You know when a child turns 18, it is time to start taking life more seriously. When a caterpillar spins a cocoon, you know that a major change is at hand-but how do you know when your online member community needs an upgrade?
Here are eight signs that you have outgrown your online community software and a switch to a membership engagement system may be a good move:
1) You Have Many Different Systems All Linked to Your Online Community.
While your private member social network is connected to your member database, if your membership, chapter relations, and event teams are using multiple other tools to engage members for event registration, surveys, and member email marketing, consolidating into one system for all of your online member engagement activity can free up budget dollars and optimize IT support.
2) Your Site Needs to be Customized, but Your Platform Has Reached Its Limit.
Adding a member community to your website because your executive director or a board member went to a conference and learned that your organization needs to do something with social networking is not a receipt for member engagement success. Your online member community should be built around your specific organizational goals. Whether your focus is education and knowledge sharing, legislative action and advocacy, or membership growth and revenue generation, started social networks for membership organizations don’t have the flexibility to get tangible results based on your specific mission.
3) Your Community is Active, but Not Helping You Achieve Organizational Goals.
Your members are having discussions in your groups. Over 40% of your membership is logging into community once a month and 20% of your membership is sharing files, commenting on content, or posting in the forums. Nice job. How can your organization further capitalize on that foundational online engagement? Upgrading to a member engagement platform that includes online and in-person events, advocacy and issue tracking and built-in vendor programs are just some of the way you can take your online member engagement success further on your website.
4) Your Members Would Benefit From a Synced Listserv/Forum.
Having all of the new online community features are great, but your online community still does not incorporate your listservs. Having multiple places that your members to go to access your listservs and your online community will detract from each. Upgrading to a platform that provides both forums and listservs linked to one another enables members to access all the information for your organization quick and easily. Allowing members to use the method that fits their schedule and that they are most comfortable with leads to higher levels of engagement.
5) You Are Paying to Develop Separate Mobile Apps for Each Event
Starter private social networks for members don’t come standard with mobile membership and or event apps. Developing multi-platform apps (works on iPhones, Android, Blackberry, etc.) can be costly. Now, multiply that cost across all of your national, regional, and local meetings. Your organization will soon find that the cost of developing apps for each event too hard to swallow. Upgrading to a Member Engagement Platform allows you to provide feature-rich mobile membership apps, as well as powerful mobile apps to each of your events no matter the size, at no additional cost.
6) You Can Get Files Into Your Resource Library, But Now You Need to be Able to Find Them.
The dirty little secret that online community companies don’t share with you is no one puts in a good description of a file that is uploaded into your file library. Even fewer take the time to thoughtfully tag the file. Even then, everyone tags files differently. So now that you have a file in the system, since most beginner online community systems search across the title, description and tags, how does another member actually find the file? Well, many files are never found. In Membership Engagement Systems blogs, discussions, wikis attachment to discussions and all discussions content are fully indexed and cataloged in the search engine.
7) Your Events Are Run From a Separate System, Your Session Management From Another, and the Hair You Pull Out Getting the Systems to Talk to Your Member Database Increases Every Year.
Events are such a large part of most organizations benefit structure and revenue stream. Having a separate online registration, speaker management and mobile app for your event can really be costly and tough to manage. With a Membership Engagement System, all these tools are fully integrated not only with your AMS, but with each other and your online community and website.
8) The User Groups That Supports Your Software Isn’t Making the Most of Your Time.
You bring software into your organization to help you meet individual and organization-wide goals. Being part of another community is nice, but most busy membership professionals don’t have time to engage that community as well. Having to post in a user community or search archived discussions for the answers that most closely fit the questions you have wastes valuable time in organizations that are stretched for resources to begin with.
When you need answers in order to meet deadlines or stick to your membership marketing calendar, you want answers to your specific questions quickly that pertain to your specific organization. Enterprise-level online community platforms provide dedicated support and SLAs (service level agreements) included with the software.
So as you can see, there is an upgrade path. There are systems that, even if your online community is working and thriving, can take your organization and membership to the next level of communication and engagement.