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What to Do When Your Members Hate Technology

Written by Christina Green | on November 9, 2016 at 8:30 AM

4 tips to help members who hate technology feel more comfortable.

You just discovered amazing new association software that will give your association's staff hours back in their day. It has all the administrative wizardry your staff needs and the member-facing functionality to keep your members and prospects engaged.

You love it. Your board loves it. Your staff is getting excited and you can't wait to roll it out.

Except for one thing.

You're worried your members will hate it.

Maybe they're less experienced with web-based technology. Maybe they hate change. For whatever reason, you're concerned they're not going to adopt your new software, especially member-facing technology like an online community platform or AMS, and without their approval, your successful rollout is looking more and more like a pipe dream.

Don't lose heart.

More Members Are Using (and Enjoying) Technology Than You Might Think

First, why do you think your members will hate your new technology? Did you launch something similar years ago and it failed? Or are you making assumptions because your members fall into a demographic that you don't see as tech-savvy?

Whether we're talking about association software like a new interactive website, or a new event system, a lot has changed in technology over the past few years. It's more user friendly and integrates with many more platforms. The other thing that has changed is your members' experiences. Chances are they are participating more on social media and have started using a smartphone.

According to the Pew Research Center, 83% of young Baby Boomers (ages 51-59) use the Internet regularly and 91% of them have a cell phone. 59% of those are smartphones. 76% of Older Boomers (60-69) use the Internet on a regular basis and 87% have a cell phone, with 46% being smartphones.

85% of Baby Boomers report that they research things online. They're comfortable navigating the web for the information they need. They will be comfortable navigating your new AMS platform or other technology system as well.

4 Tips to Convince Members to Love Your New Association Technology

Sure, there may be some of your members who hate technology, but most of them are probably more familiar with it than you think. Still, there are a few tips you can use to make the change easier on everyone. These tips can be applied to any technology adoption.

Tip #1) Build Buzz

Get your members excited about your new technology before it launches. To do this, focus on your software's benefits and how the new technology will add value for members. If people understand how your new software helps them, they'll be more likely to look forward to using the system.

Here are a few techniques that will help you build buzz:

  • Put teasers on your website highlighting new features.
  • Start polls asking members what functionality they're most excited about in your new software.
  • Feature your new technology system and its benefits in your email newsletter.
  • Ask a respected member to test the software and write a blog about what they loved.

If you feature your new software in an email newsletter, for instance, you could focus on its built-in networking functionality. The community will provide  tools so members can reach experts and peers who can help them improve their job skills.

It will also feature blogs and updates on relevant industry changes, such as new legislation, to help members prepare for the future. These components will help your members be successful, which is a good reason for members to get excited about their new online community.

Tip #2) Use the Benjamin Franklin Effect

The Benjamin Franklin Effect is a psychological concept about how people who are invested in people or projects are more likely to want those people or projects to succeed. The story goes like this:

Benjamin Franklin had difficulty building a working relationship with an acquaintance. No matter what he did he always felt at odds with his colleague.

One day, Franklin asked to borrow a book from this man. Back then books were not as easy to come by and borrowing one was akin to borrowing a large sum of money today. Strangely, the man agreed. But Franklin knew something the man didn't. If we do a favor for someone, we are more likely to feel positively about them.

After all, why would we do a favor for someone we didn't like? By asking to borrow a book, Franklin actually made his colleague see him in a more positive light.

You can use the same technique to turn technology dissenters into supporters. Ask people to help you out with the rollout and crowdsource ideas. Any member who gives you a suggestion or agrees to help you with the new technology is more likely to become a supporter of the system.

Their assistance means they're invested, and according to the Benjamin Franklin Effect, they wouldn't invest if they didn't like the technology.

Tip #3) Don't Launch Until You Have Something for Members to Do

Just like you wouldn't host a party without food and drinks, make sure your new technology is actionable before it goes live. Your new software should have all your membership tiers built out, with options for prospects to join and pay, if necessary. Current members should be able to use all the core system features as soon as the platform goes live.

For a private online community, make sure that the spaces you build out are seeded with content and activities as well as being cared for by a strong community manager. Similarly, a new event system should have information on upcoming conferences and meetings with options to register and browse sessions.

Any technology system that you implement should contain information that members will find useful and actionable next steps. If you launch a system without these components, then member will have nothing to do when they visit and it's less likely that they'll return in the future. Why revisit an empty space? Engaging content and activities are much more likely to persuade your members to adopt the system.

Tip #4) Give Them a Reason

Have you ever heard of the Xerox study? It found that giving people a reason why they should do something has an amazing effect on whether or not they agree to requests.

In the often cited 1978 "Xerox study," Ellen Langer, Arthur Blank, and Benzion Chanowitz studied 120 people who were waiting in line to use the copier (not all at the same time). Each time the "approacher" asked the person waiting one of these questions:

  • "Excuse me, I have 5 pages.  May I use the Xerox machine?" (60% said yes)
  • "Excuse me, I have 5 pages.  May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?" (93% said yes)
  • "Excuse me, I have 5 pages.  May I use the Xerox machine because I'm in a rush?" (94% agreed)

They found that for these small requests a large number of people agreed when a reason was given even if the reason was essentially nonsense (may I use the copier because I have to make copies). When these questions were changed to larger requests (copying 20 pages instead of five) then fewer people granted the requests.

Use these findings to inform your software rollout. Make the change as smooth as possible, so it doesn't seem like you're asking your members to make a huge adjustment. Make any requests for help or input small as well, and give members a reason to help you or adopt your new software.

If you keep your requests small and make sure to give your members a reason to adopt the new tech, you're more likely to win them over.

Overcoming Your Association Members' Technology Concerns Takeaway

There aren't as many tech-hating members out there as you think. With busier lives and work requirements, many people are embracing all sorts of technology. But if you think you're still going to have problems, then the best way to get people excited about your new technology is by building support and buzz around it.

Make a big deal of unveiling your new membership management or online community software and ensure you have plenty of how-to instructionals so people don't get lost. It may take a little marketing and persuasion, but new technology deserves the fanfare and your members do, too.

The most successful membership managers practice these 11 habits.

Topics: Associations, Member Experience, Marketing Automation, Online Community

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