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How to Find Your Best Content Topics (Without Paying for Market Research)

Written by Julie Dietz on July 27, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Use online activity data to identify your association's best content topics without expensive market research.

How is your association keeping its offers relevant to members and preparing for the future?

According to a recent study by Leader Networks, most associations – 83 percent – are aligning their products and services to market needs so they meet members’ expectations and stay relevant. That’s a smart goal, but it requires a deep understanding of members and prospects.

To get the information they need on member preferences, 61 percent of associations are also increasing research and development.

Many associations, however, don’t need to invest large amounts of time and money into market research to find out what members want. Your association probably has all the information it needs at its fingertips. You just have to know where to look.

Identify Top Content Topics with Online Activity Data

Every association with a web presence has online activity data, which includes information on how your members, prospects, and anonymous website visitors are interacting with your organization. The most complete information is found in a fully-integrated system, complete with an association management system (AMS), online community, and public website.

Even if you don’t have an online community or association management system, you can still use online activity data from your public website. Just keep in mind that websites without a community element your website is fairly static. Visitors can view pages and download offers, but in general you’ll likely find less activity data because there will be fewer activities for your members to perform. Still, your website is a valuable source of data and you can find relevant reports on visitor activity in your content management system (CMS) or in Google Analytics.

5 Key Sources of Online Activity Data in Your Website or Online Community

To find the subjects that your members are prospects are engaging with most, look at the most active areas of your website or online community. High views, comments, and posts will help you pinpoint those areas that are most interesting to your members. Data to watch include:

1. Page Views

Online communities and public websites both have reports on page views. Find out how many people are viewing your website’s home page, membership pages, and chapter pages, as well as information on your benefits and annual conference. Build out the pages and content that receive the most attention, or pull out the topics that are attracting visitors and expand on those in new pages.

2. File Library Views and Downloads

Public-facing websites often include downloadable content in the form of offers, while online communities contain more robust file libraries where members can view or download documents. Look at what your most popular documents and offers discuss and use that information to determine what your members want to learn more about.

3. Most Viewed Blogs

Experienced bloggers know that there are some blog posts that stand out over the rest. These blogs resonate with your audience, generate more views and, ultimately, convert readers into subscribers or leads.

Pay particular attention to these posts and consider broadening their impact. You can expand on well-received topics in the form of an e-book, whitepaper or eCourse, for example. Responding to your members’ interests with more extensive and valuable material will drive engagement and increase the value people get from joining and staying with your association.

4. High-Activity Discussion Forums

A step beyond viewing and downloading content is member-generated content, such as discussion forums. It’s hard to break the barrier to participation, so when your members and prospects post messages, discuss topics, and engage with their peers in forums, it’s a clear sign that they’re invested in the topic.

Find your highest activity discussion forums and read what members are posting. Develop additional resources on these subjects to help answer questions and stimulate further discussion. This shows that you are listening to your members and paying attention to their needs so you can provide them with more valuable information.

5. Popular eCourses

If your association has a learning management system or provides online courses, measure the interest and participation levels.  If a large number of members sign up for an eCourse, then you’ve hit on a topic they’re interested in. If very few members complete the course, however, the content may not meet expectations. Dig into the reason why people aren’t completing the courses so you can improve the material you have on those topics.

If some eCourses have high sign-ups and completion rates, then you hit the perfect balance. Expand and repurpose that popular content into other formats.

Save Money and Use Your Best Topics to Inspire Loyalty and Convert Prospects

Online activity data comes with your website and online community. It’s free and available to your association without any extra investment – a major advantage to market research, which is often time consuming and expensive.

By using the online activity data you already have to create better content, products, and member benefits, you can make your association more relevant to the daily needs of your members. You also help ensure that you’re investing your time and effort into expanding the subjects that your members find most valuable, which helps inspire loyalty in current members and convert prospects. That creates a powerful value proposition for the present and a solid foundation for the future.

Original research explains the impact online communities have on businesses.

Topics: Member Communities, Associations, Member Experience, Online Community

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