3 tips to successfully launch a new online member community

Now more than ever, it’s important to create community and engage members digitally. Your organization needs to connect members to education, volunteer opportunities, jobs, and industry information. The best way to digitally engage members is through an online community.

Communities are places where members form relationships, receive support and give advice. Let’s be real, community is exactly what we need right now. With an online community, you can drive continuous engagement with your members, instantly connecting them to each other and your organization. In return, your organization becomes part of your member’s daily social habits.

But, how do you get your online member community started? We’ve got three tips to help you launch your new online community.

1. Build a plan.

As with all new initiatives, you want to have a plan of action for your online community. Start small and scale up through time. A few key items to include in your plan are:

  • Where will you host your online community? We recommend using an online community built into your association management software (AMS) system. Utilizing a built-in online community, member activities will link to your database, and you can manage everything from one location.
  • Whether paid or a volunteer, which team members will be involved, and what is their role? We recommend having a team of ambassadors—your most active members—get the conversation started in your community.
  • Share on your community a mix of relevant content, such as blogs, industry news and professional development articles. Keep a list of ideas you can pull from whenever needed.
  • You can’t develop an online community plan without including marketing. You want to make sure you know how you will promote the community and recruit participants, as well as how you will you notify members new content is available. One great marketing tool of an online community is a mobile app. The app is the perfect addition to your marketing activities.

2. Manage expectations.

As you launch your new online member community, you need to manage your expectations, and set realistic expectations for your leadership and board of directors. When you think about your definition of success (or failure), keep in mind these community engagement statistics:

  • 1 percent of your members will be “power users,” logging in several times a day, starting discussions and engaging members.
  • 9 percent of your members will “contributors,” logging in several times a week, liking and commenting on posts.
  • 90 percent of your members will be “lurkers,” logging in regularly, but barely participating.

Remember, these are just benchmarks. But, it’s a good starting point for expectations.

Part of your plan (from number 1 above) must include ways to increase these benchmarks. To build momentum as you begin creating your online community, you need to prompt your members to visit your community. They will not automatically know to visit every day. Your ambassadors play a big part of bringing members into your community. But, another idea is to send out a weekly email with a synopsis of the best material on the community from the week. Don’t forget to also share your community on social media.

3. Work your plan and lead by example.

You made an awesome plan. Now, it’s time to work the plan. Part of working your plan is leading by example. If you want your members to get involved and engaged, the organization also needs to get involved and engaged.

There’s no better way to lead by example than utilizing the different features of the online community. As the saying goes, “Teach a person to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.” Want members to connect with one another? Make connections, too. Once members experience how easy it is, they will start making new connections and participate in your online community.

There you have it. Three tips to successfully launch your online member community. By implementing these tips, you ensure your community starts off on the right foot, and steps up your member experience to the next level.

Now, are you ready to transform your member experience with an active online community just like the Texas Statewide Network of Assessment Professionals?

Are you looking for more ways to engage with your members through an online community  Watch the webinar on-demand for 5 tips to use an online community for engagement without in-person events.

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