The Value Behind Your Online Community
Recently, Rich Millington sent out an email challenge to his subscribers asking them what was wrong with Ducati’s new online community. He asked his audience to take a look at it and give him feedback. Visually, it's a beautiful community. It has a lot of activity. People (who obviously love their bikes) are uploading pictures and exchanging information. There’s a “Monster Challenge” to encourage engagement. Members have a platform to connect with other Ducati fans. Seems like your typical corporate, brand-centric community. So why didn’t Rich "like" (no pun intended) Ducati’s new community?
His answer — Ducati shouldn’t have built a community. In Rich’s opinion there already are several successful fan-created sites out there and the Ducati should’ve connected with the audience through them, not be in competition with them.
Rich’s argument, from a community standpoint, is the community already exists. Why be in competition with yourself? But Rich is a community guy, not an association guy. How should associations handle a very successful (yet, unofficial version of you as a) LinkedIn group? Would you participate there? Of course you should. If your audience is there, you should be too. But you’re not competing with yourself to create your own online community. First, you can offer industry expertise that the other group can not. (If you don’t think that’s the case, maybe your value to the industry is not as high as it should be.)You have events, seminars and conferences — some for continuing education credits. You offer leadership opportunities and are dedicated to the continuation of your industry. You’re involved in lobbying efforts on behalf of your members. For your association it’s a career; you are not merely populating a social site as a hobby.
From a selfish standpoint, having your own community and increasing content helps your website with SEO. It allows members to connect (behind closed doors) in private groups while allowing public access to your association. It gives you a place from which you can unveil new offerings and poll your members where the results are yours and you are not held hostage by the blips and interruptions of free software.
Associations have a hard time being “selfish.” To think about the business benefits to creating your own online community goes against the grain of what it means to be a non-profit. But it’s okay to be concerned about yourself because it’s not one-sided. When you are creating an online community for your members, you are not creating it for you. After all, it’s going to be a lot of work on your part — adding content, uploading pictures, engaging your members, etc. A successful community will be focused on helping members make professional and personal connections, giving them access to community job boards, forums, group discussions, blogs, volunteer opportunities and so much more. But when this kind of activity feeds directly into your AMS, it’s not just for them. It helps you too and that’s why Rich and I differ on whether you should have a community or not.
About YourMembership.com Inc.
Established in 1998 YourMembership.com is a software company that helps member-centric organizations around the world provide more value to their members, expand their membership bases, and enhance overall operational efficiencies. YourMembership.com’s SaaS-model membership software solution features three integrated components – a complete member website, online community and membership management software – that transform how organizations capture valuable member data and transform that data into actionable information. For more information visit www.YourMembership.com.
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