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How Switching to a Private Online Community Helped the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) Double Community Engagement

Written by Molly Talbert | on June 13, 2017 at 10:35 AM

Switching to a private online community helped the association of professional dog trainers double community engagement 

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) once served its members with a Yahoo Group, but only a few hundred members signed up to participate on the platform. Something wasn’t right. APDT needed to find a way to broaden their reach, connecting more members to each other and to the organization.

That wasn’t the only problem. With only a fraction of their members interacting online, the Yahoo Groups platform offered very little in the way of features and performance. As an association that thrives on advances in education and business management, they needed to enhance their online resources to stay relevant and add value for their members—which meant APDT needed a platform with more capabilities than a simple Yahoo Group. That’s why, to solidify the association’s role in member professional development, APDT launched its own online community—Professional Development: Training and Business Management­—last year.

At first, APDT kept the Yahoo Group, offering their members two places to interact with each other online. When engagement on their Higher Logic community reached critical mass, they made the decision to close the Yahoo Group so their members could focus all their attention on one networking platform.

Today the tailored online community boasts more than 4,300 active members who benefit from shared learning, best practices and insights from fellow professional dog trainers.

APDT Doubled Engagement With Auto-Subscribing

One big reason for their community’s success comes down to this: APDT auto-subscribed members to the community rather than allowing members to opt-in themselves. It was a tough decision for the Board to make, since they didn’t know how the members would react. Luckily, it ended up working very well for everyone.

Before APDT auto-subscribed members, just the few hundred members took the step to opt-in and receive daily digests of community activity. With an average of 213 posts per month and 53 new threads, APDT saw room for much more engagement in their new platform.

Once ADPT subscribed their entire membership to the Higher Logic community, however, their engagement metrics skyrocketed. The community now averages 532 posts and 89 new threads per month—a 149 percent increase in a matter of months. A static, opt-in platform such as Yahoo is simply unable to offer the connections and flexibility a tailored, online community provides.

Community Deepens Learning and Builds Member Networks

By auto-subscribing their entire membership to the community and updating their code of conduct to require professional and respectful behavior, APDT has been able to create a hub for networking and information sharing.

“Many members send comments to me about how excited they are to participate with other members,” said Mandy Roberts Marketing, Communications and Project Manager at APDT. “It’s a nice resource for a group of professionals and provides a first impression to new members who start getting posts from the member community on topics important to them. I also think it’s been popular because it is a nice way to network with new, seasoned, young and old trainers of all types of backgrounds.”

Discussion threads now have an average of 5.5 replies and total unique contributors have tripled. Not only is there more engagement on the community, but more people are participating—especially members who weren’t previously part of community discussions.

“Not all the posts agree on the course of action to follow, but it’s good to know there are several ways to approach problems and a chance to interact with others who are able to assist with their thoughts, opinions and knowledge,” said Mandy.

Members clearly embraced being added to the community. The unsubscribe rates are low, around 12 percent, and the Daily Digest open rates hover around 28 percent—which is an impressive email open rate by industry standards.

Mandy sums it up succinctly: “It seems to be a very positive part of their membership experience.”

Community Roundtable's 2017 State of Community Management Report

Topics: Member Communities, Associations, Member Engagement, Online Community

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