Need Better Engagement? Start an Online Community
Building an online community is a powerful way to increase engagement. Here’s some advice to get you started.
We’ll begin with a question about an old staple of engagement that you’re already using: How well would your advocacy campaigns do without email?
Three out of four advocacy professionals say their organizations are dependent on email to communicate with members, according to a CQ Roll Call survey. Yet email is only one communication channel.
Building stronger engagement among your members and constituents means growing your communication channels so that discussions and collaboration don’t happen only in one place.
Online Advocacy Communities
It’s true that email is both ubiquitous and potent. The 2014 M&R Benchmark Report revealed the email engagement rate for advocacy issues is 625-percent higher than other activities, such as fundraising. This is good news for associations.
But the success of email engagement should fuel a broader membership collaboration plan, with an online community that augments email and incorporates discussions, resources and events.
Votility, an advocacy software provider, asks an important question: if advocacy success is all about engagement, and communities are all about engagement around common topics, mindsets and beliefs, why aren’t there more online advocacy communities?
Members already look to associations to provide information and resources about legislation that will impact their businesses. Additionally, they want to collaborate and have their voices heard when it comes to current events.
According to Forrester, branded communities are going to be “the next big thing” in 2015. A recent Forrester survey showed U.S. “online adults” who want to stay in touch with organizations are almost three times as likely to visit a site as to engage on Facebook.
Adding a community where members stay engaged with each other and keep track of what’s new at the association is a great way to engage members, convert prospects and build loyalty and value.
Great Community Ideas
Online communities don’t guarantee overnight engagement success stories for your organization or your members. But the right community tactics can vastly improve your current advocacy efforts and lead to better member collaboration.
Consider some of these best practices when focusing on engagement and advocacy in your community:
- Start discussion forums. Focus on specific policy questions, current issues and how the association is engaging. Providing private spaces for members to converse will help spread the word and ultimately build coalitions.
- Create an advocacy expert directory. This will help the community find and reach out to your more engaged, vocal members. This will encourage participation in grassroots efforts.
- Incentivize members with a little competition. Award digital points, ribbons and badges for activities or campaign actions within the community, which can foster member involvement and a culture of acknowledgement and thanks, as well as increase community content.
- Connect online advocacy efforts with events. The community can be a hub for event registration and details, and serve as a post-event meeting space for attendees and prospects to talk about their experiences and reconnect
These engagement tactics will also help your community produce great content.
One of Higher Logic’s clients has produced almost 150,000 pieces of content in their community over the last six years, all generated by the members, for the members.
Not only is that an impressive amount—taken together it’s a great resource and knowledge center for members new and old.
[Further reading: You Are Dependent on Email — So Take These Steps to Get Them Opened and Read]
Caitlin Struhs is the lead writer and content marketer for Higher Logic, an industry leader in cloud-based community platforms with more than 25 million engaged members in more than 200,000 communities.