Associations can take a few lessons away from the wealth of information doled out during the panels and core conversations that filled the days during SXSW Interactive in Austin March 13-17. The five-day conference brings together the best and brightest minds in social media, technology and design.

No matter the subject of the hundreds of panels and conversations that were going on, several topics kept coming up again and again, and associations can learn valuable lessons from those discussions:

  1. “What’s your blog address?” If your association hasn’t started a blog yet, today is the day. A blog provides your association an easy way to disseminate information and receive feedback all in one place, and helps build credibility by giving visitors a glimpse into a more personal side of your company.
  2. Respond to every email. Members and potential members of your association, along with members of the media and just curious web users, are likely to contact you online. No matter how crazy or far-reaching the email is, answer every single one. This will not only reiterate good customer service and response on your end, but it will let the folks behind such inquiries know that there is a real person behind your web presence. Recruit other members on your team to take on this task because it could get overwhelming.
  3. Create great culture. What’s the atmosphere like within the walls of your association? Do you provide free soft drinks to staff members? Is everyone required to wear a suit every day? The culture within your organization will be very evident, and it will trickle down in the interactions—both online and offline—that you have with members and potential members.
  4. Start the conversation. Your members and potential members are online. They’re blogging, tweeting and having conversations across a wide variety of applications and platforms. Jump in! Start the conversation and get information about your association and the benefits of membership out to a new group of readers online. Not sure how to get to started? Blog about a new benefit. Tweet a question about the best place to schedule a business dinner. Post pictures from a recent event to an online photo-sharing site.