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Now, you may not believe me, but it’s true. Associations are handing over their entire membership base to competitors and don’t even know it! That’s because your competition doesn’t look familiar. It’s not another association, non-profit, society or organization. These competitors, though, are hiding in plain sight. They’re for-profit social media companies like Facebook and LinkedIn.

While Facebook and LinkedIn could be used for building your brand, promoting your events, posting your job openings and attracting new members, are they any good for your online social community? You may say, “sure, of course.” But, you may want to stop and really think about what you’re giving up.

You’re giving up four of the most valuable things that you actually need to run a successful association, and doing so without a fight. You’re relinquishing the keys to your kingdom when it comes to:

  • Your members’ attention.
  • Your non-dues revenue opportunities.
  • Your members’ data and analytics.
  • And, most importantly, your members’ futures.

You’re giving up your members’ attention.

There are these things—these little bits of time—called micro-moments. These are the moments when your members check their mobile devices in the line at the grocery store, between meetings or waiting in the pick-up line at their children’s school. You need to own these moments.

Unfortunately, when you place so much content and group collaboration on a public social media site, that’s where your members’ attention goes. Yes, they may comment on one of your group’s messages; but “oh, look a squirrel!” Suddenly, instead of communicating with other like-minded association professionals, their ex-boyfriend comes up in the “People You May Know” section. Their attention isn’t focused on your organization’s relevant information; it’s actually light years away.

Your organization needs to better understand what a micro-moment is and how you can claim your members’ attention once again.

You’re giving up your non-dues revenue opportunities.

Associations have various ways to drive revenue with member dues and events, as well as various non-dues revenue programs. A significant money maker for a lot of organizations is the placement of online recruitment advertising. You have everything that makes a company excited, a great web presence and members! These professionals and individuals are your real money makers, because businesses, vendors and sponsors all want to get in front of your current and potential members to advertise their goods and services.

But, again, if you take your members to a public social media site, guess who will get your ad clicks? You got it, not you! You’re serving up ad dollars on a platter to platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. And, now that LinkedIn is filtering your content and choosing where it’s displayed versus you controlling your own content and even job postings, this limits the evolution of your business model. Instead of LinkedIn or Facebook, you need adaptable tools that you own and that are flexible, progressing as your association does.

It’s time to take back your ad dollars and not give away another way to monetize your membership.

You’re giving up your members’ data + analytics.

Don’t be fooled by their for-profit disguises. Facebook and LinkedIn have something that associations have, and they want it: Your member’s data and analytics!

What your members do, post, take action on, are interested in, who they are connected with, it’s all analyzed by these two big brothers to further their own agenda. If you learn more about your members and personalize their experience, you will continue to grow and prosper better serving your industry with data to back it up.

You’re giving up your members’ futures.

Is it possible you hold your members’ futures in your hand like a tiny bird? Yes, you do! Associations have specific roles within a professional’s life, and two of these are vital to the future of your members. I’m talking about their careers and continuing professional educations.

For a long time, associations have owned this space. And LinkedIn specifically wants a piece of this lucrative pie. Just last year, LinkedIn purchased an online learning management company called Lynda. You ask: Why would they do this? Because there’s a lot of money in continuing education, estimated to be a $5-billion business. Not only is LinkedIn interested in the learning game, but they also want your job board business, which is estimated to be a $9-billion business.

That’s a lot of zeros that LinkedIn is trying to get from associations. Don’t make it easy for them to take your membership.

Your solution is a private social media platform.

It’s time to fight back. Take back your membership from these for-profit giants and keep your members where they need to be—on your association’s website.

You need to establish a private online social community within your own site to keep your members close and their attention on you. You also need to own your own job board so hiring companies have access to the most valuable potential employees—the passive job seeker. And, you need an online continuing education center that’s available 24/7 and accommodates the active professional.

Essentially, so you can become the go-to source and grow your association, you need only one community where your members can network and collaborate, and where you can monitor your members’ interactions and record the data behind it.