When someone becomes a member of an association, it almost always means they are serious about their career and contributing to their industry. But let’s face it, membership can often seem like a feast-or-famine scenario where there is lots of action from the association in a small time frame and then nothing for months. For example, there’s always lots of hype around an association’s annual conference; the lead-up the event itself and the aftermath, but that generally accounts for about three weeks of the year, after which members are left to look far into the distance for the next chance to network, learn and have some fun.
This hurry-up-and-wait mentality can have a negative effect on members of any association. Long stretches without any meaningful involvement in the association can lead to frustration, resentment or, worst of all, apathy. All these reactions result in lower member engagement, lower participation in association services and fewer renewals when it comes time to pay the annual dues.
One of the solutions to this problem of vast peaks and valleys of association activity can be found in social media. By using multiple online platforms, associations can turn membership from a once-every-other-month practice into an everyday habit. When this happens, joining an association becomes a lifestyle, one that members are likely to keep up with for a long, long time. Here are a few ways that your association can turn membership into a lifestyle:
Talk About Your Members’ Interests
Your members don’t live inside a bubble; they have other interests besides talking about their job and their industry. Take an interest in the hobbies and pastimes of your members and talk about it on social media. This doesn’t mean that you need to stray from your association’s main message or mission by talking about the latest hit reality show. Instead, find a way to relate your members’ interests to the services your association provides or the overarching industry your association represents. This will keep your members coming back to your social media accounts and highlight your organization as well-rounded and consistently relevant to the lives of its members.
Finding out what your members are interested in is as easy as accessing Twitter Analytics. The “Followers” tab on Twitter Analytics allows you to examine which general areas your audience (hopefully made up of your members) are interested in. For example, the results may show that your members are really into technology or sports. Tweet a news article that ties one of these areas into your association or post an update on Facebook sharing content that connects your audience with information they might be looking for because of their interests.
Give Practical Advice
It’s human nature to keep coming back to something that gives value. People will always go back to a restaurant that has good food and good service. Individuals will always tune into the radio station that has the best handle on traffic and suggests the most useful alternate routes. And members will always want to engage with your association if it offers the most practical advice they can use in their everyday lives. Providing great tips, advice and how-tos is critical to keeping your members’ attention and ensuring a daily or weekly visit from them. When your association is being useful, your members will make a habit og coming back time and again.
Practical advice from your association can come in two forms: advice about accessing your association’s value and advice that helps your members’ professional development. Providing tips on how to extract the most value from an association’s programs is a great way to tie the everyday concerns of your members into your organization. You can create a fun YouTube tutorial on navigating your association’s website or using the members-only job board more effectively. You can also put together content that touches on your members and how they can do their jobs better. Lists are the best way to do this (people love lists!) and a blog is a perfect platform. For example, you can write about the top five ways to manage stress at your members’ workplaces or the top three institutions for continuing education for your members.
Have Some Fun
Everyone likes a little fun. That’s why we have weekends and holidays and at least two weeks of vacation every year. Just because your association often deals with the professional side of your members doesn’t mean it can’t get in on some of the fun too! Taking a break from serious topics, blatant promotional material and standard-but-important association updates is a key factor in drawing your members to your organization on any day and for any occasion. Incorporating some fun into your activities will means members don’t just see you as a business investment, but a life investment.
The most obvious point to start integrating some fun into your association’s marketing efforts is with social media and gamification. We’ve covered how association’s can use gamification in social media to engage members in a prior blog post, but the message boils down to being creative and focusing on achieving elements of play, such as rewards or mystery, while relating it to your association. Another way to help your members have fun on social media is to post an interesting, funny or motivational quote from someone in the industry on Twitter or Facebook. Additionally, you can write a blog post that combines the aforementioned practical advice with fun elements, such as a list of the top 10 songs your members can work to or the top five movies that depict members of your association’s industry.
Most people life having a say in their lives, which means your association can’t create a lifestyle by never asking for the input of its members. Getting your members engaged and contributing to your association’s activities gives them a stake in the outcome of decisions. Your members will be more likely to attend events or use a service when they feel like they have had a hand in shaping these elements of your association. When members are a part of the process, it becomes more than faceless communiques and throwing money at membership; it becomes part of their life and everyday thoughts.
Social media is the perfect forum for getting your members engaged and contributing to an ongoing discussion about the efforts of your association. Have a Twitter chat about an issue in your industry or association, live-blog/tweet your annual conference, interview members on YouTube and ask for comments on the video or create a “Digital Idea Wall” on Pinterest of Facebook. All of these social media efforts will give a voice to your members and keep them engaged and loyal to your association.