Why Member Engagement No Longer Means Face-to-Face – Part 1
By John Cook, Vice President of Marketing, MicroNet, Inc.
Many chambers and associations are struggling with member engagement. There are a number of reasons for this. For starters, it seems like everyone is pressed for time. From running the kids to sporting events to working longer hours, time is at a premium. Secondly, younger members are often less interested in participating in onsite events. These “digital natives” are more inclined to take part in online groups, chats and forums. Thirdly, there simply are more groups and clubs – both virtual and in-person with which chambers and associations must compete.
Look, the world has changed, so why do we continue to play by 20th century rules? Your members no longer need to show up to all your events to be engaged. Don’t get me wrong, face-to-face meetings still have great value, but they aren’t the only way to build commitment and a sense of belonging. Over the next several weeks, I will highlight some trends and tactics that chambers and associations should be using to drive participation and engagement in the 21st century.
Tactic #1: Social Media and Awareness Building
I’m sure most of you have some sort of social media presence. But do you use it as a strategic tool by which you can promote your chamber or association? Are you initiating discussions and dialogue via your social media presence? Social media cannot be overlooked as one of the greatest distribution channels ever created to help you build awareness and drive engagement.
You should think of this communication channel as an open forum to your entire community. By reaching out to nonmembers as well as members, you are inserting your organization into a much larger audience. If, for example, your Facebook page becomes a regular source of interesting information and thoughtful discussion about your community at-large, you will begin to draw a much larger audience to your page. This in turn will help your organization build awareness. Suddenly your organization is much more relevant to the entire community and becomes top-of-mind to a large slice of your community.
Building awareness is important because it will move people to engage with your organization when and if they have a need for information. And most importantly, it will drive prospective members to see you as the authority and a trusted source of information in your community. Social media is the ultimate online tool to spread the word. This is true in part because you can engage people where they already congregate (think Facebook and Twitter) rather than requiring them to come to your website.
Social media helps you cast as wide a net as possible, and it is through this exponential outreach that you can further build awareness about your organization and its mission. Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics said, “we will no longer search for products and services, they will find us via social media.” This is a critical point. Social media is indeed becoming a critical tool for how people find products and services. And its impact will only grow. 92% of children in the U.S. have a digital footprint. Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30-years-old, so the percentage of socially engaged people will only increase. 93% of marketers use social media for business. Chambers and associations should, too. If you ignore this channel, you do so at your own peril.John Cook