Posts Tagged ‘social media

18
Oct
16

The communications struggle continues

2016-association-communications-benchmarking-report_page_04If you’ve been following this blog for the past five years (heck….even the past year), you know I’m a communications nut.

Seriously. It’s the center of everything I do – from my personal life to my professional life.

Without communication, both internally and externally, there’s no content, no strategy. Nothing.

But not everyone knows how to communicate, at least not effectively. That goes for businesses, too.

Last January, I wrote about Naylor’s 2015 Communication Benchmarking Study. Naylor has been conducting the survey for five years, and last year, the survey found most associations were continuing to struggle with communications. In fact, only 6 percent reported having a communications strategy.

Fast forward: Naylor recently released the results of its 2016 Communications Benchmarking Study. And….you guessed it. Associations are still struggling.

The top two communications challenges reported this year: communications clutter/overload and the inability to communicate membership benefits effectively. Both challenges have increased since 2011, with 69 percent and 67 percent of associations stating those are the largest obstacles.

At the same time, nearly 80 percent of associations said their members ignore their communications – up from 59 percent in 2015.

Also of note:

  • More than half of respondents recognize a serious or significant problem with the lack of revenue generated from their communication vehicles.
  • Most respondents believe they are good at creating relevant content, and more than half are conducting communication-specific surveys at least once every 12–24 months to stay on top of members’ needs. But, as stated above, those efforts are often being ignored.
  • Although 57 percent believe they could improve member engagement by improving their ability to customize for different subgroups, not many are actually doing it.

While under staffing remains a top concern among associations, especially in the communications department, some positive trends emerged in the 2016 survey.

communicateThis year, more associations reported success in helping their members find desired information quickly and keeping them informed about education opportunities and events.

While e-newsletters and print magazines remain top communication vehicles, associations seem to be expanding their communication vehicles. For example, according to the results, Facebook, webinars and online career centers have gained traction.

Finally, again this year, associations reported difficulty with communicating to young professionals. While integrated communication is paramount to success, segmentation and customization of communications is key to enticing young members. As such, Naylor advises associations to develop specific events, communications and mentoring opportunities unique to this group.

“In general, associations are doing a better job at organizing information and making it accessible to their members, as well as keeping their members informed about new events and education,” Naylor says. “It’s more critical than ever to make every message count. And while associations appreciate the importance of segmenting member data to provide tailored communications to combat the ‘overload’ challenge, a relatively small percentage feel they are leveraging technology available to do this effectively.”

11
Oct
16

Change is good…right?

innovationLeaves change. People change. And yes, businesses change.

But what about associations?

Most of us realize innovation is key to driving a business forward. New ideas, new inventions, new strategies, new operating plans. The options are limitless – even for associations.

Associations aren’t often regarded as agents of change, but recently, Marketing General Inc., in conjunction with the National Business Aviation Association, polled association professionals to learn how they set innovation goals, how they support innovation, what rewards and recognition they offer and how they set metrics for innovation.

Nearly 350 associations participated in the Association Innovation Benchmarking Report, which found most associations are at least moderately innovative. That’s a recent development, however, as most didn’t start focusing on innovation until the past five years.

According to the survey, association innovation tends to focus around a few main areas: website and social media; conventions, conferences and seminars; education programs; and membership, technology and marketing (56 percent each).

the-secret-of-innovative-companiesIn addition, associations reported that innovation flows from the top down, with CEOs and other leaders serving as the primary drivers of new thoughts and ideas. In addition, collaboration and communication and encouragement are the most common ways associations support innovation.

And it seems there’s not much middle ground. Associations either fully support innovation or not at all. At the same time, there are challenges – lack of resources being No. 1. Also, most associations don’t set goals to achieve innovation and often, there aren’t reward programs for striving toward and achieving innovation – perhaps because it’s an expectation, and, in some cases, a culture.

Other key findings:

  • Changes in the industry or profession and technological developments are the biggest motivators for adopting innovation.
  • Among organizations that have rallied around innovation, communication has been key to getting everyone on board. Permission to take risk also plays a major role in getting personnel on board with innovation.
  • Those organizations with a specific system tend to handle new ideas in a variety of ways: 50 percent rely on staff initiative; 48 percent have a special committee or group; and 41 percent develop new ideas with the CEO.
  • Increased member engagement is the most common way to measure innovation efforts.
  • In those organizations where innovation is not supported, respondents cite departments and people being very siloed as a principal cause for the lack of support.
13
Sep
16

Pay attention to what matters most

same-pageThis probably won’t come as a surprise to many of you, but it seems associations and their members aren’t always on the same page.

According to a recent report by Abila, what members want from associations vs. what associations think members want don’t always align.

For example, millennials just starting their careers often turn to associations for job opportunities and career advice. But baby boomers, who are winding down their careers, may instead rely on associations to provide industry news and trends.

The problem: A one-size-fits-all approach to association management and communication doesn’t work, but associations aren’t always good at segmenting their memberships.

Furthermore, many professional organizations take pride in providing numerous meetings and conferences when instead they should focus on job opportunities, credentialing and certifications, Abila found.

“Understanding generations and how they like to engage now is essential for any organization,” Abila said. “And acknowledging that an emerging generation will change the rules of engagement down the road – and planning for that – will help ensure success.”

Some key takeaways from the Membership Engagement Study:

  • Sixty-eight percent of members feel organizations are responsive to their needs, while 91 percent of organizations think they’re responsive to members.
  • Only 63 percent of members feel they’re getting good value for the membership fee, while 81 percent of organizations think they’re providing good value.
  • Seventy percent of members feel the organizations to which they belong are the voices of the industry, while 84 percent of associations think they’re the leading voices.

I alluded to it earlier, but segmented communication is crucial to member retention. In the survey, members said they most want to hear about industry news and trends, followed by professional meetings. Third: networking opportunities.

Perhaps surprising, however, was social media’s influence. While millennials indicated they’re much more willing to use social media platforms to connect with associations, email is still the No. 1 communication tool. Email messages were the most popular, followed by e-newsletters.

In terms of frequency, members said monthly communication is optimal. For social media, weekly communication is satisfactory.

career-journeySo what does this all mean?

“First and foremost, organizations need to have a sharp, well-defined understanding of where members are in their career journey and cater their content and communication strategy to address the needs and desires of their members based on age and/or career stage,” Abila said. “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach no longer works in the targeted, highly personalized and technologically advanced world in which we live.”

Abila offers some tips:

  • An association should explore data within its AMS to identify new segments of its membership. Doing so will help associations tailor communications and think strategically.
  • Paying special attention to members who are just beginning their careers will reap great rewards – especially in terms of members retention. More than any other demographic, millennials (and in some cases Gen Xers) need career guidance and networking opportunities.
  • When it comes to programs, education and professional development, associations should offer a variety of choices, from hybrid to online to traditional conferences, and they should explore a spectrum of content delivery options. Simply put: Determine members’ career needs and meet those.
  • All the above is moot unless associations know their members. To learn more about their members, associations should engage in dialogue and survey them about their membership preferences.
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.”




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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