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Cultivating Community Management with Missouri REALTORS®

Written by Caitlin Struhs | on March 29, 2016 at 2:00 PM

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Higher Logic has helped Missouri REALTORS® with building community since April 2012 — that’s when the organization launched its original community, THE LANDING. Since then, Missouri REALTORS® has watched its member community grow and evolve.

This community and member growth led THE LANDING to make some new and exciting changes — it has welcomed a new, dedicated community manager through Higher Logic’s Community Management Services, and recently launched a community ambassador program to further improve the member feedback cycle and engagement.

Check out our chat with Teah Hopper, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, to learn more about how THE LANDING is growing with its new community manager and ambassador program.

HIGHER LOGIC: Take us through the history of your online community, THE LANDING.

TEAH HOPPER: THE LANDING launched to increase member engagement and value, as well as help us better understand our membership. This was a new tool for us to monitor the pulse of membership — it allows members to get involved in our committees and stay connected with industry happenings, without having to attend a meeting.

The community found instant success in managing governance communication via communities, but members outside of our committee structure didn’t see the value. After getting through the launch phase we took the next year to gather member feedback (we conducted focus groups and worked with key member groups as a sounding board) to develop a plan to improve THE LANDING. We merged it with our main www site, implemented single sign-on (SSO) for all members, and re-launched with these updates in October 2014.

The re-launch included a rebrand: a new, simplified layout and cutting way back on the number of communities. The main feedback we received from members was the overall community wasn’t intuitive, they didn’t “get” the name/theme, and it was overwhelming to use. We went from over 400 to 200 communities (most of which were for Missouri REALTORS® various committees). And we focused our efforts on our all-member forum, Common Ground.

To sum it up, we went from focusing on quantity (number of posts, number of views, number of connections, etc.) to focusing on quality. Once we re-launched, we could feel a new excitement about THE LANDNG — we needed to keep the momentum going.

We looked into using the Community Management Services because our department size decreased, and we knew it would be difficult to maintain and improve the site that we really strived for. Since then, we have continued to make improvements to the site and executed some big projects that have been on our list for quite some time, such as employing auto-mation rules, implementing an affiliate program, and launching an ambassador program.

HL: Tell us more about how your new ambassador program is going!

TH: We’ve just started the program in January, 2016, but it’s already creating a positive ripple effect in the community.

An ambassador program has been a dream of mine since I started working with Missouri REALTORS® three years ago. We are finally at a place with our community growth where it really makes sense. We developed our Ambassador Program as a way to empower and motivate our community champions to take ownership of the community and help make it their own. We also wanted a way to acknowledge and reward our members who were already acting as ambassadors. The program creates an organized and streamlined way to develop content that is meaningful to our members, and leverage our members’ feedback to help get our messaging out. We know a message is much more meaningful coming from a colleague or fellow MR member than an organization.

We selected ambassadors based on their engagement in THE LANDING. We sent invitations to our top community contributors, along with a program overview and explanation of their role as ambassador. About two thirds of those invited proudly accepted.

We have 18 ambassadors this first year! And we recently had our first meeting to brain-storm ideas for enhancing THE LANDING and member engagement — it could not have gone better.

These are our big goals for the program:

  • To help THE LANDING be a consistent resource for Missouri REALTORS® to gain knowledgeable and helpful information
  • To ensure THE LANDING is a fun and lively community that represents its members
  • To recognize and reward digitally engaged members

Our ambassadors are enthusiastic, energetic and excited. Right now our initial meetings will focus on three main areas:

  1. Relevant and thoughtful discussion topics for our all-member forum
  2. Education topics in various forms (videos, webinars, blogs, etc.)
  3. Showcase our members in positive, lasting ways on THE LANDING

HL: How have the Community Management Services helped so far?

TH: Our dedicated community manager is amazing! The services help in a few major ways:

  1. Having someone who has additional knowledge in community software (and devotes time to establishing strong, internal relationships) is a huge help. Engagement and technical tasks can be time-consuming for employees splitting their work between the community and another department — our community manager is better equipped to handle that.
  2. It saves time for marketing, communications, membership and other teams to focus on strategic goals, our members’ feedback, and meeting their needs. It is also really nice to have someone who gets to know our overall community really well, and can address any issues that may be overlapping between the organization and the community. It’s reassuring to know the community manager helps us keep up with best practices or the software’s latest available features.
  3. Our community manager knows a seemingly endless list of tips and strategies for every community opportunity or challenge. I can go to her with ideas, and together we develop a plan that implements community management best practices while considering MR’s unique member needs.

We just renewed these services, because we saw such growth in our numbers and member engagement — we’ve achieved that status with our community manager’s help. We also had quite a project list, and I knew we needed community management expertise to help accomplish it all.

HL: So member engagement is improving.

TH: You can literally feel the difference. Our members are more excited about our community. It is regarded in a more positive light and has taken on a new culture (think fun, helpful, and “cool”). But you can certainly see it in the numbers as well. We have more people creating and responding to posts, which was our main goal. The conversations are more insightful, and more members are using it for the first time.

The use of automation rules allows us to have conversations with members we otherwise wouldn’t hear from or know about. It is truly becoming the community of our members. And our ambassador program will allow us to ensure it continues to meet their needs.

HL: Any new metrics you're proud of?

TH: Yes! We’re excited about the total number of public messages and total number of unique contributors. In the six months before we started using community management services, MR had an average of 163 public messages and 67 unique contributors per month. Since we started working with them, the average has increased to 295 public messages and 97 unique contributors a month — that’s an 81% increase in public messages and a 45% increase in unique contributors.

Our mobile logins have sky rocketed, and I’m also proud of our recent automation rule conversion rates. Logins to the mobile app went from an average of 66 per month to an average of 260 per month, which is a 294% increase! This can be partially attributed to setting up two “Try the Mobile App” automation rules reaching out to members, which have had a 13.5% and a 7.8% conversion rate, respectively.

And last but not least, the average number of community blog views went from 484 to 810 per month, a 67% increase.

HL: What are your community goals moving forward?

TH: Right now, we’re focused on the Ambassador Program and implementing new ideas for discussions, education initiatives and showcasing members. We will continue to focus on improving user experience, making tweaks and improvements for a more intuitive site. And we’ll continue to help more members take advantage of the content and our forum.

About Missouri REALTORS® 

Missouri REALTORS® unite to advocate for real property rights in Missouri, deliver comprehensive risk management programs and services, connect members through various media and events and deliver association management services. Its online member community, THE LANDING, is where members connect, collaborate and discuss industry happenings online. Learn more at www.missourirealtor.org.

Topics: Online Community Management, Engagement

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