How creating online communities will revitalize your membership association
Many of the most reputable membership associations have built their membership base over decades. The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) was founded in December, 1891 and is the voice of more than 60 banks operating in Canada; the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), with its 100,000 members, was founded in 1888, to name just a couple.
However, the largest global member association—Facebook—has gained over two billion monthly active users in just 13 years. And it has been their purely digital focus that has allowed the company to achieve such an enormous user base in such a short space of time.
Of course, there is a big difference between consumer-based membership associations that are focused on the individual, and enterprise-based associations that aim to create a community around a particular profession, industry, or mission. But there is certainly something to be learned from the social media giant: digital media allows membership associations to provide their members with new and innovative ways of engaging and interacting with one another.
In this post, we’re going to explore what membership associations can learn from websites like Facebook about creating online communities.
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The current state of 'community' in membership associations
Many membership associations continue to use traditional methods to foster interaction with and between their members. Areas dedicated to improving learning—such as training seminars and education programs, are held in-person. Marketing, communication updates, and information about event opportunities are sent via post to members as printed media or via impersonal email lists.
These communication methods aren’t in and of themselves a problem—many membership associations have successfully built their communities through these methods. But they have several limitations:
- Paper-based processes, like postal votes and printed company updates newsletters, slow down the flow of information.
- Some members may not be able to attend events in-person and therefore miss out on the benefits of their membership.
These issues can result in a lack of engagement. Engagement is crucial to membership organizations—in fact, 2016 marked the first year
organizations viewed long-term member engagement as more important than short-term member acquisition.
It’s not just about interacting with you, the organization, but with their peers; networking, sharing opinions and participating in discussions. This engagement is stifled when users are only able to communicate with one another through face-to-face interaction.
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Online communities can help membership associations overcome many of these challenges. However, simply launching a public page on Facebook or LinkedIn for your members to join has certain limitations:
- Dedicated groups on platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn are fine for basic discussion, yet are generic and do not connect with your personal offerings, such as your event-booking platform
- Online communities on many public social networks suffer from low engagement. One study found that 90% of Facebook users never return to your page after they click ‘Like’.
By providing your members with their own dedicated online communities can provide a tailored design, better access to data and more options for control—so users don’t have to work inside the confines of a social platform.
Building an online community ensures your members are aligned with the goals and values of your associations, offering targeted discussion without the inherent distractions of social media. Regarding solutions to the problems we mentioned above, online communities can facilitate:
- Electronic voting for committee members
- Monthly email newsletters
- Online education and training programs
These kinds of online communities designed specifically for your association are powered by the exchanging and sharing of content and information. With members contributing to their community, this can help build engagement with their peers and a sense of belonging.
Learn more about why modern membership associations are turning to online portals to offer members this kind of community. Download our whitepaper today.
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offers consultations for organizations to develop and deploy solutions specific to their needs, so they can create an online community that will thrive. Learn more about our 3 Step Approach.
Digitizing your membership association will bring it into the modern era; online communities offer your members the benefits they deserve, and ones that many of them are likely now expecting.
Ultimately, by modernizing your association’s approach to managing communities, you boost member engagement and increase long-term revenue. To learn why leading membership associations are upgrading their management tools, and to learn how you can do this practically, download our exclusive whitepaper today.
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