What was the association’s overall goal for the new FICPNet.com?
The new Web site was the result of a need for a refreshed visual identity and an improvement in functionality. We worked with a design firm for the newlogo and Web site layout, and built the site to really “wow” our members and partners. It’s a year-round resource that extends the face-to-face networking at FICP events.
We simplified the navigation, added resources like My FICP and TheNetwork, and made the site focused on the connections people make, not just the content on the pages. Overall, FICP leadership wanted to ensure that people could easily find what they need and connect with each other in meaningful ways.
User expectations of Web sites have evolved. In the “olden days” (perhaps, three years ago), people were content with sites housing information and acting as fancy bulletin boards. Then, expectations really demanded that sites evolve from the bulletin board mentality to that of an online community, where people can get the information they need and interact with each other. This is what FICP does well: We bring people together, whether face to face or online.
How has participation in TheNetwork grown since its launch?
People spent a lot of time using TheNetwork in the weeks following the 2012 FICP Annual Conference, at which we revealed the new tools. Participation has grown in the past year, with an average of 1,300 user log-ins and 37 discussion posts each month. One of the most valuable features offered by TheNetwork is the ability to write recommendations for fellow users and really share your experiences with them. We’re also seeing that the discussion forums are providing folks a great place to ask questions in this specific and close-knit community, and get honest answers.
Walk us through the first step a user should take to start interacting in TheNetwork.
My best advice for people getting started in The Network is to just get out there and “kick the tires.” It’s really intuitive, and you can’t break it. Do the housekeeping things like adding a photo and updating your profile. But to really dig in, take some time to join the discussion groups available to you, search the hundreds of great resources, and write a recommendation or two for people you know out there. You can get a real handle on what TheNetwork offers in less than 10 minutes—and you’ll be back for more once you see what is available.
Tell us about Ask Ed.
Ask Ed is our in-house resource for all things FICP. With the help of the FICP Education Committee, Ask Ed fields questions in TheNetwork about meeting planning, networking tactics, maximizing the Web site, and more. The first few questions came from committee members, but recently more have been coming in from our planner and hospitality partner community. Questions may be sent to AskEd@ficpnet.com.
What makes The Network different from a LinkedIn or Facebook group?
TheNetwork is protected behind a log-in, and is open only to FICP planner members and hospitality partners. While publicsites have their merits, the cohesive and almost family-like atmosphere this group maintains means that the networking happening at TheNetwork is more relevant and useful in a professional sense. Posting a question about a particular destination on LinkedIn might garner dozens of sales pitches from people in that area. Posting that same question on TheNetwork results in several planners sharing their experiences and resources there, and a few trusted hospitality partners offering up their information to start a conversation if there’s a good fit. This difference in approach is what will continue to set TheNetwork apart.
How can planner members and hospitality partners use the online directories?
There are two places in which users can access directory information. In TheNetwork, a spreadsheet of all planner members and hospitality partners is updated monthly and always available for download.
In My FICP, the directory search tool has undergone great improvements since our launch a year ago. Recently, the Hospitality Partner Advisory Council and Board of Directors worked together to update the planner profile questions so that searching by various criteria is easier and more relevant. And we added custom functionality to allow for those search results to be downloaded to a spreadsheet at any time as well. Whether you’re looking for the full FICP universe or a person based on specific criteria, we now have a tool for you.
Anything coming soon that users should be on the lookout for?
In October, we relaunched our monthly newsletter, NewsNet. As we see how people interact with it, we’ll continue to adapt to make it as useful as possible. We’ll also be amping up our gamification and leaderboard in TheNetwork in coming months—so members and hospitality partners can earn more participation badges and have a visual on how using TheNetwork brings great benefits.