April 12, 2017

4 Ways Online Communities Have Improved the Member Experience

4 Ways Online Communities Have Improved the Member Experience

Today, we welcome a guest post from Andy Steggles at Higher Logic. To learn more about the power of online communities, visit www.higherlogic.com.

More associations than ever are adopting online community platforms for their members. Although many people believe that communities help with engagement, broadly, do they actually help?

The short answer is: yes. Online communities not only help members engage more with each other, but they help your association foster closer relationships with each member. Everyone goes to the internet for answers to questions and to connect with friends, family and colleagues. In order to create a modern member experience, you need to give your members space online to interact with each other. And that is where increased engagement starts.

Here are four ways an online community modernizes your association, changing the way members communicate with each other - and with your organization:

1. One place for answers

Your community is the go-to place if a member needs information. Whether they need to register for an event, find a document, or ask fellow members their opinion, your online community is the place to go.

As a community matures, it grows rich with information. Members don’t always need to start a new discussion to get answers to questions. They can search the community for old posts, getting valuable insight immediately. A community, when managed well, becomes a living, crowd-sourced document - a compilation of everyone’s knowledge, accessible for all.

2. Connect with other members, no matter where they are

Depending on your association’s scope and size, you probably have people scattered around your state, country or the world. Normally, these people would rarely meet other members outside their general vicinity, except at your annual conference. An online community drastically changes this. It allows members to connect with one another no matter where they’re located, deepening their connections and significantly widening their professional network. In an age where the internet connects everyone, it’s critical your members are connected to each other as well.

3. Contribute to the cause

One of the most effective ways to engage members is to connect them to your association’s cause and show members how they’re helping further it. This taps into a person’s sense of intrinsic motivation - feeling good about what they’re doing - which is a powerful motivator for members to continue participating.

Tie your volunteer and advocacy programs into the platform. Members can track their own volunteer efforts, find opportunities, or even manage volunteer opportunities for their peers. By making volunteering a community effort, and help volunteers track their progress, members will see how their efforts move the entire association forward.

4. Grow professionally

Professional development and continuing education is a big part of an association membership. Associations can find lucrative sources of revenue in such programs, and members find incredible value in their membership through learning opportunities.

When an online community is paired with a Learning Management System (LMS), those classes become social, deepening learning for your members. With a single-sign-on (SSO) system, your members don’t need to set up a whole new profile to access their continuing education - everything from their community profile transfers over seamlessly. That means that the camaraderie and connections a member makes on the community come with them to their learning experience.

Modernize the member experience

Associations are leaders in demonstrating the growing importance of online communities for organizations. At this point, members expect to have a place where they can connect with fellow members to network and learn from each other. From this, associations know the long-term value of an engaged, informed and happy member. A vibrant community becomes the most important member-facing program an association has, and a valuable resource for all members