At YourMembership.com we roll-out 150+ enhancements and new features a year. Some are huge undertakings meant to change (or better) the way you do business and some are more intuitive features designed to work behind the scenes. While all features are included in your price, you chose to implement the ones that make the most sense for your online community. However, many site admins hesitate before introducing new features to their members. Whether you are a YM customer or not, adoption is one of the largest challenges member organizations face with new technology. Here are five tips to help with that:
1. Educate, educate, educate. If you are implementing a new feature or method of doing something, make sure everyone in your community understands what it does and what it means for them. If collaterals aren’t available, create them. You know your members best. What will appeal to them most? Think about the media and the method. While a software vendor can provide you with the how-to of the new feature(s), framing the directions to fit your group is the most effective way to create converts.
2. Educate some more. Now that you have formal manuals, videos, blog posts (again, whatever works best for your group), use good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Ask if he’s used the new feature the next time you run into a member. Explain what it does or how it’s enjoyable (if it is) or how it will effect him. Get used to talking about what’s in it for the individual.
3. Be a matchmaker. Listen to what your members are saying and find a way to match up their concerns and your new feature solutions. Think of yourself as the ultimate matchmaker. What do they need/want. How does this feature help them or feed their need? Just like a professional matchmaker, don’t force the match. If there isn’t one, just wait for the next opportunity. You don’t want to come off as over-promising or pushing your own agenda.
4. Offer to help. Most people are a little hesitant when it comes to embracing change, especially is they’re unclear on what it will mean for them. Assuming you’ve already done your work to educate them and reduce the fear of the unknown, feel free to demonstrate it yourself. With the technology of smart phones and tablets, you don’t always need to be behind a desk to showcase your online community. If they voice a concern over something, give them assistance right there. Showing not telling, can be very effective recruitment tool.
5. Help make it a habit. With the fear and uncertainty conquered, you can move onto helping your members make the new feature a habit. Just as a body in motion tends to stay in motion, a software user tends to do the same activities over and over. Many of us have set patterns — wake up; check our phones for calls, texts, emails; check Facebook; check Twitter — you get the idea. If you can become part of their daily habit, your community usage will sky-rocket. Since we all know the key to creating a habit is repetition, do everything you can to encourage it — from contests to asking for reviews of the new feature to polls and surveys. Create an atmosphere where they need to use the new feature often and you’ll be surprised how frequently they do.
Feature adoption is not easy. It’s time consuming but part of creating an engaged online environment is to ensure your members are using your features. Without building support behind these items, you’ll find that people and activity will stagnate. They’ll wonder what you’ve done for them lately and if they’re asking the question — they’ve already formulated the answer.