Higher Logic Blog

5 Tips for Upgrading to New Online Community Software

Written by Paul Schneider | April 26, 2011 at 11:05 AM

Now that more and more associations have been using online communities for a few years, there comes a time when you outgrow your online community and need to graduate to a full membership engagement platform.

Whether you have outgrown your online community and want to engage your member further or are upgrading to full member engagement software because your starter community never got off the ground, you have invested countless hours and budget dollars in getting traction for your online community.

We have previously discussed how to tell when you have outgrown your online community software, here are five things to consider to implement an enhanced system without losing an ounce of engagement.

Tip #1: Save Money By Consolidating

No doubt if you have been using an online community system, you have still needed a targeted email engine, survey tool, CMS for your external website an integrated event system, a store site and you are probably paying additional for an online community mobile app and event app.

With a membership engagement platform, all this member-facing functionality is encapsulated in one system, so you reduce your overall costs.

Tip #2: Import Historical Activity

Avoid losing momentum by importing existing online community data into your new system. Plan to do some research on how you can get your information out of your existing systems and in what format your vendor will give it to you. As long as you can get it out, most membership engagement systems can import it, but it will be helpful to know this going into the project.

Tip #3: Get Your Members Excited Early

The benefits a membership engagement platform can offer should really get your members excited, but you have to let them know why. Two months or so before the transition, start sending out emails periodically about the new and enhanced features they will be enjoying when the new system arrives.

Be sure to outline what is in it for them. Yes, it will make your staff's lives easier, but a member doesn't care about that. They care about how your site will make their lives easier. Be sure that comes through in your messages. If you do, when the site arrives, people will know why they are excited for you to ‘flip the switch' to the new system.

Tip #4: Change Drives Questions, So Be Prepared

No matter what the change is, it stimulates questions. With changing technology and websites, people will want to know why the icon that used to be in the left hand corner is no longer there. There is bound to be a learning curve with any new software that you introduce to your membership, so it is important to be prepared when trying to support them. While all vendors try to make the toolset as intuitive as possible, some people will need more help than others when first starting to navigate around the site.

Tip #5: Changing a System Can Lead to Additional Changes

No matter what system you are changing, it is a great time to determine if the way you do things can be improved. Many basic private member community systems are very rigid in how things need to be done, rather than working in a way that is most effective for your organization.

In starter systems, you can customize the look and feel, but there is little meaningful tailoring system available.This may have caused your staff to work a certain way simply because your software needed things to happen in a certain way.When you are switching online community systems it is a great time to reevaluate your business processes and see if you can do things in a more efficient manner with a more flexible system.