It might be time to re-think your association’s community-building strategy.
Here’s how to get members more engaged in building and growing a vibrant online community.
By Michelle Schweitz, Marketing Manager, Community Brands
Your online community is a powerful tool for your association. It’s a great way to make member support easier for your small staff to manage. And it’s a convenient way to keep members connected with your association and each other – especially between in-person meetings and when face-to-face meetings aren’t possible.
But your online community might not have the vibrant feel you’re aiming for if it’s just about your small staff making planned posts. The key is to get members more involved.
By getting members more involved with community building, the entire online community will grow more organically versus feeling forced. Members will be more likely to help each other by starting conversations, answering questions, and sharing information.
So how do you get members more engaged in building and growing your online community? Here are three approaches:
1. Build a community strategy with member engagement at the center.
Your online community strategy is the foundation for your community. Of course, it needs to include a plan for what online member community technology you’ll use, which team members will be involved, what content will be posted, and how you will market the online community.
TIP: YourMembership association management software (AMS) includes online member community technology. It’s built in to help you increase social and community collaboration.
But to really get members engaged, it should have a heavy focus on getting members more involved as volunteers in the online community. The truth is that other members are more likely to participate if your online community includes more than just posts from your staff. By focusing on getting members involved, your online community will feel more genuine and conversations more natural than if you rely on staff-driven engagement.
2. Develop an ambassador program.
As part of your community strategy, consider assembling a team of ambassadors – your most active members – to get involved in posting and engaging. For example:
- Kick off (or re-boot) your online community with members who have already demonstrated a high level of commitment to your organization. Ask them to get conversations started by posting in the community several times each week. These posts may include industry news, a call for suggestions about how to address a challenge, and questions to engage members. Your ambassador’s posts and activities will be seen by all members, providing a constant stream of conversations that will encourage other members to join in.
- Start discussion groups in your online community around hot topics in your industry, or for sub-groups of your members, and ask your ambassadors to actively participate in the groups. For instance, start a discussion group for young professionals, and ask an ambassador or two to launch discussions, share tips and resources, and answer questions for this group.
TIP: YourMembership association management software allows you to easily set up discussion groups in your online community so members with similar interests can share ideas and information with each other.
- Start a “buddy” program in which you pair ambassadors with non-members (who have limited access to the online community) or new members. This allows ambassadors to answer questions about membership and help to promote member benefits and resources.
3. Recruit content volunteers.
Get members more involved in your online community by asking them to contribute content. Content can be anything from an article or video to a how-to document, and the volunteer opportunity can be one time or ongoing.
Having members create content will help to encourage more of a true community spirit. And as a bonus, it relieves the burden of your small staff needing to create as much content.
YourMembership membership management software can help you put these approaches (and more!) to work at your organization to recruit and engage more members. Here are some resources to help you take the next steps:
- If you don’t have an online member community, find out how to get started: Read The Small Association’s Guide to Getting Started with an Online Community
- Discover more tips on stepping up your online member community: Read The Small Association’s Guide to Taking Your Online Member Community to the Next Level
- Find out more about how YourMembership association management software can help you attract and engage members: Explore YourMembership AMS