Posts Tagged ‘social media

12
Jul
16

The growth spurt continues for associations

membership-associationWhat keeps association leaders up at night?

According to Marketing General Inc.’s 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, it’s issues such as balancing a limited budget, engaging younger members and understanding what members truly want, especially in terms of networking and professional development.

The good news, though, is that associations continue to grow.

Slightly up from last year’s report, this year 49 percent of associations reported a growth in membership. The largest individual member organizations (those with more than 20,000 members) were the most likely to see increased growth. In fact, only 14 percent report of respondents indicated no change in their number of members, a decrease from 16 percent in 2015.

For most associations, membership renewal rates didn’t change this year. Nor did the top methods for recruiting new members: word of mouth and email. Perhaps not surprising, associations said conferences and trade shows are also common recruiting tools, ranking No. 3.

Magnified illustration with the words Marketing Plan on white background.

So why do associations remain popular? Most association executives believe members join for networking and continuing education opportunities.

Other key findings from the MGI report:

  • The primary internal challenges to growing membership are difficulty in communicating value or benefits, insufficient staff and difficulty meeting members’ needs due to a broad membership base.
  • Competitive associations or sources of information (34 percent) and economy/cost of membership (31 percent) are the biggest external challenges to growing membership.
  • Nearly 80 percent of associations with increasing renewal rates indicate increased participation in their private social networks, with Facebook and Twitter being the most popular platforms.
  • A majority of associations consider the average age of their members to be between 45 and 54 years old.
  • Similar to acquiring new domestic members, the most effective methods for recruiting international members is through word-of-mouth recommendations, email and by promotion of or at an association conference or trade show.
  • The majority of associations currently have a separate strategic initiative or tactical plan for increasing engagement (58 percent).
  • More than 30 percent of associations offer certification of some kind.

So what does this mean for the future?

The MGI report includes best practices, predictions and tips from association leaders who participated in the survey.

As one respondent said, “Associations will need to find services that can’t be provided by any other organization — such as professional credentials. Networking can be online and social; professional development can be searched online; and knowledge is not valued, as information can be easily gathered. But status can only be gained by peer review and credentials are important.”

14
Jun
16

Globalization isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy for associations

global biz expansionAccording to the United Nations, in the year 2100 the world’s population will be 11.2 billion people.

Not surprisingly, Africa and India account for much of that growth, meaning businesses will steadily expand into those regions. As such, we could see a booming global marketplace, which opens the door for associations.

As markets grow, businesses will increasingly need the services associations provide, such as professional development, knowledge transfer, networking, education and professional certifications, according to Globalstrat, which recently released, “2016 Association Growth Global Trends Survey Report.”

Among the challenges associations will have are identifying the markets yielding the most potential for growth and creating business models to address specific markets, Globalstrat said.

According to the report, 30 percent of associations have 5 percent or fewer international members and conference attendees. However, while only 18 percent indicate 5 to 14 percent of their members are international, nearly 30 percent of associations in that same range had international conference attendees. So there’s not always a direct link between international members and international program participants.

What does that mean for associations?

19957784-Global-business-plan-concept-presentation-With-creative-hand-drawing-business-strategy-plan-concept--Stock-PhotoFor those with a high number of international members, there may be opportunities to better market events internationally, Globalstrat said. At the same time, these organizations should consider hosting events outside their home countries. On the other hand, associations with a high number of international event participants but a low number of members may consider improving membership value for international members.

Other key findings in the report:

  • North America is the most popular location in the world for global expansion among associations, followed by Europe, Australia/New Zealand and South America.
  • Organizations that have a solid international business strategy experience faster growth.
  • The top three metrics for success are membership, financial performance and number of meeting and event participants.
  • In terms of services, trade associations place a high emphasis on in-person networking opportunities while professional organizations rank the delivery of a journal or magazine as a priority. (For global expansion, Globalstrat recommends professional associations lead with live events, focusing less on membership, while trade associations should focus on membership and live events in tandem.)
  • About 50 percent of survey respondents use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn proactively while 90 percent of respondents use these social media channels in some fashion. (Twitter is the most popular.)

“Associations are so diverse and operate under conditions and in environments that are so significantly different from one another that it is impossible to suggest a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to international development,” Globalstrat said. “Yet, it is hard to identify an association or organization that is not affected, in some significant manner, by globalization. The question for association leaders, managers, staff and their stakeholders is, ‘How will they interpret the changes taking place, correctly identify the implications and then decide a course of action that successfully navigates these changes?’”

31
May
16

Community management is about strategy

pr-online-communities-20368498Although still relatively new, online communities are quickly becoming popular platforms for engagement, discussion and membership.

But there’s still some confusion about best practices and culture, according to a new report by The Community Roundtable and Higher Logic.

“In the current environment, it’s easy to question or second guess ourselves, but one thing I feel strongly about is this: A community approach can help navigate these issues in a way that brings along customers, prospects and employees,” said Rachel Happe, principal and co-founder, The Community Roundtable. “It is the best way, and maybe the only way, to keep our organizations in sync with themselves and with their markets.”

Happe said communities are the most effective way to deliver learning and change – much better than social media platforms, which are inundated with advertisements.

The Higher Logic report contains data from 339 community programs from a range of industries. The first takeaway: strategy. Strategy is based upon a shared understanding of value. In other words, communities must define value to their organization and to their community to foster engagement. In addition, the report found those who could measure that value to determine ROI performed best.

Next: operations. Giving members a voice is key to community success. Communities that provide a formal feedback system, multi-tiered advocacy program and member-led community programs far outperformed their peers.

And then, tactics: Most communities measure basic activity and membership, but going beyond that, including regularly tracking activity, behavior change and outcomes, reaps big rewards.

Happe

Rachel Happe, principal and co-founder, The Community Roundtable

Some recommendations from Higher Logic:

STRATEGY: Create strong, defined value statements for your organization and members, highlighting the shared value of the community. Tip: Boil it down: What’s the value that the organization and members get from being a part of the community – and where do those value statements intersect?

OPERATIONS: Engage and empower members, through feedback programs, member- and internal expert-led programs and by prioritizing getting organizational buy-in and understanding of community. Giving the community a say in its operation can help increase engagement and community contributions. Tip: Tap into the expertise in your membership – communities that include member-led programming demonstrate higher engagement and maturity than their peers.

TACTICS: Focus metrics and measurement on the behaviors you want to see, not just the ones you can easily measure. Everyone measures something, but the best-in-class communities are digging into the metrics that demonstrate the impact of the community. Tip: Use frameworks to better connect behavior changes to metrics so that you can more readily explain the value of the community to members and the organization.

“As community professionals, we need to keep our focus on the fundamentals and continue to reinforce value and success,” Happe said. “Don’t lose sight of the basics; continue the dialog with those that can benefit from your community; and develop an ROI model to define the specific business value that is generated from the community.”

10
May
16

Building community with a click

communityOne of the best benefits of attending professional events is networking – whether face to face or via social media.

And it often starts before an event. Personally, before I attend a conference, I search Twitter for the event’s hashtag to engage in conversation and “meet” colleagues.

That said, searching Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can be time consuming and overwhelming.

But event apps can help, according to a new e-book by DoubleDutch.

“It’s time to make use of innovative technology to enhance face-to-face connections, redefine engagement, keep the conversation alive, inform better content, build more robust social media communities and ultimately demonstrate the ROI of event marketing,” DoubleDutch says. “An event app provides community managers countless opportunities to build an audience before the event, engage during and keep engagement thriving long after the event has come to an end.”

Nearly all event marketers – 88 percent – use social media to create event hype. This means more than just promoting products and services; it means fostering conversation and building a community.

Event apps allow attendees to check in to events and post status updates. In other words, an event app mirrors an event-specific social networking platform. At the same time, apps allow event planners to gather and analyze data. In addition, by engaging in conversation, speakers can tailor presentations to address specific questions and concerns – thereby boosting ROI for event participants.

ts_140501_smartphone_apps_800x600

DoubleDutch has a few suggestions:

  • A welcome video from a CEO/chairperson
  • Interactive case studies in the form of Q & As
  • Access to presentations and other content
  • Live polls and audience surveys
  • Exclusive deals and promotions
  • Exhibitor giveaways

During a program, an event planner should:

  • Assign an app champion – Appoint a staff person to visit sessions and walk the exhibition floor to identify hot spots and key takeaways to share with attendees.
  • Stay in control – Sometimes things happen (room changes, session cancellations) and an app allows event planners to communicate quickly with attendees. At the same time, by following in-app conversations, event planners can nip a potential issue in the bud.
  • Share in real time – Build a crowd-sourced multi-media library in which participants can post resources and photos – both during and after the event.
  • Elevate key influencers – Find active app users and promote their posts. Call them out and show your appreciation. Encourage app users to sync apps with their social media profiles to maximize engagement.

In short, event apps allow attendees to learn from others; network before, during and after an event; and transfer their knowledge to their teams long after an event ends.

“Event marketing is crucial for forming connections with customers and sponsors, growing your digital community and building brand sentiment,” DoubleDutch says. “It is an opportunity to amplify engaged communities around your brand, product or service. Social media grows and engages those connections, but even the most adept community manager can’t attain the best event results through social media alone.”

09
Feb
16

Coming soon to association learning: gamified learning and microcredentials

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, co-founders of Tagoras

Tagoras recently released its much-anticipated 2016 Association Learning + Technology Report, which contains a wealth of information about associations’ efforts to incorporate technology into their educational programs and platforms.

We know the educational landscape is changing as associations adapt to their members’ learning needs and habits. In fact, almost 90 percent of the nearly 200 associations that responded to Tagoras’ survey reported offering technology-enabled or technology-enhanced education for their members.

How?

Webinars continue to be the No. 1 technological learning tool, followed by online learning programs, such as tutorials or presentations.

But some new types of learning are also emerging: massive open online courses, flipped classes, gamified learning, microcredentials and microlearning, which has the highest rate of adoption.

Other key takeaways from the report:

  • Social media – Not surprisingly, associations use YouTube for education. But Twitter ranks a close second followed by LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Mobile learning – About 41 percent of associations that use technology for learning provide a mobile version of their content. In addition, in the next year, 26 percent plan to go mobile.
  • Live streaming – Not many associations offer virtual conferences, but instead nearly 30 percent said they live stream events.
  • Learning Management Systems – A LMS is the second most popular technology platform. In fact, the percentage of LMS users increased from 51 percent in 2013 to 60 percent in 2015.
  • Data – Despite a growing use in technology, less than one-fifth of respondents said they always use data to decide which learning platforms to use for future educational opportunities.
  • Instructional design – More than 50 percent of associations employ instructional designers.
  • Chief Learning Officer – About 40 percent of respondents said someone within their organization holds a title that incorporates the word “learning.”
  • Knowledge transfer – More than 30 percent of associations reported using technology to sustain learning after the completion of an educational product or service.
  • Credentialing – Across the board, credentialing is becoming increasingly important for education. In fact, 68 percent of associations provide education to support a credential required in their field.

internet-315799_1280Blending technology and learning seems to make business sense for associations. More than half of those surveyed have seen an increase in revenue from their educational offerings. In addition, the associations that employ a Chief Learning Officer, or someone with a similar title, net more revenue from their educational offerings than those that don’t. Read: Credibility counts.

All this said, cost is still a top concern among associations. Just more than 50 percent of respondents said they’re satisfied with the cost of creating educational offerings and the cost of employing staff to develop and execute them.

Somewhat disappointing: Only 18 percent of associations that use technology think they’re successful.

“Technology has changed learning irrevocably, and the rate of change isn’t likely to slow,” Tagoras said. “This creates a clear opportunity for technology to transition into a more significant, more strategic part of the mix of education and professional development associations provide to members.”

As this happens, Tagoras predicts:

  • Growth in implementation of learning platforms and their integration with other key systems, like association management systems
  • A continued focus on professional instructional design to help ensure educational products are effective
  • An increase in competition that will, in turn, drive experimentation as associations look at how best to deliver more value
  • The professionalization of the education function overall and the growth of roles like chief learning officer

Aligning with Event Garde’s tagline, Learn.Network.Transfer, look for blog posts throughout the next few months that break down specific elements of Tagoras’ report.

19
Jan
16

Cut through communication clutter

home-gloryAs a writer and professional communicator, nothing (O.K., well, not very much) is more frustrating than people who can’t communicate. Or even worse yet, companies. Inconsistent messaging drives me nuts.

Rant over.

But seriously…communication is a hard gig for most companies, especially with the advent of social media. Communication is everywhere.

So it’s not really a surprise that associations continue to struggle with effective communication, according to Naylor’s 2015 communication benchmarking study.

While associations have made headway in navigating communication chaos, only 6 percent of the more than 700 associations surveyed reported they have a fully integrated communications strategy.

Perhaps more problematic, however, is that very few associations employ social, mobile or video strategy.

All this said, there’s good news: Associations realize they need to do a better job – starting with what they have. For example, if given a budget increase, more than one-third of respondents said they’d develop a mobile strategy while another one-third said they would pour resources into social media.

indexMore than one-half of respondents have optimized their websites for mobile, while more than one-third have done so for newsletters and blogs for mobile. And it seems more associations are connecting with members on social media.

But let’s face it. Without content, communication efforts are null. It’s hard to know what audiences want, so let’s trust Naylor.

According to its survey, in 2015 respondents chose best practices and how-tos as the most important topics. Second and third: professional development and industry trends. That’s changed from 2014, in which survey participants ranked lobbying/advocacy as most important. So maybe this is why 58 percent of those surveyed say members ignore at least half the communications they receive.

At a glance from the report:

  • 41.7 percent of associations feel understaffed overall
  • 43.5 percent feel their publishing/content creation teams are understaffed
  • 43.6 percent feel their social media teams are understaffed

“To their credit, associations are working hard to shed their stereotype as overly cautious, slow-moving, bureaucratic organizations,” Naylor said. “They have made significant strides in optimizing their websites and publications for mobile, and in offering members a wide variety of streaming video content, mobile apps and social media outlets. But, there is a big disconnect between associations’ willingness to try new forms of communication and their willingness to put a viable strategy behind those channels, much less staff them adequately, support them financially and measure them aggressively.”

Now that we’ve identified the communication challenges, what do we do about it? How do we transfer the knowledge we’ve learned?

Ask-a-Question-photoNaylor has some suggestions.

  • To build better content and greater engagement, you must start by asking what they want and why. Create a survey and ask your members, for example, whether they prefer digital or print communications – and why.
  • Take a closer look at who your stakeholders are and what they are telling you — and what they’re not — to uncover areas for improvement and set your goals. Take into account all audiences – staff, advertisers and members. Looking at membership demographics can provide insight into content consumption – Which publications are your competitors?
  • If you don’t have a social media strategy, get one. Don’t create a Facebook account just because. Instead, use your survey data to determine topics that lend themselves well to social media and then determine how, and through which platforms, your audiences want to learn.
  • When it comes to your digital communications, make every message count. In other words, integrate content and make messaging consistent. Start with subject lines for emails and e-newsletters. Make them catchy, but then, once they click, what will readers find? If people opt out, find out why.
  • Stop under-utilizing video. Case in point: Event Garde started incorporating video into our e-newsletters a few months ago. Continuing education, event memorialization, live streaming and integration opportunities make video an incredibly viable communication tool.
  • Designate an ambassador of integration. Establish someone who can liaise between all departments and audiences to make sure content is integrated and on message.
  • Review available communication vehicles and consider how much more powerful a message can be if it’s repurposed across different channels. Think about what can enhance current content (i.e. video). Or repurpose your conference program book and reword it for social media.
  • Make sure your content and communication vehicles are ready for consumption on the go. As part of your communications audit, ask your IT staff to analyze how mobile-friendly your websites, blogs and e-newsletters truly are.
  • Don’t wait to measure—incorporate it as an everyday practice. Remember: Data are good. Measure early and often, and chart how your different communication vehicles are performing so you’ll know what’s working best.
  • Track your results, and if you didn’t perform well in a certain area, ask for help. If you discover after analyzing data that you can’t give members what they need, this makes a good argument for boosting staff and budget.

“As we said in our 2014 recommendations, avoid ‘shiny-object syndrome’ and the temptation to be all things to all people,” Naylor said. “Consider how relatively simple a communications strategy can be with a Take AIM approach. Gather member feedback, deliver great content, monitor results, and watch engagement levels rise.”

13
Oct
15

Small but mighty meetings

cwmeeting1.jpg.441x331_defaultThink back to your college days. Remember those massively packed, overwhelming lecture halls? Was it hard to pay attention? Did you feel like a minnow in a sea of students swimming upstream?

I did.

Then, think back to your smaller classes (even if that only happened in high school). Wasn’t it easier to focus? Didn’t you feel a bit more important when the professor/teacher actually saw your hand…and called on you?

Now apply those same scenarios to the workplace. How much do you really get done in hugely packed meeting rooms?

When it comes to strategy and long-term planning, small groups are much more effective. Confidence is higher. Communication flows.

And so, it makes sense that in a recent Successful Meetings survey on small meeting trends for this year, event professionals ranked strategizing as the best goal for small meetings. Training came in a close second and team building took the No. 3 spot.

Also in the survey, Successful Meetings members viewed meetings with 25 people or fewer as “small meetings.”

As for location? A city center took the top spot. Think place-based education, yes? Hosting small meetings allow organizations to showcase local hot spots – and yes, even a favorite eatery works. But resort and hotels nearly tied for second and third place favorites.

However, surprisingly, 46 percent of respondents indicated they don’t use social media for small meetings. Perhaps that’s because face-to-face interaction is conducive to small settings, but it seems social media should have a presence, regardless of size. At the same time, 70 percent of survey participants indicated they don’t offer online components.

That said, of those who indicated they employ social media for small meetings, Facebook was the most common platform. Members ranked LinkedIn and Twitter as second and third.

The biggest challenge to small meetings planning? Room negotiation rates. Finding available dates presents the second largest challenge, followed by securing suitable function space onsite.

So what do you think? What trends do you predict for small meetings in 2016?




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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