Delivering the social networking experience that your members crave is easy enough. There are a myriad of free sites out there ready to deliver fans or friends or tweeps. You know your members are out there on these sites and you are eager to join them but take a moment and be selfish. What do these social networking sites give you?
Administrative tasks way heavy on your organization’s time and manpower. You must dedicate resources to administration, processing and organizing. Why not streamline your organization’s backend as you provide what your members want most?
There are plenty of industry specialists who will advise you to put a social media plan into effect prior to committing resources but it’s important to look beyond just your social media strategy and think about what else you can accomplish under the same plan. If you were carpeting your living room and could do your bedroom at the same time for the same price wouldn’t you? It’s about optimizing resources and being smart about planning.
Make a list of what your members need. These are the things they have to have, the essentials, like the ability to connect with one another professionally and socially. These are the bare minimum requirements. Fostering connections between your members is the very least you can do during this time of focus on social media.
Add what they want. Next take into consideration the exciting features that make you look really good. This is the value-add component. These items will make you shine and become the foundation for your becoming an integral part of your members’ internet experience. Recently, Universal McCann found that people polled in its “Power to the People: Social Media Tracker” study tended to want to consolidate their social media lives with sites that offered multiple functionality such as the capabilities to connect with friends and upload multi-media files. Consider that as the lives of our members get busier, multiple sites will be vying for their attention. Why give members a reason to go somewhere else because your site has limited functionality?
Be selfish. You have ascertained what your members want and what they need. Now you need to think of yourself. There are many companies that offer software with both a robust social media side and user-friendly administrative tools to help with such tasks as member and content management; creating and assigning dues and membership levels; calendar and event management; reporting; fundraising; donations and dues management; custom form creation; bulk email and messaging capabilities; file and media management; store management and eCommerce; blog and forum management; staff and administration listing and so much more.
Most of these tools are designed with a novice computer user in mind but are feature-rich enough to create and manage a community your users will enjoy exploring. One of the benefits of investing in your own private online community (software) is your ability to retain control of content and functionality. Don’t surrender your important member information or compromise on reporting features. You know what’s best for your organization. You should be able to control what tools are available and when. Plus, we all look forward to growth. Why go with a product that hampers future growth? Why not look into something that allows you to control functionality?
Be frugal. Now that you have explored the capabilities of several software products that are on the market, consider their pricing structures. Is a per month fee simply that or are there add-ons for other items? Is customer service included? Is it unlimited? Is training included? If so, is it live or a video? Is training personalized or is it a group setting? Are you limited to a certain number of hours per month? Are you limited to just the time surrounding your initial sign-up? What if you have questions in the future/after your training period is over? How much do training packages cost? How many admin seats do you get? How many members are you charged for? How many emails can you send a month? Who will design you site? How much will it cost? How much does hosting cost? Will you require an additional server? What haven’t you factored in?
Be smart. Comparisons are only as effective as the equality of products. You can look at the bottom line price but if you’re not comparing like services or software, you may not be taking into account all of the hidden fees. Plus you want to make sure you are not penalized for your success. If the pricing of your membership software is based on the number of admins or members you have, growing your community comes at a real cost. That doesn’t help you, your members or your mission.
You are investing time, energy and money in a social media plan and strategy. Whether you choose to hire a social media/community leader to administer and drive your social media success or you divvy up the responsibilities among multiple administrators, you’ll want to create a community that will fit both the needs of your members and your in-house requirements. The technology has advanced to the point that you no longer have to choose between satisfying your members and giving your internal team the tools they need to be more efficient.