Social Media Club Launches Official Chapter Program

Social Media Club Copenhagen #SMCCPH - 27Since 2006, Social Media Club has operated as a sort of 'Un-Organization', eschewing the formality and legality in order to simply enable people to gather and share their knowledge with one another, both online and off. Local chapters have operated as informal groups of individuals working together for the common good. We incorporated in early 2007 as Social Media Club Inc. in the state of California, USA in order to have the basic framework for paying bills and managing finances.

As Social Media has evolved, and as the organization has grown to reach in excess of 100,000 people around the world, it has become necessary for Social Media Club to evolve as well. Fulfilling our original promise of operating as a not for loss organization, we are now transitioning to become a member owned professional association with global operations. This means that we are a 501(c)6 legal entity in the United States, which also means that all paying professional members in good standing are not only voting members, but also in part, owners of the association. While the complexities of international non-profits are immense and the administrative burdens/costs are a lot to bear, the time has come for us to take this important step forward.

In short, the organization is being given to the people who have built it around the globe. In order to operate effectively and fulfill our mission, the time has come that we transition to a more structured organization, at least at the core. The Official Chapter program is the best path we have found towards ensuring our mutual success.

Why Change?

The bottom line is that we feel we will all be better served under this new global structure. There are several reasons for this, the most important of which is the need to put the governance of the organization into the hands of the global membership and the need for a reputable association to look after the better interests of Social Media as an industry and a profession. We also have a sincere desire to see our original missions accomplished and this is not possible without real revenues and a full time staff. Further, it has grown so large that it is no longer possible to run the global operations and local chapter support from our home office.

While the 'let it go to let it grow' approach has served us well, we believe that each of the existing chapters could benefit from a co-operative sort of structure to provide basic services that enable you to focus on serving your local community. The structure we are designing here should strike the right balance between providing local chapters with the flexibility it needs for their unique community, while ensuring basic consistency in key areas such as knowledge sharing, co-promotion, and social good.

The other issue is that by enabling every chapter to use their own platforms, we have fragmented not only our global community, but also the knowledge it contains. This year there have been a countless number of local chapter events focused on the same topics, but in most cases, the local chapters did not build upon the insights shared previously from other chapters.

The Transition

In order to go from where we are, to where we want to be, we are launching the Official Chapter program to better serve the collective needs of Social Media Club members and chapter leaders around the world. In working with several chapters closely, surveying local chapter leaders and understanding the needs of a local chapter through our own experiences with San Francisco, we have developed this program with the intention of making it easier to operate a Social Media Club chapter and to accomplish our primary missions.

It's important to note here that this is the beginning and that much of this is open to discussion and adjustment. While we have done our best to be fair and to create a plan for the organization that will meet all of our  needs, we realize that there are many issues that will need to be addressed and perhaps even debated further. However, until there is a formally recognized group of paying professional members who qualify with voting rights, from a reasonable number of chapters around the world, we feel it is best to hold off on putting such issues as addressed in this program to a vote.

During Social Media University on November 10, 2010 in Orlando, FL we will hold our first annual membership meeting to address official business, including all aspects of the official chapter program and the relationship between the international organization and its member chapters. During our first annual international membership meeting, we will accept nominations for the 2011 Board of Directors with the vote happening online in early December and the annual term of the new Board commencing on January 1, 2011.

In the time leading up to the meeting, we will discuss all legal, financial and business issues of Social Media Club on our Leadership intranet. All local leaders listed on accepted applications into the Official Chapter Program (form below) will receive an invite to the Intranet. Applications will be considered as accepted when you receive notification from with instructions on next steps. Official Chapter status will be conveyed once all the requirements are met.

The transition period is expected to last through the end of the year. For practical purposes, there is nothing that you MUST do right now. We wish to give each chapter a reasonable amount of time to decide whether or not they would like to affiliate under this new organizational structure and take advantage of the benefits we will provide.

The Application Process

As of this moment, we are referencing all existing chapters as Open Community Chapters until such time as you complete the Official Chapter application and meet the qualifications thereof. As with our Open Membership program, there are no direct fees for being an Open Community Chapter.

The process itself is simple. First and foremost, we suggest local leadership teams who have questions talk with one another to review the benefits and requirements as detailed below. If you have questions, we invite you to join us on our weekly calls each Wednesday so we can make things clear. We will also be setting up other times in the weeks ahead to hold special conference calls in order to ensure that you can fully understand what it is we are doing and why. In order to help us run this transition more efficiently, we ask that you pick a representative to speak on your behalf so we don't end up saying the same thing to every individual on your leadership team, quadrupling our effort.

Please fill out the Official Chapter application form as thoroughly as possible. From this application we will create your accounts on the Intranet where we will begin sharing documents and preparing for our 1st official membership meeting in Orlando, FL on November 10, 2010. You don't necessarily need to promote paid membership to your local chapter members, but we think it would be beneficial for everyone. Either way, once you have 10 paying professional members (see below for more details), we will notify you of your Official Chapter status and recognize this in a weekly post on the Social Media Club blog. We expect for this to happen organically in many cases.

For those local leaders who wish to serve in an official capacity as either President, VP, Secretary or Treasurer, we are going to ask that you become a paying professional member in advance of the meeting at Social Media University, so you may vote for your interests. Should this place a financial hardship on you due to unemployment or another situation, please let us know and we will figure out a way to help you. This isn't intended to be onerous, but it is necessary for legal reasons with regards to the governance of the association. Besides, your professional or business membership essentially makes you an owner of Social Media Club.

Should existing chapters (which we are now referencing as Open Community Chapters) choose to not apply at this time, you will be able to retain your Open Community chapter status at least through the end of the year and the beginning of next. While it is my personal belief at this time that you should be able to keep such status forever, it will be up to the voting professional members of the organization and the 2011 Board of Directors as to how long they will continue to honor this status. The only issue I can see with preserving the status quo under the new structure is in the case where a chapter has dozens of paying professional members who are not being represented by local leadership in regards to official Social Media Club business.

The bottom line is that we hope you see the real value in restructuring this way and we hope to be able to hand over the keys to this great global village we have all built together in the very near future. We are looking forward to establishing an official democratically minded governance for all of the members around the world, to ensure that our work together might endure for the benefit of ourselves as Social Media Professionals and the world in which we live.

If you are interested in starting a Social Media Club in your city and there isn't one that already exists, we ask you to complete this Open Community Chapter application form. If you are a part of an existing Social Media Club chapter, we would like to request that you complete the Official Chapter application as soon as possible. 

In Closing

We understand that this change is significant and may not be of interest to you. If that is the case, we will gladly discuss it with you and make a transition plan as necessary for your specific needs. We hope that all of our chapters around the world will see the benefits of this new structure but understand that it is not likely and we will end up losing a few great chapters and wonderful people who may wish to start something else. Given our global size and our desire to put you in charge, we hope this is minimized, but having watched something similar happen with Internet professionals in the mid to late 90's, it is an unfortunate inevitability.

That said, please remember that all of this is subject to change depending on the will of the global voting membership.  In this case, my often used quote of Howard Rheingold's is particularly poignant – "What it is –> is up to you."

Thank you for your patience and for your continuing support, in whatever form it may take.


Official Chapter Benefits

Legal Status
Social Media Club, Inc. will file Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws and other pertinent legal documentation required to have official Not for Profit / NGO status for the Official Chapter in your home state or country.

The leadership team for Official Chapters will be voted in by members on an annual basis. Required roles are President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. Recommended additional leadership roles are Directors in Programming, Production, Membership, Sponsorship, Promotions, and Community Outreach. We also hope that someone within your community will serve as the SMCEDU liaison with the local university communities, and that you will support other global programs as appropriate. Individual's may serve in multiple roles with the approval of the Social Media Club global leadership.

A local bank account will be set up for Official Chapters. Chapter Treasurer will work closely with Banking liaison at Social Media Club, Inc. A portion of funds from the chapter account will need to be reserved for bookkeeping and other administrative services. The anticipated rate for these services, in line with other similar organizations, will initially be 5%, though this issue will be addressed during our first annual membership meeting and adjusted accordingly.

Leadership Education and Training
Extended learning opportunities through our official intranet and through other specific training opportunities such as the leadership day held during Social Media University. The leadership intranet will be a place where network sponsorship offers will be made, where issues such as this official chapter program will be discussed, and where we will all be able to learn from each other and share documents such as local bylaws, sponsorship packages and other program materials (like SMCEDU).

All official chapters will be covered by Social Media Club, Inc.'s General Liability policy. Certificate of Insurance, often required by venues for hosting events on their premises, will be provided upon request.

Local Hub on Web Site
While still in its early phases of development, the Web site is being built to represent a complete rethinking of a typical association Web site. The current state of the site in essence represents a 1.0 release. There are many other major components yet to be built such as chapter sCRM and eLearning tools. In the coming months we will also be investing in an integration program with leading Web services such as Eventbrite, and even Location Based Services. Together with your input, we will set a new standard for how global professional associations operate and how they serve the market for the benefit of its members.

Publicity and Promotion
Official Chapters, and those who have applied for this status, will receive additional publicity and promotion for events and programs of interest to members and potential members. Through our web site, and eventually through both online and offline marketing, we will work to drive increased participation in your local chapter. Additionally, you will be able to coordinate promotion with other chapter leaders through the Official Chapter Intranet and other yet to be built web technologies.

Sponsorship Revenues
Participation in network sponsorship opportunities available through Social Media Club, Inc.

Share of Membership Dues
Once the requirement of having 10 professional members affiliated with your chapter as their primary 'home' is met, every subsequent membership will provide the chapter with funds to use for events, for charitable purposes or other expenses of operating the local chapter. The percentages of membership dues listed in the schedule below will be discussed and amended as determined by a vote of the professional chapters during our annual meeting.

# of Members Percentage Share


Official Chapter Requirements

Qualification of Official Chapter
Once a chapter that has applied for Official Chapter status has 10 professional members associated with it, we will change your status on the web site from being an Open Community Chapter to being formally recognized as an Official Chapter. There is no revenue share on these members because the funds from these memberships, approximately $750 after membership fulfillment and setup expenses, will go towards setting up the legal and financial structure for the Official Chapter.

Legal Standing
Working together with the international organization, you will be required to keep the Official Chapter in good standing legally and financially. Each required position of the local chapter must be filled. A plan for annual leadership elections must be created and followed to encourage the cultivation of future leaders in the local community. Individuals who have a felony/criminal record may not serve in an official leadership capacity with the organization.

The Secretary and Treasurer must file quarterly reports detailing the then current financial standing of the chapter and listing its leadership. Further, a summary of chapter activities for the quarter past and a plan for future activities shall be submitted to Social Media Club International. Further details of this reporting requirement will be determined by the membership of the organization and the full Social Media Club, Inc. Board of Directors.

Professional Conduct
You are required to conduct the affairs of the organization in accordance with all locally applicable laws and regulations. You must serve and protect the good name and reputation of Social Media Club locally and globally. When approved by a majority of the total international membership in accordance with our bylaws, local leaders must agree to and support the Social Media Club Professional Code of Conduct.

Web Site Publishing
In order to keep every member around the world informed of your activities and to connect them with the knowledge and insights shared by your local members, we require that you list your events on the calendar, that you provide a summary of the events you hold within a few days after the event on the local chapter site on, and that you include your RSS feed from any external site you operate. You may continue to use your existing web properties as desired so long as these basic requirements are met.

Official Event Discounts for Members
You may choose to operate your local events as needed to ensure you do not lose money. This includes choosing whether or not to charge for these events. Should you choose to charge for events, we ask that you provide a discounted rate for Professional Members in good standing. You may choose to provide free access for professional members, but this is not required and would be dependent on the type of event you are hosting.

Support For the Official Missions of Social Media Club
Official Chapters should endeavour to fulfill the missions of Social Media Club through its local and online activities.