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Engaging Your Members With Social Media and Community

A recent Forrester survey reveals U.S. “online adults” who want to stay in touch with organizations are almost three times as likely to visit a site as to engage on Facebook.

This doesn’t mean sites like Facebook and Twitter aren’t valuable and don’t have a place in your organization’s member engagement strategy. But the Forrester report reveals that engagement on public social sites can be lower than we assume, and organizations need to shift focus. Is your organization’s engagement plan diverse enough?

The ROI of a social campaign can be hard to measure if you haven’t set concrete goals. And social media’s impact is often described in terms of likes or mentions—considered to be intangible results for long-term member engagement.

Think about the time and effort your staff are spending trying to engage members and prospects on social channels, and how much value you’re seeing in return. Not meeting your expectations? Then maybe it’s time to consider a better balancing act that includes a private online community, or redoubling efforts on making your existing communities and social channels a place that members and prospects can’t do without.

At Higher Logic we like to encourage clients to use social media in conjunction with their online community platform, to be omnipresent. Whether you have your own member community, encourage your members to participate in industry communities and forums or simply need to bolster your activity on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s important to encourage active conversations and knowledge sharing.

What if you’ve put all of your time (or even money) into one channel or platform? Social media sites are popular and usually free (except the time your staff spends managing them is not), so many organizations believe their member engagement strategy is best spent on one of those channels, trying to yield the most shares or likes.

Keep in mind: LinkedIn’s announcements over the last year indicate the company will shift to a marketing automation platform model. What will that mean for the community and connections you’re spending time and resources building? Facebook isn’t winning any engagement awards, either: recent reports from Social@Ogilvy and Forrester show brands’ Facebook posts reached just 2 percent of its fans, and less than 1 percent of fans were interacting with each post.

Note: there’s always room to improve these metrics with C-suite participation—leadership buy-in proves time and again to significantly improve member participation.

These examples aren’t meant to scare organizations away from social media. Instead, any organization should evaluate its current member engagement strategy to make sure it’s balanced and focused on what the member community likes best.

No matter the platform(s), here’s your quick-check for online member engagement:

  • Find your people. It can be members already interacting on your social channels and online community, or industry experts, influencers and prospects you want to connect with—find the conversations that are meaningful for your organization.
  • Make it easy to get together. Share other relevant stories and posts from your industry. Create a hashtag to push out quotes and resources on Twitter. Start a live chat on your community after a successful conference or in-person event. The most important part of your engagement plan should be the question, “Is it easy for me and my members to participate?”
  • Share often. You have your people and your plan, now go forth and spread the word. Build on what you already have available on your website and community. Don’t be afraid to share “evergreen” content—you will have new or newly active members who will find and see your resources with fresh eyes.
  • Measure the fun. Use metrics available on social media and reporting within your online community to figure out what works best in your engagement plan. You can integrate this into your member surveys and feedback, to look at the big picture results from balancing social media and community.

Engaging Your Members With Social Media and Community

A recent Forrester survey reveals U.S. “online adults” who want to stay in touch with organizations are almost three times as likely to visit a site as to engage on Facebook.

This doesn’t mean sites like Facebook and Twitter aren’t valuable and don’t have a place in your organization’s member engagement strategy. But the Forrester report reveals that engagement on public social sites can be lower than we assume, and organizations need to shift focus. Is your organization’s engagement plan diverse enough?

The ROI of a social campaign can be hard to measure if you haven’t set concrete goals. And social media’s impact is often described in terms of likes or mentions—considered to be intangible results for long-term member engagement.

Think about the time and effort your staff are spending trying to engage members and prospects on social channels, and how much value you’re seeing in return. Not meeting your expectations? Then maybe it’s time to consider a better balancing act that includes a private online community, or redoubling efforts on making your existing communities and social channels a place that members and prospects can’t do without.

At Higher Logic we like to encourage clients to use social media in conjunction with their online community platform, to be omnipresent. Whether you have your own member community, encourage your members to participate in industry communities and forums or simply need to bolster your activity on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s important to encourage active conversations and knowledge sharing.

What if you’ve put all of your time (or even money) into one channel or platform? Social media sites are popular and usually free (except the time your staff spends managing them is not), so many organizations believe their member engagement strategy is best spent on one of those channels, trying to yield the most shares or likes.

Keep in mind: LinkedIn’s announcements over the last year indicate the company will shift to a marketing automation platform model. What will that mean for the community and connections you’re spending time and resources building? Facebook isn’t winning any engagement awards, either: recent reports from Social@Ogilvy and Forrester show brands’ Facebook posts reached just 2 percent of its fans, and less than 1 percent of fans were interacting with each post.

Note: there’s always room to improve these metrics with C-suite participation—leadership buy-in proves time and again to significantly improve member participation.

These examples aren’t meant to scare organizations away from social media. Instead, any organization should evaluate its current member engagement strategy to make sure it’s balanced and focused on what the member community likes best.

No matter the platform(s), here’s your quick-check for online member engagement:

  • Find your people. It can be members already interacting on your social channels and online community, or industry experts, influencers and prospects you want to connect with—find the conversations that are meaningful for your organization.
  • Make it easy to get together. Share other relevant stories and posts from your industry. Create a hashtag to push out quotes and resources on Twitter. Start a live chat on your community after a successful conference or in-person event. The most important part of your engagement plan should be the question, “Is it easy for me and my members to participate?”
  • Share often. You have your people and your plan, now go forth and spread the word. Build on what you already have available on your website and community. Don’t be afraid to share “evergreen” content—you will have new or newly active members who will find and see your resources with fresh eyes.
  • Measure the fun. Use metrics available on social media and reporting within your online community to figure out what works best in your engagement plan. You can integrate this into your member surveys and feedback, to look at the big picture results from balancing social media and community.

Caitlin McDonnell Struhs

Caitlin McDonnell Struhs is lead writer and content marketer for Higher Logic, an industry-leader in cloud-based community platforms for associations and nonprofits. She manages the marketing and sales content calendar while overseeing the content creation, editing and blogging for all marketing channels. Higher Logic includes over 25 million engaged members in more than 200,000 communities. Organizations worldwide use Higher Logic to bring like-minded people all together, by giving their community a home where they can meet, share ideas, answer questions and stay energized.