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Stop, collaborate + listen. Part 1: Building an online community

by | Aug 30, 2016 | Membership & Marketing

Private online association communities + making members feel exclusive.

In today’s highly-connected and content-saturated world, associations must offer their members online resources for content creation and collaborative discussion. These are critical to membership value propositions, especially when you’re competing for your members’ attention.

Many associations leverage tools available in popular social media like LinkedIn or Facebook. Some benefits of hosting your discussions through these public tools is that they’re free and everyone has an account. Consider that Facebook boasts 1.71 billion monthly active users and LinkedIn clocks in at 450 million in Q2 2016 (statista).

But are these the right reasons? Not necessarily.

Your organization is at a disadvantage using third-party tools for online member involvement. As you look at the reasons why, the future implications become even more problematic.

Where’s my data?

Without doubt, data is touted as one of the most important focuses of technology. That’s because it provides insight into current and future user behavior. For associations, access to meaningful data determines how well you understand what your members need and how you meet those needs.

However, the issue with using third-party tools—particularly popular social media platforms, is that you don’t own the data collected about your members. And, you really don’t have insight into it. The only way to know what’s working or not is to manually monitor these systems and base your analysis on observation, not hard data.

What’s valuable to know at the member level are the types of discussions they are interested in or opportunities they’d like presented to them. That’s difficult to do with disparate systems.

8 seconds later . . . squirrel?

Using popular social media for community engagement, you’re also competing for your members’ interests. Of course, the justification is it’s free and easily accessible. That sounds good, but can you capitalize on your members’ time and attention for your most relevant content and discussions?

When I log-in to my social accounts, I’m bombarded with notifications and opportunities. The challenge I face is focusing my 8-second attention span. Will your members go directly to your association’s group page or become distracted by a friend’s cute baby picture or a suggested job opportunity? From this perspective, the trade-off looks less compelling.

Finding the right social tool

There are many private, third-party community tools that may or may not integrate with your association management software (AMS), create an exclusive environment for your members, and perhaps give you insights into user activity. However, while a better option than a public platform, there are concerns:

  • Can you afford the integration maintenance and/or the subscription of yet another SaaS solution?
  • How many disparate systems can your staff or budget maintain?
  • Is this approach scalable?

Most likely, you’re at the mercy of separate software providers when it comes to updates and different support levels.

Where social networking meets membership management

What your organization needs is an integrated social platform, one that ensures community data is accessible and actionable. With direct insight into real-time data and the ability to monitor interactive trends, you’re empowered to deliver the types of content and opportunities buzzing among your member base.

YourMembership’s SocialLink does just that.

Content is presented in an aggregated feed that’s engaged with from anywhere. Yet, it respects the settings and permissions that you and your members rely on within your AMS. With your own private community, you ensure that your members are exposed to relevant opportunities they value most and trust that their personal information is secure.

Now that the table is set, come back next week to better understand the importance of ambassadors when implementing a social networking platform to ensure early adoption and consistent member engagement. In the meantime, click here to learn more about the potential value of your user community. Or give us a call at +1 727-827-0046.

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