In the digital landscape of 2017, online communities continue to make headway in the association market. While once thought of as members-only online discussion groups, online communities have taken on even greater importance given the generational shift in workforce and associations adjusting to the mobile-first and always connected user. Online communities help organizations to maximize retention rates, attract new members, and grow their relevancy.
Online communities add to the always-evolving digital tool box and provide today’s association members with the ability to connect, network and share in a private community space of interactivity. Combined with marketing automation, your community can not only help you gather insights, it can further business goals, improve the member experience, and move leads through your funnel more effectively.
What makes a community necessary in today’s association world is the power of user insights. Online communities provide a strong value-add that maintains relevancy for members by providing a place for them to engage, share, grow and collaborate. Online communities also serve as a place for inspiration, connecting members in a voice and format that is educational, insightful and fun.
Given the almost real-time level of engagement between participants, private online communities provide additional insights into online behavior and content consumption that can turn into meaningful data for content marketing strategies and persona development. Those insights feed into marketing automation systems to make them more effective at delivering messages that provide value to members.
To be effective in connecting members, online communities – as a part of your organization’s digital marketing efforts – must be personalized to the wants and needs of a particular user, while also utilizing the right tools.
Associations are now implementing marketing automation as part of their technology stack, serving up customized content to meet the needs of the user at the right point in their buyer’s journey. What makes an online community so beneficial to associations and their marketing automation is the personalization aspect – members can customize their own experiences, thereby giving the association great insight into their wants and needs.
Coupled with the fact that you can ascertain usage frequency and periodicity, marketing automation gives you the ability to have personalized content sent straight to the inbox of your association’s members based not only on their preferences but also on their current activities. Since marketing automation platforms store the behavior patterns of users among your digital toolbox, personalization becomes part of the maturity of your content marketing strategy.
In a nutshell, adding marketing automation to a technology stack that already includes online communities allows you to really target the right person at the right time with the right message.
While online communities are a great retention tool for collaboration, one of the most important benefits of them has long been overlooked: attracting new people to subscribe and gathering fresh new email addresses who have opted into your content.
Online communities are a great way to offer free spaces for open communication around subject matters that your organization specializes in to attract organic leads. With the addition of digital advertising, well-placed social posts and traditional advertising, your public-facing community can be a great source of new leads that you can nurture through various program funnels.
As a final benefit to using public-facing or open communities, the content can be easily indexed and lead to increased organic search engine rankings to bring even more people to your content. Once you’ve gained the new email addresses from users that are subscribing to your community, you can move them to your nurture funnel and let marketing automation take over with lead scoring and automation flows.
New to the idea of adding a marketing automation system to your organization’s digital toolbox? While the task may seem daunting at first, the systems do the heavy lifting for you. Marketing automation provides the ability to automate tasks such as emails, reminders, social media and more. Your community can act as the data source to tap into characteristics such as what a person likes, who they are connected to and what groups they self-identify with, while marketing automation contains historical data from the AMS such as job, age, etc.
To keep it simple, the community is the source of data to trigger marketing automation activities.
Not sure if you’ve got the right stack of technology? Feeling overwhelmed or unsure if marketing automation is right for your organization? Download our eBook today to see the connection between online communities and marketing automation!