This time of year is a whirlwind of activity on most people's calendars. If you're like me, you're extra busy wrapping up the goals set forth for this year, evaluating what worked and what didn't, and planning what can be accomplished with the upcoming year.
Often member-based organizations, like associations, feel a lot of pressure to innovate and keep members engaged. If you're here in the fourth quarter reflecting on your progress in those areas, it's time to consider how next year can be different.
The following activities include ways that you can build upon your successes and plug the holes in your member engagement plan.
No one will ever know whether you increased member engagement or not, if you don't set up the systems needed to measure your efforts. Document where you are currently, where you hope to be, and when you will be there. Then, you must also track all of the other things that are occurring with your association outside of your member engagement efforts. You are not working in a laboratory.
Unfortunately, your engagement efforts sometimes don't have the benefit of a control group in your experiment. So you'll want to pay attention to all marketing efforts and track them as you track engagement numbers. Learn more about tracking and measuring engagement here.
No matter how brilliant your engagement strategy, without views or awareness of engagement opportunities, your attempts are worthless. Team up with the marketing department to increase the likelihood that your content is reaching your members and is coordinated with other messages to members.
You do this by promoting your content and engagement opportunities using multiple channels to engage such as social media, your online community, email drip campaigns, newsletters, even your email signature can bring awareness to things you're doing for members. One type of marketing won't reach every one of your members. People have preferences when it comes to online activities. Don't pick only one channel. If your members are using them, you need to be too.
If you have ever spent any time in marketing or sales, you've heard about the sales funnel. There's a member sales funnel as well. Just as in a traditional sales funnel you tie marketing messages to where the potential customer is in the funnel, you must do the same for members.
You'll want to segment your strategy for greater engagement. If someone is a brand new member, you will engage them differently than someone who has been around for years. For instance, new members are likely to find a member benefit e-mail drip campaign very useful. Instead of turning a fire hose of benefits on them the first day they join, you send an email detailing a different benefit and how to take advantage of them each week. They get the information in manageable and enjoyable doses.
A seasoned member, on the other hand, may enjoy being invited to play a more active role in your community. Appeal to their vast knowledge of their industry and your association. Ask them to publish content regularly in your community or lead a group. The request can be flattering and engaging. People who work to build something are more invested in it than those who watch it being built around them.
Your "middle" members, who are not newbies and not long-standing stalwarts of your association, often get lost. A good way to engage them is to get them to log in more frequently; try to make community part of their routine. You need to give them cause to do this through things like content in areas of interest, contests, surveys, and other feedback opportunities. Make sure you include passive engagement practices (where they are simply enjoying content) and active (where they are contributing and interacting with the community).
Often getting someone involved is as easy as asking them to participate, but before you ask, have a list of ways they can get involved. You'll want to create different kinds of opportunities from short engagement, like taking a survey or adding an answer to a social media post, to more in-depth ways, like asking someone to be an expert or guest poster for your blog.
Make sure people know the opportunities that are out there. Create buttons on your website that spur action. Share call-to-action images. Don't write long posts asking for bloggers. Place what you need in short visual snippets for the most action.
Member engagement is not about getting everyone to create content for you or attend every event. The less engaged members are not going to begin blogging for you every week just because you asked.
Perform some research on your members and chart their level of engagement and their expertise. Most online community and association software systems allow you to create reports. You can use these reports to see how often members interact with you and how they do so.
Once you know how many high interactors you have and how many are on the lower end of the engagement spectrum, you can begin creating engagement opportunities for all levels of current involvement.
A good engagement activity for a low engaged member is a log into your private online member community. You're looking to create a habit of interaction. Challenge them to log into your system every day for a week. Give them a badge or some other form of recognition to doing so. Once they achieve this, "baby-step" move them into a more advanced engagement activity, like answering a simple question in the community so that they can see how painless it is.
You must offer different levels of commitment for members who are at different levels of engagement. Requiring a big commitment all at once will turn your less engaged members off.
Engagement is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. When developing an engagement strategy for the coming year look for the type of members you have (where they are in the member lifecycle), their current engagement level, and ensure members know about what you're doing. With those suggestions you can make the next twelve months the Year of the Member.