Canadian tech associations sign up for Facebook

Canadian IT industry advocacy groups and associations such as the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) and the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) have been Facebook-ing up a storm lately in a bid to build their brands.

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John Reid, president of CATA, said the leap into social networking was a natural one, as industry associations are designed to network and get ahead in the business. Even during the pilot stage, he said, a question about RFID issues drew dozens of responses.

Although Reid acknowledges that a Facebook group could never take the place of their formal Web site, he hopes to spill the Web 2.0 benefits of sites like Facebook into CATA’s formal Web site as well. “We want system integration, but no duplication,” he said. This means, said Reid, implementing outreach practices and taking advantage of user intelligence.

Tapping into the Facebook boom should help CATA capture and retain the younger IT staffers. Said Reid: “The next-generation CEOs are wedded to this type of technology.” He admits that, previously, CATA wasn’t “engaging (this segment) as fully as we might have,” but Reid is confident that the Facebook initiative will be a good lure.

“The value of Facebook is engaging a set of users already fully engaged with it. If you’re trying to appeal to (the demographic) that uses Facebook, why not do it in Facebook?” said Oliver Young, an analyst with Forrester Research.

The word is already spreading, according to Reid, who said that its groups’ numbers are increasing, courtesy of the viral word-of-mouth spreading of the groups via its members’ own networks and sharing of it.

To add onto its presence, Reid plans on implementing hubs—around issues such as advanced security—that would be closed groups, and would require permission to join. It will continue to be a focus for the Alliance, he said, as it most certainly is the way of the future, citing third-party studies that show that advertising dollars are flowing more and more toward social network sites.

Mary Jean Kucerak, executive director of CIPS, agreed about the potential of such a tool. CIPS recently launched its own Facebook group to promote the association’s fiftieth anniversary, which is coming up next year. There, group members can share their experiences and memories of CIPS from over the years to help record its history in advance of the anniversary celebrations.

Kucerak was drawn to Facebook due to its ubiquity and ease of use. “(The group) was easy to set up,” she said. “There’s a number of our members on there, and it’s easy to engage with the broader IT community.”

It’s an increasingly trendy ploy. Young said, “People want to be able to check in with their friends, their alumni groups, and even their family on Facebook, so being able to check in with an association would be very appealing.”

IT professionals are especially in tune with Facebook, he said, and are ripe for the picking on the site. Said Young: “IT associations want to appeal to the Web 2.0-, networking-, and tech-savvy crowd, and those that are the first to adopt—and, generally, that’s the IT professionals. They’re the very first to adopt, so for an (IT association) to engage (in that space) is a very good one.”

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