Member engagement means nurturing and managing relationships to increase an association’s membership volume, value, and retention, and it is critical for an association to break down what engagement looks like for them. Associations should focus on driving those activities that provide value to members, as well as those that will support the mission of the organization.
Those activities related to membership engagement can be anything that connects an association to its members: a personal phone call or email, a weekly newsletter, or an invite to a networking event. Or from the member’s point of view, it could be a visit to the association’s website, or a “like” or a “follow” on social media.
These days, associations are moving more and more towards establishing and building their online presence, which means that online communities are crucial for developing a more connected community. Whether it may be an association’s website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn accounts, social media and web-based platforms are at the top of the list for member engagement.
But which of these engagements is more important than the others, and how do you know which ones to focus and build on to form a more connected community?
Building an online community is only part of membership engagement, but the reality is that your website is your primary connection to your association. Your website is where members go for information and insight; where they find links to new and exciting information in your association’s field; where they can register for association events; and where they can manage their membership profile. The biggest goal for any association website is to get members to the site and keep them coming back for more. This means offering the right content – content that is fresh, up-to-date, and easy to find – to keep them engaged to ensure they maximize the value of their membership.
Social Media Platforms
Social media participation is only part of the member engagement equation, so it is increasingly important to enable and promote two-way social media engagement with members. Two-way social media engagement is a conversation where the company speaks but also listens to their audience, responding directly to their wants and needs. You never want to be doing all the talking. Always post with a purpose and be consistent from hashtags to engagement, posting regularly because consistency is key. You can read more about the dos and don’ts of social media posts in our blog article Six Things to Do and Four to Avoid When Using Social Media for Your Association. The best scenario is to have members liking and sharing your content, asking questions, and leaving comments—good or bad (and unfortunately associations do sometimes receive negative feedback, but use those comments to build and engage more members. Don’t ever ignore them, no matter now negative).
Another way to engage members is by way of making them feel valued. Try hosting networking events that will engage longstanding members and attract new younger members. Networking is the top reason most people join associations. Bringing these two groups together will help to form a member mentorship, where the experienced members talk about the industry, and the younger members talk about social media platforms. It is sometimes hard for associations to shift their thinking to a new way of networking, but it is necessary to engage all members as opposed to one type or another. For example, the typical wine and cheese after hours can be shifted to an event that happens during the work day, like a lunch and learn, a supplier-sponsored hike, or a bowling event that will bring out some of the newer industry members. Give the member the “feel of missing out” by posting images of the event on your social media profiles. Hopefully by thinking outside the standard networking box you will be able to engage all members.
Once routines are established it is easy to develop a strategy on how best to engage your members. Connecting through online communities, social media and in-person and online networking can help to build a foundation to both retain and attract new members. As the old adage says, “Build it and they will come.”