In keeping with our mission to help companies and membership organizations create successful online customer communities, every week or two, we are going to break down a community or engagement-related concept into digestible ideas and actionable tips. In this post, we are going to cover the value of a gated online community after an event or conference.
Online Member or Customer Communities vs. Event-Only Communities
I have received a few calls from organizations recently that asked about setting up an online community around an event. These organizations would like their community to only be tied to that specific event. The problem with this is if you get all your attendees to use an event community, but it is only focused around a specific event, at some point you have to pull the plug on that community and start from scratch for next years event.
To me, this just does not make sense. I encourage you to switch your thinking and create an online community where the event is just one part of the community. So your customers or members can come to the community for their networking, group or committee discussions, file sharing, etc. Then, when there is an event going on, they can access the information, networking, and discussions around that event as well.
There are two great benefits to doing this:
- Members now can get all information about everything going on in your organization in one place and with one login. It just makes the value of your community so much greater.
- By engaging attendees of the event in the community, they are now exposed to all of the year-long community features available to them and you get a cumulative effect year after year of getting more and more members engaged.
The Value of a Private Online Community After an Event or Conference
OK, so once the event is over, the community can be just as valuable in keeping attendees and members engaged. I wanted to mention 3 main ways that I have seen a community help organizations do this:
The great things about a conference is it gets people talking. Set up an area of your forums for people to be able to pose questions and get feedback on the topics that were discussed at the conference.
Just as many questions come out of a conference as answers, so give your members an easy way to extend the learning from the conference for several months after the event.
One thing everyone has is an opinion. Give your attendees the ability to share the good and bad experiences they had at the conference and give other attendees the ability to comment on it. This can occur through a blog post, forum, survey or Twitter hashtag feeds you set up in the online community.
Your attendees will talk about the experiences they had at the conference. By creating a mechanism for them to do it online, you get a better chance of seeing it and acting on it for your next event.
#3) Webinars of Best Sessions
The challenge with a lot of conferences is there is too much great content and attendees cannot make all the sessions they would like to. In addition, there are a lot of people that would like to attend the conference, but cannot due to travel and budget restrictions.
Take the best attended sessions and make them a webinar. Make it free to attendees of the conference and for those that didn't attend the conference, charge a fee. It is a great way to carry forward the benefits of the conference, create valuable content for your online community, and generate some non-dues revenue as well.
These are just 3 of many benefits an online community can offer you after your conference. The benefits of attending your conference does not need to end when attendees walk out the door to go home. With an online community you can extend those benefits for months and increase the value your attendees, members, and organization receives from your online community.