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4 Membership Marketing Tips From 'The Social Network'

Written by Joshua Paul | on March 1, 2011 at 10:55 AM

Advice on how to do membership marketing right.

While the push to increase non-dues revenue continues, membership dues are the life blood of most associations and user groups. Membership marketing plays a critical role in keeping that blood pumping.

What is Membership Marketing?

Membership marketing is the marketing and communication activity designed to recruit new members and nurture prospective members until they join. Membership marketing also includes the strategies, messages, and benefits that associations and other membership organizations use to retain those members.

When I go to the movies, I like to be inspired. I like to come away energized with new ideas and ways of looking at things. Regardless of whether you like 'The Social Network' movie, like Facebook, or like Mark Zuckerberg, there are several valuable membership marketing lessons from this fictionalized account of the early days of Facebook.

Membership Marketing Lessons from 'The Social Network'

Lesson #1: People Want to be Social

In the scene where students gathered around a dorm room desktop computer to check out "The Facebook" for the first time, they didn't do it because of an ad they saw or a promise to raise their GPA. People flocked to the "product" because it connected them to people they knew and relevant content in a new and unique way.

Membership Marketing Takeaway:

Make it easy for members to be social, share ideas, and find relevant content both in your online community and in person.

Lessons #2: Getting There First Matters

As the Winklevoss twins learned, it does not matter if your idea is more thought out, better funded, or has experts at the helm. A large part of success comes from being the first to solve a problem for your market in a certain way. Would Facebook have been so successful if they were the second company to provide a social network to the students at Harvard, months after the first had gained significant adoption?

In membership marketing, if another organization, for-profit company, or political group solves the problems you are solving for your audience before you do, you will have much more difficulty gaining traction for your initiative.

Membership Marketing Takeaway:

Taking the time to get an initiative or membership campaign out in a professional way is important, but that has to be balanced with the momentum created by being the first to carve out that space in your members' minds.

Membership Marketing Lessons from 'The Social Network'

Lesson #3: It Matters How You Treat People

In the worst case, someday someone might make a movie about you and no matter how much good you have done, you'll be depicted like jerk. While that is on the extreme side, how you have treated people in the past and how you treat people now can come back to haunt you or boost your career.

The association world is small and people talk. Just as Mark Zuckerberg probably never thought that the way he treated the people around him would land him in a deposition room facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit, you never know how today's interactions with coworkers or members will impact your ambitions down the line.

Membership Marketing Takeaway:

Take the time to put yourself in your busy members' shoes before a communication goes out. Take a page from Disney's customer service model; understand your members' expectations of your organization and craft your strategy around exceeding their expectations at every opportunity.

Lesson #4: Fail Fast and Start New Projects

The most successful associations, user groups, and nonprofits have a "fail fast" culture. They listen to their market, build a strategy, take risks, test tactics, and monitor the results. The elements that fail are addressed right away, rather than recalibrating years later.

Membership Marketing Takeaway:

Don't get bogged down in internal politics, turf wars, or "this is how we have always done it" thinking. Let your leadership know that you plan on continuously testing your membership marketing plans and making adjustments along the way. If your project fails or is de-funded, put your energy toward a new initiative as soon as you can. If you have come up with one brilliant idea, chances are that you will have another, and one after that, and one after that.

What membership marketing lessons have you taken away from a movie?

The most successful membership managers practice these 11 habits.

Topics: Member Communities, Marketing Automation, Online Community

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