5 Strategies for Associations to Build Member Engagement in 2018

Member engagement can be defined as the levels of activity and effort a member makes towards an organisation’s mission. There is no single form of member engagement, but a collection of engagement types. They can be broadly categorised into online engagement activities such as website activity or social media involvement, and offline engagement activities such as attending events, gatherings, and participating in other, broader association-based activities such as workshops and seminars.


Overview (for those in a rush!):

The five elements listed (below) are not merely strategies to use on their own, for achieving member engagement, but act as a collective that will ultimately shape the way your members gravitate and involve themselves within your association. These strategies rely on each other to form the overall objective of improving your member engagement while complimenting the attraction of new members and nurturing current memberships.
  • Content - retrieve analytical, surveyed and communicated insights and use them to target your content to the interests of your members.
  • Education - offer a variety of learning methods, give members a challenge, and encourage them through the content with gamification strategies and a promise for certification once complete.
  • Events - remember that events humanise the relationship. Understand what draws members to events and how to maximise promotion through targeted channels.
  • Communication - provide a space for open communication that notifies members of relevant information and promotes sharing of said material. Aim to create a consistent message with an omnichannel presence.
  • Analytics - utilise website tracking capabilities, review and understand analytical insights in order to verify business goals are being achieved. 


  1. Content 

Content needs to be TARGETED. For content to be successful it needs to relate to your member's INTERESTS. In order to gain these insights, you need to call upon the help of analytics, surveys, website data, and personal communication. Using all four methods may not be necessary depending on the size of your association.

Medium-Large Associations

The best method for large-medium associations can be found from analytics since you’ll have enough current members to produce the data needed for website interactions. There are hundreds of analytical software tools available online, paid and free. However, one of the most effective, FREE ways to discover your member's interests can be identified through the use of Google Analytics
Additionally, you could use a reporting system which conducts website database mining and generates reports based on member data and your selected filters to provide powerful insights.
Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power (when used effectively), especially in this information age. Google Analytics allows you to setup, track, and monitor member engagement levels through various dimensions and metrics. A good tip to managing your way around the vast amount of data-filled headings is to set up goal tracking and focus on the specific dimensions and related metric insights that you think will relate to your association achieving those goals.


Small - Medium Associations 

You can still use analytics as a small to medium association, but a more effective option is to create Gatherings (or small events)  and get to know your members in person! By doing this you’ll find out a lot more about what they care about and how best to incorporate that into your associations future content and resources. 
Another method may be to conduct a survey on existing and more preferentially, future members, AFTER their sign-up process (make sure you don’t ask for too much information too soon!) in order to gain insight into their general interests, priorities, time schedule, and overall commitment levels. 
  1. Education 

Members want to learn! They want to learn something new, they want to better themselves, and most importantly they want to be CHALLENGED! In most cases, there’s not an issue in understanding what the member wants to learn based on the specific association's industry, but more in the way of having an effective, enjoyable learning process. Education can be consumed online through a webinar, learning management system (LMS) and/or form of online examination, or organised through your member event system such as a workshop in an offline manner. 
Drawing upon GAMIFICATION techniques can greatly improve resistance to challenging topics members aren’t committing towards. Progression, points or score statistics for individual members is a great way to increase member motivation and improve desire-based learning outcomes. We spoke more on this issue in a recent industry white paper, you can find it here. Another common incentive for rewarding members expelled time and effort for learning tasks is providing CERTIFICATION. Predominantly though, the best way to increase member engagement levels is to produce interesting content in a digestible fashion that members can draw value from. 
  1. Events 

Events HUMANISE the membership relation and are typically more personal as there are fewer attendees. This in turns allows the presenters and staff to interact, one on one and build on the face to face, personal relationships which is greatly valued by most members who attend, it is also a primary driver for many attendees and they are constantly on the lookout for new and intriguing ideas that may assist them in their everyday working life.
It’s fairly clear that the more tickets sold to an event the higher the engagement rate. In order to achieve this event managers must solve two things:
  • Hype - understanding what excites your members to attend. For example:
    • Meeting existing friends or networking with new people, particular topics on discussion, the venue, and/or activities involved.
  • Promotion - understanding what and how often a member uses or visits certain channels:
    • Channels could include email (eNewsletters, or personalised emailing), website areas (events or news sections, special interest groups, or member portal notifications), or through social channels (facebook pages, twitter feed etc.).
Therefore, membership engagement for events can be improved where the association has a relative understanding on what members want from the event (the value proposition), what channels to use and how often to promote their event.
  1. Communication

Employing a collaborative communicative space is essential to maintain membership engagement levels. It’s important to remember that outside the association, members have access to competing communities that are also fighting for their attention. One of the best ways to connect and communicate with existing members is by having a MEMBERSHIP PORTAL or central hub. A member portal should allow your members to:
  • Register, be informed and view upcoming meetings and events;
  • Review and access recent news and membered resources;
  • Register and complete educational activities;
  • Join groups that provide tailored information that is relevant to them;
  • Review member directories, connect and share like-minded information;
  • Suggest and leave opinions with like-minded members and the association 
Currently, SOCIAL MEDIA platforms hold the highest level of engagement capabilities in the online environment space. To take advantage of this momentum, associations should work towards embracing and integrating social media platforms into its features. This can benefit the organisation in the following ways:
  • The association becomes identified on the same platforms that their members are using;
  • Their fellow members can follow and interact more intuitively together;
  • Members become notified of news and events in an omnichannel approach
An OMNICHANNEL approach means that members receive the same message (association vision) across multiple platforms whereby, as members become aware of these messages they can follow back to their member site. This connection chain only works if you follow all of the fundamental stages:
  • Apply specific interest related news, resources, events and/or education-based content.
  • Track their user journey process with analytics, ensuring your message is producing what it was planned it do.
Finally, it’s important to understand that all members are unique and have different CONSUMPTION PATTERNS, in terms of digesting both online and offline material. By employing a range of engagement methodologies for association content, rather than one plain view, you can improve membership engagement levels. For example, some members learn better from visualising information (video, animation, imagery), others may prefer a more standardised approach with writing, and another group may prefer a hands-on and personalised communicated approach (monthly meetings to sum up association activities).
  1. Analytics 

The collection of data has improved dramatically with the growing interactivity and accessibility towards website environments, more user-friendly tracking capabilities, and data visualisation tools. Analytics has the ability to create incredible INSIGHTS into member engagements and further provide VERIFICATION of whether employed tactics are functioning in accordance with the associations strategised efforts.
Here are a few ways you can track member engagement levels:
  • Website SEARCH bar terms members & visitors have typed - this will determine their specific queries that they may WISH to learn more about (find on your site), and you can draw and produce content themes on the basis of this information.
  • Identify most and least CLICKED on association services - For example, member resources, general pages & posts, event submissions and/or cart items. This can direct what related provisions the association should strive for and what to potentially remove; on the basis of a lack of value for the member.
  • Revise and monitor Goal tracking - Google Analytics allows you to create specific goals your association is interested in achieving, and relate the data your collecting to that goal. 
There will be a more detailed ‘How-to’ step-by-step process for using Google Analytics available very soon, so stay tuned!

Speak to Member Evolution today for more information on how you can improve member engagement through the effective use of a unified customer relationship management system.