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Scenes from a launch: What went right for the Alabama Social Media Association

March 7, 2011

Stacey Hood, Kristen Heptinstall, Rick Journey, Good Day Alabama on Fox 6

Stacey Hood, left, and Kristen Heptinstall discuss the new Alabama
Social Media Association with Rick Journey on Fox 6’s “Good Day Alabama.”

We knew we had a good thing on our hands. But you never really know till you put it out there.

And so, when we launched the Alabama Social Media Association on Tuesday, we hoped for good response.

Instead, we had an avalanche of good will. It was unbelievable.

So many things went right. I want to share how we as a team pulled it off, so your next launch — new business, new product, new campaign — can be as successful.

Build something fantastic. It’s much easier to whip up excitement when you have something awesome to share. We spent months putting together this organization.

We started with the right people: We shared common goals in building a group that would serve the community, not ourselves. And we weren’t ashamed to get outside help. Flying up Whitney Breaux of the Baton Rouge Social Media Association to advise us was the best money we ever spent. The guidance she gave us, including mistakes to avoid, helped us move very quickly from brainstorming to planning to launch day.

If you’re going to start a group, hire her.

And if other cities in Alabama want to start up their own chapters, we are here for them. The game plan can be copied, modified and done again and again. But it takes dedicated people working toward that common goal to create something extraordinary.

• Communicate. Sounds easy, right? But when even one team member fails to notify the others of a possible problem, it can turn into a real nightmare real quick. (More on that in a future installment.)

We erred on the side of communicating everything. Note that we didn’t err on the side of meeting too frequently. That makes for a huge difference.

We collaborate through a combination of Google Docs, a private Facebook group, e-mail and phone. We have each others’ backs. Of all of those, the Facebook group has been a huge life saver and time saver.

(Two years ago, I would have set up a small mailing list to collaborate via e-mail. And judging by the threaded comments in our Facebook group, we would easily have hit 1,000 e-mails with a couple of weeks.)

Even incremental progress is typically noted in the Facebook group: meetings, phone calls, completed tasks, stalled tasks, updates all make for daily fodder. It can be a lot to navigate on busy days, but for the most part, it has kept everyone on the same page. So very critical with tight deadlines, autonomous board members and a thousand moving pieces.

Assign a taskmaster. As a five-member board plus one executive director, we are all equal. We know each other’s strengths and shortcomings. But we are all free to handle our business as we see fit.

That can sometimes lead to stalemate, to apathy, to confusion. What helps is to have a taskmaster.

From the start, we knew unquestioningly that the role would fall to Jeff Vreeland, chairman of our board.

Why Jeff? He came in hyper-organized. He took charge immediately. And no one wanted to kill him for it.

Just the opposite: We wanted to support him in that thankless role.

Jeff doesn’t let idle chatter spin into a longer meeting. He keeps the group focused on task and on topic. He takes copious notes and assigns action items. He drew upon his years of experience in management and leadership, among businesses and nonprofits to step up.

You don’t want to let Jeff down. Because he will push to ensure that we keep moving forward.

When you have a seemingly impossible list of people to contact, sponsors to secure and questions to answer, it helps tremendously to have someone prioritizing and delegating. Jeff has done that admirably without losing patience or accepting an adequate solution when a great one is out there waiting to be discovered.

He hasn’t engendered resentment. He’s earned respect.

Luck played a part, as did flexible planning. So did persistence and prayer.

A couple of things fell short on our launch, but so many things went right, we can’t complain. Our event sold out quickly. We received great questions and no negative feedback. We worked the plan almost flawlessly, including social media outreach, traditional media positioning, buzz building and delivering on our promises. And people are excited.

As I have applauded our success, I have cautioned against cockiness and complacency. We still have an event to run. We still have a membership to grow. We still have many, many people to bring into the fold. But the Alabama Social Media Association is off to a fantastic start.

It took a lot of people, a lot of work, just enough time and a great community at the heart of it all.

Completely and totally worth it.


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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2011 12:36 pm

    Great recap on our success. Without a doubt the biggest thing we have done to ensure success is communicate. Open transparent communication will pull through any group in any situation.

    Also, thank you for the kind words. It has been an enjoyable experience to work with such a great group of leaders within this association and I look forward to awesome things!

    • March 8, 2011 11:08 pm

      I wanted to document our progress, so that other groups could copy our model, as we had copied Baton Rouge’s template. But no doubt communication and teamwork have made this run smoothly.

  2. March 9, 2011 4:39 pm

    The teamwork and public support has been amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of another group/association that communicates and works so well together. Your post shows that it is paying off. Everyone on the Board of Directors has done an excellent job but we owe a big thanks to you, Wade, for kick starting and driving this and to Jeff for taking on the leaders role. Time is a precious thing and I appreciate you and the other board members who have given up personal and professional time to make this such a great success.

    I also appreciate your call to humility, sharing what is learned and to keep moving forward. To me that’s what social media is all about.

    • March 9, 2011 5:31 pm

      Thanks, Chris. I must also give thanks to Stacey Hood, who from early on kept asking how we can do this and do this better.

      Humility is very important to me. We want a sustainable organization long past when we have stepped down. Reaching out has been essential, and so many people deserve credit in this new group.

  3. March 25, 2011 4:22 pm

    Wade and ALSOCME,

    Congrats on all your successes! You’ve assembled a great team to really take your organization to the top. Always know your sister chapter in Baton Rouge is here to help!


    • March 26, 2011 3:50 pm

      Thanks, Whitney. Know that we are standing by to help y’all out, too!


  1. Help Baton Rouge. Here's how. | Y'all Connect

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