Association engagement primarily focuses on the members—are they attending events, collaborating with one another, renewing their dues? But in order to keep engagement and collaboration dynamic, you need more than your most outspoken members trying to rally the masses, especially if you have a private online community or strong social presence.
Help your leaders guide member engagement
Think about the impact your C-suite and volunteer leaders have on your association already. They are highly visible, engaged MVPs of the organization, lending credibility and encouraging members to participate. It’s a broad category, including the CEO, board of directors, committees and councils and anyone in your volunteer programs. All of these positions boost the association’s reputation and increase engagement—some members feel empowered and aspire to join the ranks of these MVPs.
The Community Roundtable’s 2014 State of Community Management report shows that, among communities with formal leadership programs, 71 percent can measure its community’s business value. Only 33 percent boast the same among those without formal programs. In 58 percent of the best performing communities included in the research, the organization’s CEO is an active participant. These community examples reveal that association leaders truly can be engagement champions.
Encourage leadership participation
You can take these stats as an opportunity to evaluate your association’s overall engagement strategy: are board and council members interacting with members in your online community? Are volunteer leaders using your social media channels to garner interest and participation in upcoming programs? Do you see an uptick in event attendance and post-event engagement when your CEO or Executive Director is more hands-on and vocal with members?
This is most likely the area in which far too many associations fall short. While the CEO may champion the idea of an online community platform or better social engagement and be supportive in terms of approving new ideas, all too frequently he/she shies away from actually participating.
Association leaders and their online communities should mix together. Executive participation affects the success of member engagement, and leaders should be both champions of online and social platforms and creators or cross pollinators of useful industry content. We can use the analogy of an annual meeting—in what scenario would it be acceptable for an organization’s CEO not to attend the annual meeting and other important face-to-face events?
Whether it’s direct feedback, getting to know them better or learning how they interact with each other and current issues, it’s important for your association’s C-Suite and volunteer leaders to hear from your members. So make sure you’re adequately collecting and collating members’ online activity in one place. Use an online community or even just create more robust Twitter and Facebook accounts to provide a trustworthy space for members to speak their minds with association leaders and crowd-source useful content. Opinions, discussions, blogs and more will become the most useful and popular communications for members and leaders alike in building better engagement.