Should Your Association Consider Adding a Gen Z Membership Tier?

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With a recession, a pandemic, and a tough job market, some associations are looking to target Generation Z with new member offerings. It can work if you prioritize their engagement, one expert says.

We’re starting to get past the point where millennials are at the center of the discussion around younger members. The focus is shifting to Gen Z—but how can you convince people born after 1996 to join your organization? Is a new membership tier worth discussing?

Sarah Sladek, CEO of XYZ University and a generational engagement researcher, says yes—in part because of the current environment, driven by a recession and a pandemic. And Gen Z is feeling it more than most.

That might be why discussion of member tiers is picking up again. Sladek compares this period to the 2008 recession, when associations created low-cost tiers for younger members.

“In many ways, we’re seeing a repeat of that market environment now, as associations are scrambling to figure out ways to appeal to young people,” Sladek says, adding that retirements and career changes among older members might also be a factor.

New Generations, New Habits

However, 2020’s younger members aren’t like those of 2008.

For one thing, everything is virtual at the moment—which could be a virtue for omnivorous content consumption that drives many in Gen Z, but that requires a more open-minded approach to content creation that emphasizes visuals and user-generated content.

“Gen Z actively consumes and creates content in a variety of forms on a variety of platforms. Associations need to do the same,” Sladek says.

Another, more fundamental problem? In a world where people spend heavily on monthly subscription-based services, annual memberships may be going out of style.

“This points to a bigger issue for associations, which likely need to reconsider their dues structures,” she says. “In addition to price being a common barrier, young people are also more accustomed to having the option to pay bills monthly rather than annually, yet few associations offer this option.”

Younger generations may also want more purchase options. For example, think of how streaming services offer an à la carte alternative to cable bundles. Likewise, younger members may want flexibility to pick and choose their services. For associations, the forthcoming generation offers a reset opportunity.

“The time is now to be rethinking dues as well as value,” Sladek says.

Gen Z’s Shifting Values

Sladek says that Gen Z has a unique perspective compared with other generations. She notes that Gen Z-ers tend to be highly informed visual learners with a strong focus on creativity and an eye toward broader horizons.

And there’s a distinct focus on advocacy that hasn’t been as pronounced in older generations. That means younger members want to speak up—and if they aren’t being heard, they might not renew.

“Gen Z has been raised in a world where everyone is treated equally and everyone has a voice,” Sladek says. “When the reality is different, they disengage. They will expect a seat at decision-making tables, and for your association to be intentional about outreach and giving a voice to the marginalized voices.”

The Risk of the “Summer Camp” Tier

These changing habits might lead some associations to build membership tiers with a distinctly younger focus. But Sladek warns against separating the tiers too much, as it may create a declining value proposition over time. It’s a situation she likens to a summer camp.

“The student and young professional chapters tend to be more focused on fun, led by peers, and there is a feeling of inclusion as well as responsibility,” she explains. However, when young members move into regular membership, this inclusive environment can be lost. “As a result, the young members ‘graduate’ into an organization where their participation is overlooked or minimized.”

Instead, Sladek suggests that member tiers be in tandem with the organization’s goals while also taking Gen Z insights into account.

“If an association wants to engage young people, it has to be a real commitment throughout the entire organization,” Sladek says. “The associations which struggle to engage young people tend to be those which don’t prioritize engaging them.”

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Engage Lapsed Members with the Right Emails

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To win back lost members, associations need to craft communications with a tone, structure, and messaging that reinforce the value of membership.

Losing members is an unfortunate reality for every association. This is especially true in 2020, when new outside pressures—particularly the financial turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic—might have more people ready to cut membership fees out of their expenses, on top of the other numerous reasons people let memberships lapse.

But a well-coordinated email communication strategy can win members back. In fact, according to the 2020 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from Marketing General Incorporated, email is the top channel for reinstating lapsed members.

Check out these tips to craft your own email communications that will re-engage lost members.

Take Advantage of Exit Surveys

By the time a member lapses, you’ve probably already tried multiple ways to get him or her to renew—dues notices, phone calls, emails detailing approaching renewal deadlines—and you might not know the reason for the lack of action.

“That’s where your exit surveys come in,” says Camille Sanders, CAE, director of membership at the Water Environment Federation (WEF). “It’s an opportunity for you to gather data about why people are lapsing, because it’s not going to be the same for every organization.”

Send lapsed members a survey to get their reasons for leaving, and use that to inform your communications. If people cite cost as the biggest reason, for example, consider working discounts or incentives into your reinstatement campaign.

To promote survey participation, Sanders recommends limiting the survey to just a few questions that take only a couple of minutes to answer.

Strike a Personal Tone

A dry, formal request to renew probably won’t drive lapsed members to action. Though you don’t need to be overly casual, messages should carry an air of familiarity, and your care for members should shine through.

“That’s the mistake I see in some communications. Organizations are almost talking to lapsed members as though they’re new prospects,” Sanders says. “Build on the advantage of the fact that they do know your organization.”

Show appreciation that the member signed up in the first place and lead with a tone of understanding about why they might have lapsed, touching on the pain points you discovered in exit surveys. Sanders recommends using empathetic language, such as: “We know these are tough times, but we value your membership,” “We’re here to support you,” and “We miss you, and we’d like to win you back.”

Point Out Benefits

Sanders says some lapsed members might not even be aware of the full cache of member benefits, so give them a quick refresher by listing core benefits in your communications with them. You could also include testimonial blurbs from current members about how these benefits have a real impact.

Offer More Than Incentives

If you’re going to offer incentives or discounts, remember that not everyone responds to price, Sanders says. Be sure to also reinforce the value of membership from a community and professional development standpoint while demonstrating how your organization is supporting members during unprecedented times.

Communicate Consistently, But Don’t Be Overbearing

Timing is important when it comes to how frequently you contact lapsed members. Asking for a renewal too often could drive them away.

“We don’t want people to get annoyed and say, ‘Hey, take me off of all of your [contact] lists.’ So I think that’s something you have to be careful with,” Sanders says.

At WEF, renewal outreach starts before expiration with soft reminders. But once a member lapses, the organization sends monthly renewal communications, and only up to 90 days after membership expires. After 90 days, they drop off WEF’s member rolls and are left alone until six months after expiration.

Pack Your Emails With Multiple Elements

A plain wall of text might not catch a lapsed member’s eye. Sanders recommends:

  • adding visual elements, such as images of real members at events (try to avoid stock photography, as it’s unlikely to have as strong an effect)
  • using bullet points to break up copy—when listing core benefits, for example
  • linking to a landing page with more detail instead of dumping all the information into the email

Be Brief and Use Multiple Channels

Studies have shown that the shorter an email, the likelier that a user responds. Keep messaging to just two or three paragraphs, and deliver important information in a bite-size format, such as with bullet points.

And while email is most effective, phone calls and direct mail are good supplements to help bridge the technology skills gap.

“We have a membership that is aging. Some of our members are responsive to email, to digital touch points, but not all of them are,” Sanders says. “We still have to be really intentional about how we communicate with our members and meet them where they are.”

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4 Ways Resilient Associations Have Survived and Thrived in the Pandemic

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What have resilient associations done to prioritize members, strengthen their mission and remain successful during the COVID-19 pandemic? Personify spoke with leaders across the industry to learn more.

Like all businesses and organizations, associations have been hit hard by the devastating physical, mental and financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic. From the biggest associations to the smallest, the lockdown put team members into last-minute scrambles to salvage conferences, to communicate constantly-changing best practices to members—in short, to find fast fixes to keep their organizations alive.

During this unprecedented time, Personify, the leading technology provider for associations, spoke to numerous associations in the industry to better understand what strategies and tactics allowed agile associations to not only survive this dark period in history but to thrive in it. Here are some of the common traits of resilient associations.

Empathy for members

Successful associations don’t simply see their members as sources of revenue, they see them as people. Genuine concern and empathy exhibited by associations fosters gratitude from its members, which according to the Harvard Business Review, is the most powerful way to create long-lasting loyalty.

Case in point: The American Health Information Management Association built a plan to support new members as soon as the pandemic hit. Vicky Betzig, Director of Meetings at AHIMA explained: “We’ve had a lot of people in our profession who experienced salary reductions or lost their jobs entirely. So at the association, there’s been a lot of advocacy around helping them find resources for employment.”

Betzig explained that the AHIMA offered “hardship discounts” for new membership and renewals, and also assisted out-of-work members in how to transfer their skills to other means of employment, like contact tracing.

The American Optometric Association took a similar approach. “When COVID-19 started sweeping across the United States, we knew instantly that the doctors we advocate for would take a hard impact,” explains Adam Reider, Manager of Technical Training & Support. “Overnight, they went from seeing their patients regularly to ‘emergency-only’ scenarios.” The AOA sprung into action with instructional webinars for their members and non-members alike, to help them navigate everything from telemedicine to PPP Loan applications. “We did not feel it was appropriate for us to throw up a giant firewall,” says Reider of this content. “We want to be able to look back after this crisis is over and know that we truly stood for this profession.”

Renewed focus on the mission

“During challenging times, it is not uncommon to go back to those foundational elements that serve as the core pillars of value for your members,” said Teresa Zimmerman, Vice President of Marketing at Personify. “Members look to their associations to connect them to a network of people and opportunities that help them advance their discipline, move forward their industries, expand their reach, support their community and create lasting impact.”

Organizations like the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development found that the pandemic re-energized and re-focused their sense of purpose. Citing the disparity that members reported in the quality of remote learning based on the socio-economic conditions of districts, CIO of ASCD, Fara Francis described a newfound urgency within the organization to help.

“We are tirelessly working to build communities that can connect, advocate and share resources with one another to make sure that no students are abandoned during this time.”

Data-driven decision-making

“Very few had a playbook ready to go for managing through a pandemic,” said Zimmerman. “We worked closely with our clients to help them better understand what their members needed so they could align experiences and connections through their technology stack and be successful and relevant to their members in this new digital-first world.”

“A mistake I’ve seen many times is an association will develop products and services and experiences in a vacuum, and then try to convince people why they need to buy it,” says Dennis Sadler, Deputy Executive Director for Operations for the National Association of Secondary Principals.

Angel Baltimore, Vice President, Digital Strategy and E-Commerce at American Pharmacists Association, agrees. Rather than guessing what their members needed in the initial days of the pandemic, she analyzed data collected by their AMS, Personify360.

“We’re able to segment and look at the analytics on session attendees to see things like who are members, who are nonmembers, who are repeat customers.” This, Baltimore says, allowed the APhA to focus their energies on the products and services their members wanted most, and which high-value users they should be targeting with their marketing.

A focus on innovation

The idea of going from in-person to virtual conferences seems commonplace now, but just a few months ago, it came with big unknowns. Namely, how do you execute a virtual conference and will anyone attend?

For the National Association for Home Care & Hospice’s annual meeting, Scott Baum, NAHC’s Senior Director of Meetings, the key to pulling off a dynamic experience that was more than a very long Zoom meeting was technology. “Utilizing Personify’s A2Z Events solution, we added a matchmaking suite that collects demographic information on our attendees and exhibitors,” he explained. “So instead of exhibitors fishing through the 500 attendees, they’re able to narrow it down to the 25 they really want to connect with.” Unlike in-person conferences, this cut down considerably on wasted time (not to mention aching feet.)

“My advice during these unprecedented times is to ‘embrace it’. Very rarely do you have an opportunity to rewrite the playbook for your organization,” said Zimmerman. “This is a career catalyst moment for those that take it and drive their organizations forward with technology transformations that strengthen their relationships with their members in our rapidly changing and always connected world.”

Personify—We know this challenging time has created new and unique challenges in engaging with members, managing financials and driving your organization forward. Personify is committed to helping you adapt and emerge from COVID-19 or any crisis, more connected and resilient than ever. Our trusted solutions help you manage during and through these times with digital connections, virtual programming, a single source of truth for your data, and peace of mind for your members.

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What You Need to Know About Music Licensing for Virtual Events

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In a world where a live event can be as simple as a few people meeting via videoconference, how do the rules of music licensing apply? According to one legal expert, it’s a question of liability and risk, just as with in-person events.

Music played at in-person events can add the right vibe and a unique kind of energy. It can have a similar effect for virtual events too. But event planners might be wondering: Does the difference in venue matter when it comes to music licensing?

For the most part, it doesn’t, says Peter Strand, a lawyer with Mandell Menkes LLC who specializes in intellectual property issues in the music industry. In a virtual setting, “if there’s music being played, that is still copyright protected, and the performance has to be authorized,” he says.

Strand, himself a musician (his ’70s band Yipes! once opened for Foreigner and Cheap Trick), notes that this is also true of event recordings, even if they will not be available in perpetuity. “Again, the fact that these are virtual, and that the recording may not be permanent … doesn’t change that,” he says.

Managing Risk

Plenty of virtual events—some in venues as small as living rooms, others at a massive scale—have used music in a high-profile way. Strand says that the two primary groups for performance rights, ASCAP and BMI, realistically don’t have the resources to track down every performance, nor do groups representing songwriters.

But failing to get a license for the music you use carries potential for liability, especially if the event is high-profile. Strand cites the hypothetical example of a well-known musician doing a musical livestream. “If an artist with some notoriety says, ‘I’m gonna do a Dylan program on Friday live from my living room, that may trigger somebody to contact that performer to say, ‘You need to get that license,’” he says.

The poster child for what can happen if you fail to license music for digital use is the exercise bike company Peloton. Last year, the company was sued by numerous music publishers over unlicensed songs featured in Peloton videos.

Eventually, the company ended up striking a settlement with the National Music Publishers’ Association, whose members filed the lawsuit. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Peloton paid $49.3 million in settlement and litigation costs.

“I think that the media coverage of that matter probably was instructive to other organizations,” Strand says.

Consider the Source

One thing that has changed about music licensing thanks to the internet is how easy it is to find songs and use them without thinking about copyright—which can lead to trouble.

Strand cites the real-life example of a company that attempted to license a vintage pop song for a commercial, only to learn after using the song that the recording was not owned by the record company it was trying to license from. It turned out to be a cover version that an employee found on the internet.

In an era when Spotify and even illegal torrent sites can put a song at your fingertips, the ease of sourcing music can create headaches, especially as the rules for permissible use are often unclear.

“People do have a little bit of a casual relationship with stuff found on the internet, even if in the back of their head, they know something about Napster,” Strand says, referring to the now-defunct peer-to-peer file-sharing service that got into legal hot water over copyright infringement.

For event planners to avoid such risks, Strand recommends dedicating staff to content discovery and working with a lawyer to help manage decision making around licensing for an event.

“If you’re going to assign people to select content that you want to have as part of your event, find out the source of what they handled; make sure that you know it, if you can identify the owners; and make sure that you can contact somebody to get it licensed,” he says.

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Five Ways to Make the Most of Your Virtual Events With Atomization

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The all-digital format of virtual events allows associations to extend the life of the information presented by remixing it in new ways—taking a cue from the world of content marketing using “atomization.” Here are a few strategies to try.

While conferences are traditionally built as live events, the newly virtual nature of these events means that consumption habits are changing.

That can be tough for an association that’s used to doing something in just one way. But the truth is that trying to distribute content in a purely digital way can actually be freeing, giving you room to experiment while encouraging a more strategic method of sharing.

There’s a name for this in the world of content marketing: content atomization. This idea, which dates all the way back to 2008, involves taking existing information and content, strategically breaking it up, and placing it in new contexts, using a format that makes sense for the additional platforms.

You may be wondering, what’s the difference between this and simply repurposing content, something associations are already known to do? One explanation comes from the marketing technology firm UberFlip, which notes that the distinction comes down to the scale.

“While repurposing or recycling content can also be an effective tactic for low-resource content marketing teams, it doesn’t necessarily resolve the issue of effectively using content ideas and spreading thought leadership through your content,” the company’s Victoria Hoffman writes.

Atomization is effective for extending the reach of small marketing shops, and it can also come in handy for associations that are trying to reach their audiences with virtual event content.

What could that look like? Here are just a few ideas:

Build listicles around event content. Attendees probably don’t have time to watch every session in your virtual event, so why not do the curating for them? For example, grabbing key quotes from each session and putting them in a roundup could give that content a second life. The result is you’re remixing a new piece from the atoms that wouldn’t be as effective on their own.

Turn compelling points into social content. Cool data points or anecdotes could wow an audience who is listening at that very moment. But weeks later, they still have value—turn those data points into social objects like images, videos, or text items. In many ways, atomization underlines the new presentation of existing content, and this does that in spades.

Leverage hashtags. The work of atomization doesn’t have to stop with your most recent virtual event. The popular #tbt, or Throwback Thursday, hashtag offers a great example. Many associations have strong archives, and those can be leveraged to promote current events with relevant content from popular hashtags. This could help draw in new audiences.

Stretch out the event over a long period. Most virtual events are built around a set time period, but given that much of the content is evergreen in nature, the timeframe can expand. In recent months, groups such as the United Fresh Produce Association have experimented with building on-demand platforms for their virtual content, which gives up some of the “event” mindset for convenience. Playing with this model by dripping out pieces of content over a long period of time can help maintain long-term interest in the subject matter. Presenting the content this way could even generate revenue: In the case of United Fresh, the offering is free to members, but $100 for nonmembers.

Use the event as a basis for a white paper. Content atomization doesn’t have to be built around trying to hit people with convenience, good timing, or quick, “snackable” information. It can also be a useful tool for longer-term lead generation, say if you’re trying to reach new members or promote a service. With that in mind, building a longer-form white paper from elements of the event could help strengthen its strategic value over time. The goal with atomization is to use the research and information to create something new and useful—and a white paper could do that.

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Five Unique Experiences to Consider Adding to Virtual Events

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If you’re looking to create a memorable virtual conference, here are five ideas for injecting some fun—and even animals—into the attendee experience.

Here’s something we all know about virtual attendees by now: They don’t just want to sit in front of their computer all day watching speaker after speaker. So, what can you do to spice things up?

Back in June, I wrote about some ways associations could surprise and delight their attendees in the virtual space. And I also spent some time discussing how to create informal online networking opportunities.

I’ve come across so many other ideas and possibilities since then that I wanted to share some of the more unique ones. Here are five of those:

Guest goat. Looking to add a new face to your meeting—and maybe not a human one? Well, Sweet Farm, a nonprofit animal sanctuary, could be the perfect option for you. Sign up for its Goat-2-Meeting experience, and Paco the llama, Juno the goat, Magnolia the cow, or Steve the rooster could join on camera. Also included is tour of the farm by one of its guides.

Snap a pic. There’s usually a line at the photo booth at every in-person event. And while you may think this is one element that has to go by the wayside in the virtual environment, think again. There are plenty of options out there that will allow participants to create and share fun photos and animated GIFs. Plus, associations can add their own branding and other customized overlays.

Go on an escape. While attendees aren’t traveling to your meeting, that doesn’t mean they can’t slip into a different environment during your event and do some teambuilding at the same time. One option is a virtual escape room where attendees are broken up into teams and have to solve problems or answer clues to unlock the “virtual door.” Companies like Play With a Purpose can create custom escape rooms that are directly tied to an event’s sessions or goals. In an interview with Successful Meetings, CEO Sharon Fisher talked about building a custom game this summer for a financial services company. “That entire game was based on the content of the meeting,” she said. “So, they had to not only be able to answer some questions about the content, but also apply it and show that they understood a way to use it in their world before they could get the answers and solve the challenge.”

Musical notes. In a previous post, I mentioned the “Daily Kazoom” that took place during the joint meeting of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science and the Association of Genetic Technologists. But there are several other ways to bring a musical element to your virtual conference. One idea is to have attendees write a song—a remote team anthem—with the help of a world-class musician. And another is to host a virtual karaoke party.

Share a meal. For INFLUENCE 2020, the National Speakers Associations hosted digital dine-arounds where attendees could sit down for a casual mealtime conversation with NSA luminaries, including current board members, past presidents, and award winners.

What fun elements have your added to your virtual events? Please share in the comments below.

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Does the Perfect Virtual Event Platform Exist?

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The answer, based on my unscientific survey of a dozen association leaders, is a resounding no.  Planners are wading through recommendations from colleagues, trusted vendors and online forums to find the best platform for their needs.  And it’s a murky and often frustrating experience.  While there are many excellent solutions out there, none are “perfect” and many are adding features and improvements on a regular basis. Since most solutions were created post-pandemic, conducting due diligence on how secure the platform is paramount. All the variables and potential add-on costs, makes it difficult to select the right partner.

Platform Research & Decisions

Numerous association professionals have conducted demos with well over 20 providers! One leading planner I spoke with likened platform sourcing and demonstrations as similar to how some planners sourced hotels for their events. There should be no need for any organization to look at more than five providers in a compressed time period. Instead, investing the time to create an A list of providers allows more time to fully vet your alternatives.

Several association leaders talked about the internal due diligence required in clarifying needs, wish lists and priorities before soliciting demos or proposals.  In our former reality, with facilities and vendors that we understood, the options were visible, we knew what questions to ask and had rubrics used to facilitate decision making.  In the current environment platform selection can be more challenging; particularly if your team isn’t aligned on options, desired features or internal strategy.

Virtual Platform Sales Professionals Should…

The most interesting answers in my survey were in response to the question “If you could send a message to virtual event platform providers what would it be?  What should they focus on going forward”?  Here are some of the comments:

  • “Make sure you know what is important to your client and share how other customers are leveraging your platform”
  • “Be clear and specific about integrations and capabilities”
  • “Be honest and transparent. Share your challenges because we are going to hear about them from others”
  • “Don’t waste our time on features we haven’t asked for”
  • “Recognize that for many planners, this is a learning experience and that we may not know exactly how our event will be structured at the outset”
  • “Hidden charges are a huge problem. We need to fully understand what extra charges are most common. ”
  • “Sales people should partner with developers and project managers to ensure client questions are answered accurately by the team members who will be responsible for delivery.”

Production and Experience Design Over Platform

Conference professionals are often looking for that magic set of features that solve the networking and expo engagement challenges. From our experience, success in these areas is more dependent on designing for networking and embedding exhibitors/sponsors into the program design.

Many people told me that they ended up going with providers that they knew and trusted or that had been recommended by colleagues.  With well over 100 solutions in the market it is difficult to accurately assess competence, viability and customer service.  Working with an existing trusted partner on production aspects of the virtual event experience seems to be common for many of the folks I heard from.

Planners are continuing to work at warp speed to develop and deliver meaningful, just in time content and experience and many platform providers are rising to the occasion.  We are platform agnostic at VCC but we believe strongly that associations must have a clear vision around their intention and strategy before plunging into platform sourcing.

How would you answer the question posed above?  What do you want platform providers to think about and address in the future?


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Membership Software: What Associations Should Keep in Mind

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Whether you’re in the market for an MMS or an AMS, there are a lot of details to consider. Here are a few you should be thinking of as you research.

In normal years, membership management software (MMS) or association management software (AMS) providers would fill expo halls at annual meetings. That’s not happening this year—but associations’ software needs haven’t changed.

Consider this primer to be a 101 seminar or booth meeting in that expo hall, giving you broad considerations that associations should keep in mind when deciding what kind of software to use. Among them:

Data Portability

Traditionally, the AMS has been seen as the hub that an association’s data goes through. That could be changing—and your software needs to be able to adapt.

Last year, Nucleus Analytics did an analysis of its clients and found that on average, only 20 percent of an association’s data came from its AMS. With everything from content management systems to email platforms leveraging the data in your AMS, we may be past the point where everything can live in one place. Instead, associations need tools that allow data to stream through in a variety of settings.

We’re in an era where application programming interfaces are increasingly important to the way businesses work, and data has to live in more places. And an AMS or MMS that is an island unto itself can slow down your potential for innovation.

Security and Privacy

A major topic in the world of associations has been data privacy, in part because recent regulations have forced the issue front and center.

Among them: The 2018 implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the passage of the California Consumer Privacy Act. (While CCPA doesn’t affect most nonprofits, it could affect your vendors.) Additionally, though, there is the simple issue of public relations: People take data privacy issues more seriously than they once did and are wary of security risks.

For associations looking at membership software, it is worth understanding the efforts platforms take to safeguard data, as well as their records on compliance with international security standards. As Nimble AMS said on its website, it’s also important to know where your provider stands on transparency.

Ease of Use

We’re no longer in a world where we can live with hard-to-use internal tools. Users expect more—it’s a key reason that employees leave companies with poorly functioning technology, and it has even created a trend in recent years of former consumer apps being adapted into B2B alternatives.

Many AMS platforms have both user-facing and employee-facing portions, and a bad experience with either could be a deterrent to both members and staff. As a result, associations must prioritize user experience.

“Usability testing must always be part of your AMS requirements, including the testing of self-service applications,” Delcor’s Dan Hickey wrote in a blog post. “Don’t assume your AMS vendor will include this critical step in the project. It’s your responsibility to make sure it’s part of the project plan.”

Cost and Maintenance

While there may be an upfront cost that your association pays to set up a platform, the price of an AMS or MMS ultimately goes hand in hand with the way that it’s managed.

For example, if your association buys a more monolithic system that is managed onsite, this might require in-house staff to handle upgrades and security fixes, which could increase costs.

“It’s incredibly important to dedicate personnel hours to both of these as the process matures. Asking existing staff to manage an AMS implementation on top of their day-to-day jobs can easily burden the most optimistic and efficient teams,” wrote Aptify’s Jennifer Barrell in a blog post. “This might mean you’ll need to upstaff during this time or reallocate internal resources, which will impact project costs.”

More recently, there’s been a push for cloud-based hosted solutions in the space (often called software as a service, or SaaS), which turn the cost into more of a monthly or annual fee. The plus side with this approach is that much of the maintenance is handled by the vendor, but it is generally not customized to an association’s needs. (Speaking of: Customization is often considered risky when it comes to long-term maintenance of an AMS or MMS; the ability to configure is preferred.)

While some open-source solutions exist in the AMS field, such as Tendenci, they will naturally have ongoing maintenance needs that must be accounted for.

Ultimately, this aspect of the implementation comes down to your association’s needs and thoughtful research of the market.

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Social Media Campaigns Can Improve Engagement with Revenue-Generating Content

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Many associations judge the success of their social media campaigns by likes, rather than whether that content leads users to engage further on their site. Changing how social media is used and measured can improve engagement and help generate revenue.

In today’s COVID-19 world, all associations are looking for ways to maintain revenue and membership. Social media can help, but only if you use it right, contends Dan Stevens, president of WorkerBee.TV, Inc.

“Social media is a really a low-cost recruitment tool, advocacy tool, and marketing tool, if used effectively,” Stevens said. However, “if you are publishing full stories, full videos, full anything on social media, you are accelerating your own demise.”

The problem with using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn to publish your content is that it leaves your members and prospects on the social media platform, rather than drawing them to your site, where they can dive deep into all your association has to offer.

“I always joke that likes are for losers,” Stevens said. “It’s about awareness and conversion, not likes.”

So, how does an association use social media as a jumping off point to pull people into their content, particularly paid offerings? Stevens recommends a drip approach, where you offer a tiny snippet—micromarketing—to pull people to your site.

“Micromarketing gives awareness and pulls people into the full story on your ecosystem and your brand, where you can monetize with advertising or pay per view,” Stevens said. “They may say, ‘This is good, and I’m going to sign up and do something for free.’ And that’s how the internet works: People have to try before they buy. What you [as an association] have to do is create those experiences to pull people in.”

The good news is that associations are poised to easily create these experiences because they have awesome content. Stevens noted that in a typical year most associations only get about 15 percent of their members to attend their annual meeting. “When you interview members, they always say the meeting is a top benefit and has the best content,” Stevens said, noting the association’s best content should go wider than 15 percent of members.

But this year, with most associations moving to virtual conferences, they now have recorded sessions chockfull of good content they can use to draw people into their ecosystem.

“Why not take that great one-hour session and produce a three-minute version for your website and a 30-second social media version,” he said. Then post the 30-second version on social, where people can click through to see the three-minute version on your site. Associations can then charge for access to the full session or place it behind a member paywall. “We are seeing incredible conversion rates, when you go from micromarketing to microlearning to full learning,” Stevens said.

That said, Stevens notes that every interaction doesn’t have to be about pulling members back to your platform. Staying on platform and engaging can be useful at times. “Social media is a great way for you to have a two-way conversation in real time,” Stevens said. “It is a great way to test ideas, test themes, and see if people in a specific category care about topics. It’s a chance to post content and take a pulse of what’s important to the audience you are attracting and that may influence your programming mix.”

Whatever mix you use on social media, the key is to make sure that it makes sense from a revenue-generating perspective. “If you can’t convert, you’ve basically built another cost center, not a profit center,” Stevens said.

If an association finds its members aren’t as active on social media and wonders if devoting limited resources to this is a good idea, Stevens said that social media is also where you’re going to find your future members.

“If my future recruitment is based on attracting the young demographic who views content as free and thinks ‘I can find everything online, why do I need to pay?’ then you really have to engage to get them,” he said. “You have to get them to engage in your environment, so they can say, ‘This is worth paying for.’”

What social media techniques are you using to engage with your audience? Share in the comments.

The post Social Media Campaigns Can Improve Engagement with Revenue-Generating Content appeared first on Associations Now.

Daily Buzz: Make Your Association Stand Out With Member Engagement

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Engaged members will become brand advocates and help advance your mission. Also: simplifying that long list of to-dos.

Attracting people to your association is no easy task. Nowadays, when everyone’s attention is being pulled in so many different directions, an association might not be a professional’s first stop when looking for information and community.

“People have a seemingly endless array of groups to join and ways to discover new information,” says a recent post from Association Success. “From local clubs to volunteer organizations, Facebook groups to Reddit communities, there’s no shortage of options for finding community and knowledge.”

Associations can stand out by making member engagement a top priority, suggests the Association Success team. Start with a digital marketing strategy: Organizations can spread their good content to members through weekly newsletters, podcasts, and social media posts.

“The key is to make sure the public has ample opportunities to discover—and learn from—your association’s work.”

Once your audience is engaged, it will be easier to advance your association’s mission. The Association Success team points to the example of Sunny Knoll EcoFarm, an organization that uses free-range livestock to manage a sustainable farm.

“As more members of the general public become invested in Sunny Knoll EcoFarm’s journey, their attitudes toward commercial farming may begin to shift. With time, they may also start to prioritize purchasing groceries from sustainable farms, advancing Sunny Knoll EcoFarm’s overall core purpose.”

And once members are connected to your organization’s mission, they will become brand advocates who will share your good work and encourage people in their networks to become members.

Managing Your Unwieldy To-Do List

It’s pointless to pressure yourself into getting a huge to-do list done every day. Try focusing on doing one thing well instead.

— Harvard Business Review (@HarvardBiz) August 12, 2020

Sure, jotting down a list of to-dos can help your productivity, but an extra-long list can be overwhelming. Instead of working with a long list, take a clean sheet of paper and write down the one thing from that long list that you want to accomplish, suggests Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review.

“The one-thing list reflects a strategic and intentional choice about what you will do next and continue to focus on until it’s done,” he says. “It might feel silly, but writing that one thing down on its own list is the key. It makes it a commitment that you are far more likely to follow through on.”

Other Links of Note

Hosting a virtual meeting? You might be making one of these common mistakes, suggests a recent post from Eventsforce.

iCloud storage is key to backing up important data. Make sure you have enough space in your accounts with these tips from Gizmodo’s David Nield.

Community moderation should go beyond banning spammers, argues Marjorie Anderson on the Community by Association blog. She breaks down the additional roles that moderators should fill.

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