When I started working with associations just a decade ago, it was hard to have a conversation about the digitization of communications and media. Trying to convince leaders to convert their printed magazines, journals and other publications into digital assets was almost impossible. Fast forward to now – an age where technology is embedded in every aspect of life – it’s no longer a question of whether organizations want to go digital but rather, how do they keep up?
As the digital transformation continues to evolve and expand, associations have a unique opportunity. Just as Netflix flipped the entertainment industry on its head and Apple revolutionized the consumption and distribution of music, associations can reinvent tradeshows and events. Imagine a completely immersive, 360-degree, experience where people attend through a headset instead of in-person or livestreaming. In this environment, anything is possible. Attendees can explore virtual sessions, programs, and activities, while interacting with peers and colleagues from around the world as if they were actually together. Sponsors can engage with members in innovative ways that go beyond a booth or standard advertisement. It’s taking the traditional model outside of the physical confines and completely reimagining it. And with virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI) becoming more prevalent along with the advent of the new Metaverse, this imaginary setting is not that far from reality.
However, if these concepts are too forward thinking and “out there” for you, let’s talk about some practical things your association can do today to enhance your digital presence and maximize your digital assets, ensuring your association is ready for the inevitable future of a digital world.
DIGITAL ASSET #1: ASSOCIATION WEBSITE
Remember the saying, first impressions are everything? This is more than a good principle for personal appearances, it applies to your association’s website. Of all your owned media it’s the most frequented and gets the highest visibility. It’s the first place people come to find out what your association is about. Your website is where they learn your unique value proposition and why you are relevant to their industry or profession. Therefore, it should be the best representation of your organization. If your website is outdated and poorly maintained, it could cause people to question the level of service and expertise your association provides, resulting in disinterest.
On top of being well-designed, your website should be easy to navigate. Members and prospective members come to your association to find industry information, relevant resources, and education. They look to you to answer questions and provide solutions. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they will go somewhere else. To improve the user experience and reduce the bounce rate off your association’s website, make sure it is setup with internal search functionality where visitors can enter a keyword query to find related content on the various pages throughout your website.
Last but not least, your website should be filled with good content. Having the latest news and relevant information is not only an important member benefit, but it positions your association as a valuable thought leader. Whether it’s a new blog article, a recent webinar, or even archived content that used to be in a print format, these should be readily available on your website. By providing your members with quality content that is engaging, reliable, and easily accessible, your association will become a central hub where members go to find anything they need. And the more digital channels your content lives on will create stickiness throughout a member’s lifecycle.
DIGITAL ASSET #2: PUBLICATIONS & COMMUNICATIONS
As previously mentioned, associations have long been producing content in the form of printed magazines, journals, and other publications. Though these communications add tremendous value to members and industry professionals, they can be costly to put together and distribute. Email and digital newsletters are more efficient and effective, since they allow for associations to maintain constant outreach and communication. This is extremely important considering the displacement caused by the pandemic over the last two years with offices being closed and many employees working from home. As workplaces will likely remain flexible, associations will need a good communications strategy to easily disseminate content.
As the leading digital publisher and marketing solutions provider for associations, Multiview understands the importance of delivering continuous, customized communications to keep members engaged and build credibility for your organization. For ideas on how to ramp up your association newsletters so they remain fresh, informative and relevant, read this recent blog: New Year, New Newsletter?
DIGITAL ASSET #3: EDUCATIONAL SERVICES
Before COVID-19, continuing education (CE) and accreditation were predominately offered at live events. Unable to gather in-person, associations had to find an alternative to meet members’ needs and support critical educational activities. Online platforms like Zoom quickly became the new forum for training and professional development. But what started as a temporary solution has now become the norm. Based on stats from 2020, demand for online learning rose as much as 400% and will continue to be widely used because of its many advantages.
Though many organizations are starting to get back together this year, an online component will still be necessary for those who cannot travel or choose not to. Offering eLearning opportunities and web-based solutions gives learners increased flexibility and variety that fits their schedule and learning style. Additionally, providing multiple ways for professionals to earn credits adds to the convenience factor. Webinars are currently the most popular format, but many associations have also tapped into podcasting and other new technologies. By opening the door and making educational services available to all industry professionals, not just members, association receive the benefits of expanding their influence and increasing revenue.
DIGITAL ASSET #4: SOCIAL MEDIA
When associations look at their membership, they cannot view it as one collective whole, but as single individuals. Each member is unique when it comes to their age, interests, career stage and other demographics. Understanding these differences will help associations know how to best communicate and share information with each member, as discussed by Alfred McKelvy in this education session: Convert Generational Differences Into Positive Member Engagement.
This is especially important as associations work to grow their membership and promote themselves to prospective members. Whether they realize it or not, these future members are Millennials and Gen Zers, whose preferred platform is digital. This means, for associations to connect with these young professionals, they need to have a good understanding of each platform, how to use it and take advantage of them. The benefits of becoming a member must be greater than the value they receive from their current network and community on social media. Having an active presence on channels like LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok will help you reach new members and engage with them more effectively.
To be ready for the digital future, associations must be innovative and forward thinking. Be proactive about your digitalization strategy. In the long-run, it will set your association up for success, giving you the ability to be more agile and responsive to the needs of the communities you serve.
2022 Association Insights
& Outlook Report
Multiview surveyed 620 association leaders to find out how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their organizations in terms of revenue generation, event planning, membership engagement, retention, and recruitment. This report includes key findings from survey results and sheds light on what decisions associations are making to move forward.