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Communities for Membership Organisations Series: Recognising The Challenges Of Engagement

9 Oct 2018

Posted by Gina Narramore

Darren Gough, Community Management Expert and Founder of Island23 Limited shares his first guest blog post of his three part series. This post recognises the challenges of engagement within membership organisations and discusses how to enhance the experience for members.

Digital Transformation

Membership organisations are facing a challenge. At a time when Generation X are the dominant force in the workplace, and millennials are evolving the nature of work outputs, digital transformation is needed to react to the changing needs of professionals.

MemberWise’s 2017/18 Digital Excellence report captures the feedback of 275 managers and directors working within this space. The number one goal for membership organisations and associations is; to increase member engagement.

This is the same number one goal as their 2016 findings, which in turn has risen from it is a number two goal in both 2014 and 2015. This points to a clear shift in focus needed from the old hat approach of “build it and they will come”.

This is a trend reflected across the industry. The expectation of members has now significantly changed from even 5 years ago, with a much greater expectation of increasing value and year round engagement.

Organisations that rely on their past and brand equity to survive through selling memberships in a warped revolving door system (1 in, hope to avoid 1 out) will find numbers decline as savvy consumers cancel memberships and look elsewhere.

"The membership and association sector is waking up to the fact that future long-term member value and growth requires a deeper focus on online membership experience and engagement rather than an infatuation with short term new member acquisition.” Richard Gott, Founder, The MemberWise Network

The Introduction of Community

For many membership organisations, understanding what an online community can do to make that transformation happen is the key. A community can act as the heart or hub of everything you do, providing a portal for customers to interact not only with each other but with your team.

The community runs 24/7 and is providing value, answering questions and giving access to experts, and building resources and materials that are accessible to your members on a continuous basis.

It can also provide huge value as an internal network to your team, allowing departments to break down informational and cultural silo problems and build a living knowledge hub with instant connection to what members and saying and doing.

Evolving Engagement

Aside from membership itself, it is common for organisations to measure engagement though metrics such as email click throughs, social media likes and shares and event attendance.

Whilst these provide general trend data for the organisation itself, in isolation it doesn't do much for your members in terms of adding deeper value which moves the dial. In 2018, trying to convince members that “our emails get a 75% open rate”, “this article got 1K shares” or “we sold 350 tickets” isn’t compelling enough to retain and attract.

Telling the stories and taking the engagement to the next level is where the value exists. Members what to know what people like them are doing.

What challenges do they have?

How did they solve them?

Can I meet like-minded people?

Where can I ask a question and get an answer?

The PyraBell Curve of Events

Membership organisations who hold large scale events once or twice yearly often fall into the trap of the PyraBell Curve: A hybrid of the traditional bell curve and the pyramid effect of ramping up and down extremely quickly.

Pre Event.  As an event draws near, the organisation will start to slowly ramp up operational and marketing efforts through ticket sales and event information.

Event.  As the event lands (perhaps a day or two before) everything goes into overdrive. Stands are built, last min ticket sales are made, and customer service is bombarded with requests and contact. The event happens.

Post Event.  The eve of the final day (usually after a closing drinks reception), both members and staff consider the event “done” and do the typical post event activities. Stands are dismantled, a roundup email is sent, and a few members are asked to review it.

The Missed Opportunity

What commonly happens then is the event is ticked off, the team regroup and planning begins for the next time. The net result is the chance to deepen relationships with attendees through an active online community is lost. Members drift away (regardless of the perception of the event itself) crucial touch points and interaction are missed.

Summary

Members pay a fee to be part of their association and need to feel like they’re getting something special for it. With a community, they have access to a network of people and ongoing content rather than just a faceless website or brand that rarely interacts.

Members offer a near unlimited opportunity to evolve your services and products. You have an audience that can provide crucial insight as and when you need it. By putting a community at the heart of your organisation there is a huge opportunity to step in front of competitors and give members an experience they want to come back for time and time again.

4 Roads have worked with a plethora of membership organisations and has been responsible for some of the largest community deployments across the globe, creating communities consisting of millions of members. Contact us to find out how an online community could help you get closer relationships with your members. 

Gina Narramore
Posted by Gina Narramore

Gina is head of marketing at 4 Roads, responsible for the development and implementation of the company’s marketing strategy. Gina also works on client engagements where there is a community management and content strategy requirement.

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