Generating ongoing member engagement for your association is about more than just giving your members a good experience. With increased engagement, you can boost renewal rates and attract new members. Since members primarily join associations to connect with others in their industry, engaged members are likely getting more of the value they are seeking from their membership. Happier members means a more financially stable association — in short, everyone wins.
However, increasing member engagement for your association is significantly easier said than done. Often, it can feel like anything you try to keep top of mind with members falls flat and unlocking the key to what will finally motivate your members to interact feels impossible.
Don’t worry — you aren’t alone. Luckily, this problem is not without a solution. In fact, we’re here to share three helpful online community software features that will add value to your association and increase member engagement.
One of the key methods for increasing engagement is creating opportunities for member collaboration — and the concept of contextual conversation is collaboration at its finest. But what is a contextual conversation? Consider this example:
A member writes a new “how to” article in your plant science association online community. When another member comes across that article, they want to draw it to the attention of another colleague. By simply using the @ sign to mention another member, they can signal their attention to the document.
Let’s say that person then reads the article and has a suggestion for how to make it better. They can then @mention an inline comment directly in the article at the sentence level. Perhaps they know of another article that might be helpful to the original writer’s purpose — if so, they can then add a useful file or image directly into the document.
Turn Content into Conversations
This type of engagement is especially helpful for sharing ideas and working together. Rather than scrolling all the way to the end of an article to leave a comment in a potentially lengthy and confusing comments section, members can put their thoughts directly onto the document. Think of it as a form of modern annotation.
Until the end of time, members can see the ongoing digital conversation around specific thoughts, points, or paragraphs in the content that your association is providing its membership.
And this feature doesn’t just stop with textual documents. The same process can be utilized with videos, allowing the comments to be time stamped at the appropriate location.
Speaking of sharing knowledge, learning paths allows members to come together and learn from each other’s expertise. Members can create a full online course directly in the association’s portal to share with other members, increasing the amount of curated content at their disposal.
Member-to-Member Social Learning
By creating learning paths for each other, members are able to share tips, strategies, experiences and knowledge to help other members in their own professional development. Rather than a heavy-handed LMS put together by the administrator, learning paths have a lighter, more accessible touch that encourages the sharing of information and, thus, engagement.
Live Digital Micro-Events
Including a live component of your association’s online community platform brings both of these elements — collaboration and knowledge sharing — into the “now.”
Let’s say a community member wants feedback on a piece of content, but not many people were responding to the initial call to action. By creating a live event dedicated to collecting feedback and restricting it to a specific time block, you can encourage more members to participate because they won’t want to miss out on their chance. This live collaboration helps connect members from all around the globe and creates an experiential moment where the power of your network can thrive.
Micro-Events Are an Opportunity for Community Management
Of course, these events aren’t likely to be successful without ample promotion and encouragement from community managers and organizers, particularly as your members get used to the format.
However, as they acclimate to the practice of live collaboration, don’t be surprised if your community members start hosting these sessions entirely on their own, with no outside promotion or organization needed. And if you’re concerned that encouraging actual participation and commenting will be a challenge, don’t worry — associations that have already taken advantage of this feature have seem abnormally high participation rates, with more than 80 percent of the members who show up to the event also adding a comment to the discussion.
Plus, it’s really the time-sensitive nature of the live time block that encourages such high participation levels. Members won’t look at the discussion as something they can eventually get around to — participation becomes a “now or never” option.
Increasing Member Engagement Takeaway
Year in and year out, member engagement is always one of the highest priorities for associations. With these three online community software features, engagement can become less of a guessing game and more of a proactive, results-driven task.
By capitalizing on your members’ desire to collaborate, share their expertise and interact in experiential moments, you can boost engagement and create added value that keeps your members coming back for more.