What's the point of joining an association if you don't participate? If members don't use your members-only benefits they won't see the value in them. If they don't interact with other members, they won't network. And if they don't volunteer, they won't help further your mission. There will be no reason for them to renew and continue paying dues year after year.
That's why member engagement is so important. Associations need members to get involved, so they focus on member participation by implementing engagement tactics and strategies. Some popular strategies include:
The ultimate goal of these and many other member strategies is to increase engagement and build stronger relationships between members, their peers, and the association. The initiatives that fulfill these goals should be continued, while those that don't should be revised.
Unfortunately, many associations have trouble identifying which strategies to continue and which to revise because they don't know how effective their engagement efforts are. Often, this problem stems from a lack of tools or even the time to evaluate their strategies.
To overcome this challenge, association executives need to learn to evaluate their efforts with the tools they already have. They also need assessment techniques that can be done quickly, easily, and efficiently. Fortunately, that's not as hard as it sounds.
Here are three fast, simple methods you can use to evaluate your engagement strategies with the tools already in your technology arsenal.
Before your engagement strategy even got off the ground, you probably set measurable goals. Those measurable goals make it possible for you to evaluate your strategies to see if they accomplished what you wanted.
Start by looking at the metrics that relate to your goals and see if they have changed. For example, if your goal was to increase event registration by 5%, then record your starting registration numbers and keep track of changes after you implement your strategy. If registrations went up, then that's a sign that your strategy is working. If numbers stayed the same, or even decreased, then there may be a problem with your strategy that needs to be fixed.
One of the main benefits of using metrics and goals to evaluate your strategies is that you can determine the extent to which your strategy is working. For instance, if event registrations increased by 2% instead of 5% then your efforts are likely working, just not as well as you hoped. Make some improvements to your strategy so that it is effective enough to reach your goals.
One of the challenges with this approach is that it is not an exact science. You can show a correlation connecting your efforts with your results, but you can't show direct causation unless you have complete tracking in place or your member engagement tactics operate in a vacuum.
This is perhaps the easiest and fastest of the three evaluation methods, engagement levels will give you a snapshot of how active members are with your association. This approach is fast and easy because your membership management software is automatically calculating your members' engagement by analyzing online activity data. You have very little work to do.
Some of the activities that your membership, event, website, survey, or even your online community software will use to determine engagement levels include:
When you implement your engagement strategy, the number of members performing these and other activities in your system should increase. As they perform more activities, their engagement level will also rise.
To determine if your strategy is effective, look at the changes in your members' engagement level, which are easy to see in graphs that show how engagement is fluctuating over time. If engagement levels increase, or the number of members in your highly engaged categories increases, then your strategy is likely working. If more members move into less engaged levels, then it's time to adjust your approach.
For member-facing initiatives, direct feedback from surveys and polls can help you determine your strategy's efficacy.
For instance, your member-facing strategies might include email campaigns that highlight your newest or most popular blogs to increase visits, logins, and blog views. To use this type of strategy, send out a survey or poll to email recipients asking if they found your messages helpful. Did they find any new blogs that they liked as a result of your emails?
Other member-facing initiatives may be more technical, such as redesigning your online community navigation menus. These types of changes may require a more widespread survey that targets everyone who uses your online community, not just those who receive your emails.
You can set up a survey or poll directly in your online community platform to reach all your active members and ask their opinion. Does the new navigation make it easier to find what they need? Are they participating more now that they don't have to dig through menus to find the right forum?
Use the survey results to determine whether your strategies had a positive effect on members and their participation or whether they fell flat.
Expert Tip: While surveys and polls are useful for evaluating your strategies based on member feedback, it's important to keep in mind that all this information is opinion based. Opinions often carry less weight than numbers, so try to combine surveys and polls with metrics and engagement levels from your membership management and online community software. Data, especially when it relates to your goals, is a more solid way to present results to association executives and your board.
The best way to assess your engagement strategies is to begin even before the strategy is implemented. Begin by documenting current engagement levels, member feedback, and other data. Your starting information is the baseline against which you will compare your results to in order to see if there was a change.
Remember that there's also no need to choose only a single method for evaluating your engagement strategies. Your results will be more comprehensive and accurate if you combine these methods, using metrics, goals, engagement levels, and direct member feedback to determine how effective your efforts are.
From there, you can find ways to make improvements as well as determining the top strategies to keep in place in the future.