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5 Reasons Your Association Needs an Online Member Community

‍Whether your association is looking for a budget-friendly option, or if it’s just looking for an inexpensive option to bring in more revenue and member engagement, an online member community might be for you.

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Creating an open line of communication for your association’s membership can seem like an intimidating process. As an association professional, you’re already scrambling for time and resources to create the best environment for your members to grow in. And you might think that your association is both understaffed and underfunded and couldn’t possibly tackle the hefty task of creating a member community.

But that’s where you might be wrong. With an online member community, your association can save both time and funding while still creating a successful platform for your membership to thrive. For associations looking for a great member community plan, providing a secure, authentic online platform is a great solution. It’s self running, easy for members to interact and engage, and cost effective. However, you might still have some reservations. What goes into an online member community? How is it best used by your association and its members? And exactly how do you get started?

We’re going over 5 reasons your association needs to introduce an online member community to its members, as well as a few tips on how to get started. So, if you’re looking for a brand new way to engage your membership, look no further.

1. It’s easily accessible

One of the biggest advantages to any member community is convenience. This is why an online member community is such a great idea. Using an online host and/or app will give your members a place to congregate that is easily accessible from any device.

But what types of platforms should you be looking for? To start, you always want to choose a platform that’s exclusive. You never want to choose a host that allows public access to your members forums and conversations. Remember, you want members to feel secure to network (and having an exclusive online community is a major plus as far as benefits go).You also want to make sure the platform you use is accessible on mobile devices.

According to SmartInsights, users spend 69% of media time on average on smartphones. So, if your members are going to be using mobile devices, you need to make sure your online community can be supported on those devices. Some great community apps your association can look into are CauseRoar, GroupMe, and Cluster. These apps are all easy to use, entirely secure, and able to be accessed on a mobile device. Having an easily accessible online member community will be a huge pull for attracting and engaging your membership.

2. It’s a problem solver

With an online member community, your members problems don’t have to lead them to confusion or frustration with your association. By opening up a channel for them the voice and share their opinions and concerns, you’re giving members access to a tool that leads directly back to your association’s staff. This way, problems they might be having that deal with your association can be taken care of as soon as possible.

For example, let’s say your member is having trouble logging in to the member section of your association’s website. While not on their member account, their access to your association’s staff might be limited/restricted. However, if they’re able to access the online member community, they can explain their problem and hopefully find a solution, whether from your association’s staff or other helpful members. Giving members a channel for problem solving helps to engage them with your association. It might also compel them to renew in the future, or even recommend your association to others.

3. It’s a good way to promote events

With an online member community, it’s never been easier to gather all of your membership in one place. And using that to your association’s advantage, you can actually use your member community to promote any upcoming events or conferences you’d like to see them attend.

This is an important feature for any association looking to boost member engagement and event attendance at the same time. Your association can create a group specifically dedicated to its upcoming events and conferences. This way, your members will have an easy, single source of information on events they might be interested in attending in the near future. Try inviting your members into a group on your member community that’s exclusively for event updates. Then, you can provide links to helpful information, like a link to your association’s calendar of events. You can also post live updates during events, in case of room change or other last minute changes.

4. It attracts a younger audience

If you’re looking to target a younger audience, an online member community is a great start. Millennials are children of the online age. In fact, a study reported by Statista claims that online users between the ages of 25-34 spent an average of 2,891 minutes online per month. That makes them the most active internet users as far as age groups go.

It’s clear that Millennials are looking to engage on a place they feel comfortable. And what better way than to bring your member community to them? Be sure to market your online member community as one of your association’s many valuable benefits. If younger members see they can access exclusive networking opportunities on an online platform, it could compel them to become a member. You also want to make sure to market your online member community to younger audiences on platforms they know best.

Create a social media marketing plan for your online community. With a majority of Millennials spending their time on social apps, you’ll be sure to reach them where it matters most. Keep the interest of your younger members with an online member community platform.

5. It’s cheap

One of the best features about an online member community? Its cost. In most cases, finding a community platform to host your association’s membership is free (if not, it’s at least relatively cheap). This is great for associations on a strict budget who still want to provide opportunities for members. This is also a great option for associations looking to make more as far as dues revenue goes.

If your association bases its membership model off of a tiered plan, having a new, highly valuable membership benefit can help you raise the revenue bar up on your higher level tiers. Consider making your online community a place for higher-level members. Or, you can allow lower-tiered members the option of a “freemium” group on your platform. You can password protect other groups for members who pay for a more exclusive membership.

Whether your association is looking to cut corners on its budget, or if it’s just looking for an inexpensive option to bring in more revenue and member engagement, an online member community is for you. So, if you weren’t convinced about the benefits of an online member community before reading this blog post, hopefully you are now. We hope your association considers incorporating an online member community into its member engagement plan.