Member engagement continues to be an issue for a lot of associations. Whatever your method of communication, providing relevant and engaging content should be a priority for associations. And the more channels of communication, the better chance to reach your members. To drive more traffic to your online community, take advantage of the other places where your members already congregate. It's important to convey to your members the advantages of the online community; the resources, peer connections, and the information they can access at their fingertips.
Creating your online community is just the first step. Getting your members to use and understand it requires some nurturing and leadership. Once you establish a culture and understanding of the benefits, your members will simply use the community organically.
Here are a few ways to get in front of your members and get more engagement for your online community:
- Emotional Connection: People are more likely to support an organization where they feel valued, and building a connection that is personal, honest, and socially conscious, yields higher brand loyalty and lifetime value for your members. Use personalized automated marketing, host events, tell them what the organization stands for, ask for case studies, tell them stories they can relate to, share pictures of staff in action, ask them how to better serve the profession. Remember to have an onboarding process in place so new members can be aware of all the benefits they get with their membership.
- Ask for Participation: Invite members to volunteer in committees, support a local charity and organizations, ask them for referrals or feedback. You cannot expect your members to act if you don’t ask.
- Customize for different groups: Your membership is probably diverse and you must find different approaches to appeal to each demographic. Offer special events or rewards for long time members, organize young professional groups, mentoring groups, student groups, classifieds groups, etc. use different content formats like videos and leverage your social media presence.
- Advertise: Advertising can put your association in front of members who are too busy to check their email. Tell them of upcoming events or classes or remind them of the benefits they are not using. Consider partnering with other organizations that align with yours and support each other.
- Improve content strategy: This is always a big point as your members need to feel they are getting real value. Commit to content marketing, be consistent, use the automated tools in the community, facilitate online participation. Gain momentum by keeping your members updated with success stories, reports on new things you’re trying (and why); the idea is to create content that will get members attention and leave them wanting more.. Content marketing is an investment. If your organization’s budget will allow, recruit content creators or marketing experts, if not, you already have an audience of members, well suited to help your association scale.
- Use call to action: CTAs should tell your members exactly what you want them to do and give them the motivation to do it. For example, "sign up now," "tell us about a time your work was criticized and how did you react?," "watch our new video..." Following are more examples of successful CTAs used in marketing:
Monster Website CTA
Backlinko collecting emails
Freshbooks showing the numbers
Rothy's using FOMO tactics
Toms letting you in on a secret
Williams Sonoma gets people to visit their website
Keep in mind that success doesn’t happen overnight but over time, and engaging your members is not any different. Just keep delivering value and members will keep coming back; create anticipation and upselling will be easier. Consultant Andrea Pellegrino, writing on The Demand Perspective, wants to remind you to take the bad with the good when it comes to engagement: “Guess what? Complaining about the association on a message board is engagement! So is every customer service inquiry, complaint, voicemail, email, or other message. Every website visit, page click, email open, and click-through … is engagement,” she writes. So don’t brush off the bad, it can only help your organization become better.