I feel very fortunate that the timing of my working life corresponds with the “PC revolution.” The computer completely transformed not just the business world – previously the primary domain for computing technology – but the world in general. Just about any organization could harness that new found computing power to further its interests.
My first job was with a start up company that wrote research reports on small capitalization (aka “pink sheet” stocks) in my hometown. Our founder had been working at a brokerage house in New York City and decided to ditch the commute, buy a PC, and setup shop within a 5 minute walk from his house. That company - built around a single IBM PC with dual 256K floppy disk drives, a 10 MB external hard disk, an external tape backup, and a Silver-Reed typewriter as our printer - ultimately went public and was then acquired for a very healthy profit. Wow!
Let’s fast forward to 2015 and see what this landscape now looks like.
Thanks in great part to companies like Higher Logic, the category of “private communities” has exploded over the past few years. With a private community you “own your backyard” and can provide a great environment for nurturing and supporting the relationships your organization is trying to foster. Our community here at Informz is built using Higher Logic’s platform.
Going through the process of getting our community up and running afforded me a great opportunity to understand and employ some best practices developed from community platform providers. During this process, we realized that there are a number of key areas where a well-crafted email campaign can really help to promote adoption and ongoing usage of your community. Here are just a few ideas.
As soon as you know you are going to launch your community, you want to begin to let your constituents know. Make sure you position your content to highlight the benefits of the community from their perspective. Ensure they understand that as an active participant they will reap many rewards.
In the days before you launch your community, send very clear messaging as to the steps people will take to gain entry into the community. Many of Higher Logic’s integrations piggyback on a single sign-on (SSO) approach to remove this obstacle. Make sure it’s clear that people understand how logging in occurs.
As more members are incrementally added to the community, you’ll want to add them to a welcome campaign so they receive a well-constructed series of emails talking about joining the community and how to get the most out of participating. This would likely be a series of four to eight emails over an eight-week period. The recipients could come either from your AMS/CRM/DMO/other database or you’re your community platform, depending upon how you initially populate the community’s members.
Once your community is up and running for you, take advantage of any integration options to help build awareness and interest in your community. Informz has integrated with Higher Logic using its new Automation Rules. This community administrator functionality allows administrators to create lists based upon activity – or inactivity – in the community. This makes it very easy to then leverage those lists to be used as target groups in campaigns.
As Andy Steggles points out in his book, Social Networking for Nonprofits, one proven technique to drive engagement is to have members update their profile with a picture and bio. Members that have, or have not, done this can be easily identified using Automation Rules. The results of those rules are then made available to you as a target group. This allows you to easily send emails to these members. For example, if you are using the Informz Campaign Designer, you can build into the flow the point at which the member has provided both their picture and bio. Assorted steps in the campaign will allow you to provide the appropriate message back to the member. And this is all done automatically with no special intervention.
A community is only as useful as the number of members actively posting. Automation Rules can be created for members that have never posted, posted for the first time, and have posted a certain number of messages. You can have very effective campaigns in place to leverage that information to help increase the posting activity.
There are certainly many other actions you can promote using the combined strengths of your database and online community working in tandem. It will help your members to build relationships, receive greater support, and to be “in the loop” on upcoming announcements and events.
As cool as all of these new tools are, I can admit to missing seeing all of those red and green blinking modem lights eerily lighting a cubicle.
Informz is marketing sophistication made simple. Our email marketing and marketing automation platform helps associations tell powerful stories, create personal connections, and drive real results. Learn more at www.informz.com.