Associations are still asking, “What’s wrong with using a listserv?” Listservs have been around for decades and were considered a great place for members to participate in email discussions around topics of their choosing. The framework may still work for some groups and committees, but more user friendly and robust platforms can easily replace, supplement or carry the clunky listserv format into an innovative future.
The importance here is two-fold: convenience and diversity. Customer engagement will thrive when members have balanced options. Some listservs are still going strong for larger associations, and some newer community platforms and communication tools exclude this tried and true option. No one wants to tediously search through email to find a discussion, but no one wants to lose their networking platform suddenly. People like to respond easily from their email, but they also like to search and explore beyond the present discussion.
Associations can move away from linear dialogue and adopt more multi-faceted interactions with a community structure. The benefit of community can extend to a range of member resources: an online center for knowledge sharing, multiple social media channels for extended interactions and adjusted email communications to capture and retain members.
Online community platforms
Private online communities are at the top of the list for convenient, diverse and collaborative. But they also understand from whence they came: Higher Logic’s platform actually evolved from a Lyris Listserv back in the day, and has since developed a robust list of features on top of its discussions to create a collaborative platform for constituents.
Consider incorporating listservs into the community fold of discussions, blogs and resource libraries. Community members will come for the reliable conversations and stay because of the breadth of information, whether that’s advertising opportunities for their membership or event planning and management options for the upcoming annual conference.
Social media channels
Crowd sourcing content should be a top priority for any association hoping to improve its engagement reach. Think about where you can take a listserv conversation and build it out, up or beyond its email confines. Members are networking within social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Bridge the gap between your association and the wider industry issues by leveraging content within listservs and discussions for the wider, open audience of social media.
Reliable old email is still worthy of our attention—Higher Logic’s online communities alone generate tens of millions of emails a month! It’s a universal medium—nearly everyone has an account, most emailing happens on the go through mobile devices and communities powered by an online platform usually begin with email, whether it’s an introduction or a daily digest. This communication portal between members and the online community offer a 24/7 connection with no barriers.
You can take advantage of email to highlight your association’s best content in the most succinct way. Just as social media will connect your association to a broader industry and potential members, integrated email communications connect your members to their content home. And if you have the capability to automate your messaging, then opportunities further increase. Imagine a monthly newsletter that wraps up the listserv chatter and community discussions for busy members, or a welcome message to a brand new member detailing the various modes of communication they have access to, from discussions and social media groups all the way to online community ambassador.
Forward-thinking associations will develop the right balance for their members and industry through diversifying their communications. Don’t axe the listserv, but don’t swear by it either. Collaboration can grow and thrive across platforms.