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Association Social Networking: Why Tech IQ Doesn't Matter for Online Community Engagement

Written by Christina Green | on December 30, 2015 at 8:30 AM

Association social networking: Engaging less tech-savvy members in your online community

Our members aren't technologically savvy.

Our members aren't on social media.

Our members aren't really computer literate.

These are arguments online community platform providers hear all the time and it mostly involves a baby boomer-heavy organization. Management and the governing board often decide “boomers†just aren't interested in the Internet and social media. This is simply not true.

Boomers are the generation who have put off retirement because of the downturn in the economy in 2009. They're born between 1945-1964 (this may vary by a handful of years depending on the source) and there are approximately 76.4 million of them in the U.S. (compared to 66 million Gen Xers and 80-90 million Gen Ys). They make up a large percentage of association membership.

Statistics on Boomer Online Participating and Technology Use

According to Pew, the 50+ age group is the fastest growing demographic online. Google estimates boomers and seniors spend an average of 19 hours per week online. Working boomers have had to adapt to the changes in the workplace and the use of the Internet, social media, and advanced software in their jobs, why wouldn't they be interested in connecting online?

According to a study conducted by AARP in 2013, 80% of older adults in this country owned a mobile phone (27% are smart phone users). While the number one activity of smartphone users was accessing email, 50% of older adults using smart phones also use it to access social media sites. Boomers are not the awkward, uncomfortable technology bumblers some organizations are painting them as.

What are They Using Tech For?

With 45% of online reviews written by Boomers, they contribute more than any other demographic to online reviews.Surprised? You shouldn't be. They are also the fastest growing group on Facebook with an 80% surge on accounts created from 2010-2014.

Still convinced your members aren't using social media? Boomers are staying connected with distant family. They're viewing pictures and sending messages on Facebook. 84.9% of them have an account on the popular social media site.

Engaging less tech savvy members in your association's online communityAccording to Influence Central, 75% of boomer women are following brands to stay up-to-date and to receive promotional information. Google estimates over half of seniors are watching videos online, while 82% are using search engines to find the information they need.

Baby boomers and senior smart phone and tablet users aren't just reading news headlines. As you can see in the graphic from emarketer, they are researching and sharing, two activities they could undertake in your association's online community.

Why Now is the Time to Create an Online Community

The statistics prove all generations are embracing the Internet and social media sites. If you've been putting off adoption of an online community strategy because you don't think your customers or members are technical, you need to revisit your assumptions by asking your target audience about their online activities. Their answers may surprise you.

Also, one of the top things boomers do online is look for the answers they need. If they have a question about your industry, wouldn't it be exciting if their search revealed your site and highlighted your content? An online community is a highly effective way to get people involved with your association and help them find what they need.

Tips on Getting Less Technologically Savvy People Participating in Your Online Community

Your online community software uses many familiar features and the same easy navigability that makes social media platforms enjoyable. In order to get more reticent members to adopt its use and return to your community frequently, follow these tips:

Tip #1) Introduce it personally.

If at all possible, either show them how to use it in person or through a one-on-one demo or session with them using their phone, tablet, or laptop and following along as you demonstrate. If this isn't possible, try a webinar or record a video for them to watch on how to log-in and what to do once they're there.

Tip #2) Give them something to do.

Create a welcome to the community document, video, and/or webinar so that no matter when they decide to try it out they know what to do and new things to try.

Tip #3) Use a drip email campaign.

Send an email once a week with new ways to participate and get value from the online community.

Tip #4) Don't enable them.

Post things on your online community that they must long in to see. Once you do that, do not allow staff to look it up for them as a short cut. Instruct staff that if the member calls in and says they can't login, it's best to walk them through the process and educate them on the “how to†part of it instead of giving them the information they need. You're still helping but you're also teaching, which will help in the long run.

A Final Word About Your Tribe and Technology

Unless you run an association for people who are technophobic, your members are online. Find out how they use the Internet and what activities they perform on it most frequently. You can use this information to get them excited about your online community and what it means for improved communications, promotions, and more.

Nine low-cost member engagement strategies for associations.

Topics: Associations

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