A thriving online member community can help your association grow by attracting and engaging members and driving revenue.Get an all-in-one solution for your association!
Here’s what you need to know to succeed with an online member community this year.
If your association is like many others, you’re looking to improve your association in the coming year. As part of that effort, you might be focused on member engagement. In the 2022 Association Trends Study by Community Brands, association professionals list “developing or improving engagement opportunities for members” as a top priority.
Offering a vibrant online member community is a great way to both attract and engage members. So, isn’t it time you made it a priority for your association?
Even with a small staff, you can build a thriving online member community that helps your association improve and grow. So, let’s look at some key concepts and tips to get your online member community going strong this year.
What is an online member community?
An online member community is an online place for your members to connect with each other and your association. Members can discuss topics, ask and answer questions, share ideas, and find information – all in one convenient location.
Why is an online community important for associations?
An online member community is a highly effective way to engage members all year long. It can elevate networking among your association’s members and make your association a part of your members’ regular social networking habits. You can even use your online member community to drive non-dues revenue for your association.
There are multiple things you can do with an online member community that offer benefits for your association and your members. Some examples:
- Recruit members – Give non-members limited access to the online community to demonstrate the value of being a member of your association.
- Engage members – Create discussion groups based on industry topics, member benefits, educational opportunities, and more. This allows members to see information and participate in discussions related to their interests, which in turn encourages them to participate more.
- Offer volunteer opportunities – Get members more involved by creating various volunteer opportunities in the community. For example, volunteers could sign up to get a conversation started or write a content piece to be promoted in the community.
- Generate non-dues revenue – For example, offer companies in your industry the opportunity to pay to place ads on your online community.
- Understand your members’ needs – Keep tabs on what your members are discussing in your online community to better understand their needs and interests.
- Simplify customer service – Create a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page on your online community so members can find answers. Promote the page in your member communications to drive traffic to your online community while reducing staff time spent answering common questions.
- Make collaborating more efficient – Set up exclusive groups for your committees, making it easy and efficient to provide real-time updates, connect with others in the group, and make decisions.
How can a small association get started with an online member community?
If your association doesn’t already have an online member community, the first thing you’ll need to do is to get an online member community technology platform in place
to power it.
YourMembership association management software (AMS) by Community Brands is a great choice. It’s built for small to mid-size associations and includes online community functionality. The functionality provides the capabilities you need to build a vibrant online member community, including:
- A social networking feed – so members can view and comment on relevant content, discover learning and career opportunities, and access member benefits within a single feed
- Suggested connections – so you can promote connections and networking opportunities based on common member attributes and interests
- Quick announcement area – to highlight important information, such as when your annual conference registration opens
- Dashboards and analytics – so you can keep an eye on member activities to better understand member interests and provide greater member value. .
Learn more tips for getting started with an online community for your association. Read The Small Association’s Guide to Getting Started with an Online Member Community.
How can you expand your online member community to help grow your association?
Once you have an online member community in place, it can take on a life of its own with members proactively discussing topics and sharing information. But there are things you can do to take it to the next level and provide even greater value for your members and your association.
Here are some examples:
- Set up a new member group. Create a discussion group for your new members. This helps your new member to get to know each other and gives your association the chance to share information and participate in discussions with them. They’ll feel more welcome and inspired to get more involved in the online community and with your association.
- Share information. Share content of all kinds through your online community. This might include membership publications, the latest reports on industry best practices, and new insights from industry thought leaders. This approach will make your online community the go-to place for information, encouraging members to visit it more often.
- Suggest connections. Use your online community to promote one-to-one connections and opportunities to network. For example, suggest connections between members interested in a particular issue facing your industry. They’ll feel more connected and more interested in remaining a part of your association.
- Offer advertisement opportunities. Sell ads for your online community to companies in your industry. You can also offer online community ads as a “bonus” to help you sell event and association sponsorships.
Learn more tips and techniques for expanding your online member community. Read The Small Association’s Guide to Taking Your Online Member Community to the Next Level.
Building a strong online member community is just one way to improve your association this year. Learn more about how YourMembership AMS can help your small association to increase member engagement, work more efficiently, and grow your association: Explore YourMembership.
By Kyela Bishop, YourMembership Marketing Coordinator, Community Brands