Last year taught us many lessons and forced us to adapt, at least temporarily, to a new world. One of the biggest changes associations need to make for the future is to implement a member communication plan. In March, YM Careers hosted a webinar with Higher Logic for more than 500 registrants to show them how to do just that! We provided in-depth information including what members want, how to build stronger communities and engaging content, and how to synthesize data to make a data-based action plan.
“Engagement has become less about what we can do to keep people coming back and more about what’s the value we can add to create a lasting relationship with our members.” – Marjorie Anderson, Product Manager, Digital Communities, Project Management Institute
What Members Want
Quite simply, the majority of members say they join an association because they believe doing so will help their careers. Learning and networking are vitally important and so is connecting your members to new job opportunities.
Our study showed that 76% of members join either while in school or within the first 5 years of employment. We call them early careerists. And for them, here’s what they said matters most:
- Job opportunities
- Training to accelerate their career goals
- Building a professional network (community)
- A personalized experience
You have an opportunity to close this gap and to do a better job of supporting these early-career professionals who represent your association’s future, by delivering to them what they are telling you they want – real job opportunities, training that they clearly understand how it will drive their careers forward, and development of a strong professional network.
How to Build Strong Member Communities
People are loyal to the benefit or outcome, not the product that gets them there. Take music for example. The way people digest music has changed – from live music to vinyl records, to cassette tapes, and now streaming music on your phone. People do not remain loyal to how they consume music, but their desire and need for music has never changed. This thought process can be applied to your association and getting your members to engage in your community.
Higher Logic has proven that there are 3 main benefits that motivate users to engage in an online community:
Continuous Learning: increase ease of access to industry-specific resources, professional learning opportunities, and other members’ insights.
Develop a sense of pride and belonging: Provide opportunities for members to be recognized for professional expertise, community contributions, and career milestones. “I feel seen, I feel heard, and I feel valued (by the organization and by other members of the community)”.
Exposure / Status: Create an environment to share experiences and expertise with other community members. “I feel like others perceive me as a knowledgeable professional in my industry.”
Think about how you can incorporate these outcomes into your commination to provide your members with that reason they should engage.
Synthesize and Make a Data-based Action Plan
Utilize the information gathered from your surveys and interviews to create a community roadmap. We suggest planning out communications for 6 months to set expectations. All communities have a combination of four different types of members. These are:
- Creators – users who create posts, blogs, and other new content.
- Contributors – users who reply to or comment on the created content.
- Consumers – users who exclusively view or log in to consume the created content and its contributions.
- Inactive – Users who have not made any actions in the community in the last year.
Make sure you are tailoring your content to these groups. Develop communication plans to keep your creators active and encourage your inactive users to engage with your provided content. You may have a larger number of creators and contributors than you think – you can see for yourself why the 90-9-1 rule for online community engagement is outdated.
Create Interactive Member Engagement Campaigns
Once you make that action plan, you’ll want to start creating campaigns that encourage your members to engage on a regular basis with your association. I know that can feel like a tough path to start, especially if you’re a small team without a big budget and lots of resources, but it is possible. Here are some ideas to implement in your next campaign.
Whether you think you have the content or you don’t – you probably do. Conference content, employee feedback, webinars, website content – you can repurpose almost all of these into video!
Here are just a few tips to keep in mind regarding video:
- Limit the video length. Most videos are just meant to be a teaser. Get the viewer interested in learning more by reaching out to you to chat.
- Include a voiceover or music. Your video can be simple PowerPoint slides with a bit of animation and a nice voice-over – or if budget and resources allow, take it up a notch and find a good service online to help. You can also use your phone and record videos on topics that are of interest to your members – which you would have learned by your surveys and listening campaigns mentioned earlier.
- Don’t feel like you have to recreate the wheel – think of the resources and content already out there and turn it into video content that your members want to watch.
Infographics are an easy content piece for most marketers. Here are some pretty good stats around why infographics are so powerful, and why marketers use them!
If you need inspiration, you can view our infographics on YM Careers resource center.
How do you create infographics that work? Here are some ways to step up your infographic game
Know your audience by conducting market research to figure out what they really want to know. You can use the tips from earlier to come up with your list of topics.
Identify viral topics. You’re going to do your own in-house research using some of the ideas presented but you can also identify hot topics in your industry and capitalize on that existing momentum. Google Trends, Twitter, BuzzFeed, Reddit, and Facebook are all great places to find trending topics.
Lay out a marketing plan to ensure that you will make a return on your investment by getting it in front of as many eyes as possible, using social media, email marketing, and even paid ads. If you previously reached out to your audience for market research purposes, it’s a great idea to send the finished product out to them.
Think outside the box by creating a concept that will stand out. How can you make your chosen topic more exciting? In what new ways can you visualize the data? Are there any symbols or graphics that would catch readers’ attention? Can you incorporate humor into your infographic? What’s something others in your industry haven’t dared to do before?
Dig into the data. Dig into the data first, then create the graphics around the data to make it interesting. If you have new data to share, some study results to publish, or an exciting case study to present, now’s the opportunity to do just that. Share information that your audience is unlikely to find anywhere else. What can you do that will make the data more meaningful and memorable?
Create content that tells a story by organizing the content and creating a design around the information. It should have an introduction, the body content, and a conclusion. Effectively introduce the concept, keep readers reading, and tie everything up at the end.
Put your content marketing plan into action. If that means generating traffic through SEO, make sure the post or page is well-optimized. If that means email marketing, write copy for your email campaign. If that means social media, create captions, use hashtags, and schedule your posts.
Engage Members Through Marketing Your Career Center
You don’t want your association’s Career Center to be just a transactional portal where employers and job seekers connect. Imagine if your members and professionals could come to your site to research all things related to jobs in your industry, then get a complete picture of their career options, the long-term outlook for their fields, what their life will be like if they take those options within the field you serve. This creates engagement and provides tremendous value.
Included in every YM Careers job board, we have a feature called Career Planning Portal. The Career Planning Portal was designed to create the ultimate career destination for your members, no matter their career stage. It’s made up of three pillars – Career Insights, Career Paths, and Career Advice.
The three work together to provide deep insight into industries and roles and is supported by the content they need to continue to advance in their professions. And better yet, help your association provide a valuable member benefit, drive additional non-dues revenue – especially when integrated with your other platforms like AMS, LMS, marketing automation and more.
Communicating and engaging your members will help create a strong community and give you members for life. We have lots of other great ways to market your career center and create engagement with your members.