I work directly with many organizations to manage their online member community. The one thing that is consistent from organization to organization is that members value social interaction differently. For some associations, focus on increased social activity is a good thing. For others, it’s definitely NOT a factor that members value.

The goal with any online community for a membership-driven organization is to align participation with member value. In other words, make it a member benefit.

Let’s take a deeper look…

Mistakes made in measuring success or failure of your member online community

I find a common problem with membership organizations that measure the success or failure of their online community by the amount of social activity that takes place inside of it. In these cases, expectations haven’t been properly set. Understanding of the internal and external member motivations haven’t been considered. Overall, the purpose of the community hasn’t been defined. This is a situation that software alone won’t solve.

My point, don’t always measure the success or failure of a community by the amount of social activity taking place within it.

Once you’ve finished your homework in understanding what members value and what motivates them (both internally and externally) to participate in your association, you’ll know what to measure to determine what’s working and what’s not. Gathering this type of business intelligence gives you a frame of reference to position your online community as a member benefit, not “just another social channel to manage” or “another login to remember”. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Architect your online community as a member benefit

The next step in positioning your online community as a member benefit is to determine the architecture. You need to think about the different types of interactions members have within the online community. Again, I want you thinking from a from the shoes of a member here.

For example:

  • What should the member login experience look like?
  • What’s on the first page a member goes to when entering the online community?
  • What features should be turned on?
  • What are the notification mechanisms to drive members back to the online community?
  • How should you measure activity – for example, document download activity, pages viewed, forms completed, etc.
  • How should you value, or weigh, activity in the online community as factors in meeting its objectives?

If you don’t do your homework in understanding member motivations, answering these questions correctly becomes impossible. I can’t stress how important that is.

Not every member wants to login and see a message board right away.

Not every member cares about articles or discussions.

Not every member wants to “engage” and “connect”.

We assume members want these things, but in reality it’s not always the case.

The ultimate way to position your online community as a member benefit is to configure your online community around the feedback you received from your assessment of member motivations. For example, if a member expressed that they value the documents you share, redirect that specific member to the documents section upon login.

If a member expressed that they value their committee interaction higher than anything else, redirect that specific member to the groups section of your online community.

If a member expressed that they value education higher than anything else, consider redirecting them to the articles section. You could go even further and setup a dashboard page that simply links the member to different educational experiences within your online community.

My point here is that you need to consider customizing the member experience at an individual member level. If every member is the same and values the same experiences at an equal level, then you are ok with standardizing the experience across the board. In my experience, member motivation and member value differs from member to member.

Customize the member experience on a per member basis

Once you understand the concept of customizing the member experience at an individual level, it’s time to put it into action. This is where you need both the flexibility of your online member community platform and the expertise from someone to help sort the feedback data into actual fields of your member database.

Implementing a custom member experience within your online community can be as simple as setting up a column in a spreadsheet with the highest weighted value item that a member values (e.g. documents, education, etc.). Based on the terms used, a simple query can be setup inside of the online community to redirect a member based on the term used in this field.

It might sound complex, but within the right online member community platform, it can be simple with the right tools activated. Social HubSite, of course, makes this process extremely easy. It’s something your Community Advisor will work with you on setting up. This saves you the headache of processing and executing what I just mentioned in the last paragraph 🙂

When you pay attention to a members overall experience within your online community, you’ll position it as a major member benefit, not just a “nice to have”. In the process of gathering feedback and implementing a customized experience for each member, you’ll gain a deeper trust with your members. You’ll turn members into ambassadors.

Members aren’t getting a customized experience on mainstream social networks. They are being forced to “be social” in an environment where they just want one or two things. Be different. Show that you understand them. When you do this, you’ll make it easier for them to extract the member value they are looking for from your organization.

Create an environment customized to deliver on their motivations, and you’ll gain the time, attention, energy and trust from your members. Your online community won’t just be “another social channel” for them. It will be a place of value in their minds. It will be purpose-driven social media. It will be a key “platform” that “serves” the mission of your organization.

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