruiting, training, encouraging, supporting and engaging volunteers with our undergraduate chapters.  Distance Mentoring, as it’s coming to be called, lets a Mentor (older alumnus or older undergraduate) work directly with his Mentee (undergraduate of any age, on any topic of interest to him in his own development plan), using the enabling technologies of Google Hangout (up to 10 participants in a video and audio conference, for free) and Google Docs (where ideas, plans, budgets, and presentations can be formulated interactively together).

Be a part of something great.  Show how once again, “This fraternity shall be different.”   

Get a Google+ profile and follow our SigEp page.   You’ll be part of a growing circle of SigEps who will collaborate to do something truly great.  

It’s easy.......

  1. Go to URL plus.google.com
  2. Then
    1. If you have a Google account, sign in --- OR ---
    2. If you don’t, create an account using any Email address you like (gmail or any other)
  3. Fill out as much of your profile as you like (or come back later for more)
  4. Then go to URL https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/116363079075786725435/116363079075786725435/about
  5. Hover your mouse over the Red button next to our name and Follow our page
  6. Send a quick message telling the SigEp Collaboration Circle about your involvement and history with our fraternity

We’ll follow you back and you’ll be a pioneer in the most dramatic launch of volunteer expansion that SigEp has ever seen!