Increasing member engagement has been pinpointed by the sector as the top goal for 2017, according to the Digital Excellence Report published by MemberWise. Member engagement is tied directly to member retention, with members who feel engaged and integrated within the community far more likely to renew their membership when the time comes. Member engagement is also directly linked to member satisfaction and the likelihood of a member recommending your organisation to their peers. However, engaging your members is no easy task, and some organisations are finding it even more difficult to do online.
If built correctly, your website is actually an ideal platform for increasing engagement. It can be built so that it is easy to access at any time and from any device, it can allow for maximum personalisation, and some processes can even be automated to reduce the workload involved. We would like to share with you our top tips for creating a website that is geared for member engagement as well as ideas for increasing member engagement on your existing site.
Telling a Narrative
The first step in building engagement on your website is telling a story. Why does your organisation exist? What problem does it solve for its members, what benefits does it provide? Engagement begins with emotion, and your story should evoke the right emotion within your membership base. It should be easy for them to identify with the narrative and feel a part of it. Your narrative should be apparent from the first glance on your homepage, and it should be weaved throughout your website. Your imagery, language and content should all reflect the chosen narrative. It should also form the core for your website’s user journey.
Using a ‘Storytelling’ User Journey
We often recommend using a storytelling user journey to increase engagement. This is achieved by creating a personalised stream of content based on user preferences or previous site usage, so that when a member has finished visiting a certain section of the website or reading a specific piece of content, recommendations of relevant items, events, images etc will appear below, creating an endless loop of personalised, relevant content for the member to immerse themselves in. Personalisation is a key component in this technique.
Creating a Coherent Content Strategy
One of the reasons members join an organisation is to receive unique content that they are interested in, whether it be of research, educational or of a social nature. There should always be new and innovative content in the pipeline, and the content should evolve along with your member base. This content should be relevant, in-depth, unique and valuable to your members. It could be in the form of guides, reports, expert round-ups, e-learning courses, news or live event coverage. You could create podcasts, videos, infographics or blog posts. Ideally you could create a large innovative piece of content, then use that to create smaller pieces of content in multiple forms. But creating the content is not enough. It is important to also think of how this content will be accessed and consumed. Your content should be:
- Easy to find via your website search tool
- Regularly promoted via newsletters, social media etc
- Proceeded by bite-size snippets, leading to the full piece
- Regularly updated and added
- Road-mapped so that members know what is coming up
- Connected to what is currently happening offline (events, courses etc)
- Exclusive and unique (for example you could invite a special guest expert)
- Deliver ongoing value
Building an Online Community
There is great value in being a part of a community that revolves around a point of commonality. People are increasingly becoming used to taking an active part in communities online, whether via Facebook groups, online forums or even WhatsApp. Creating an online community within your website will bring your members to it and keep them within the ecosystem you have created, but it requires more effort to set up. Creating an online community within a chosen social media platform is easier (and free), but you will have to work harder to link the conversations (and traffic) to your website. Whichever option you choose, you then need to invest in building the community and providing ongoing value. Here are a couple of pointers to help you get started:
- Choose your platform and invest in it. Make it branded and professional.
- Take an active part in the community, raise questions and share relevant articles or events
- Send regular email updates highlighting important conversations or unanswered questions
- Find ways of thanking active members (whether explicitly or by giving them special rewards)
- Send gentle reminders to members who have been inactive for a certain amount of time
- Find ways to make the community an integral part of your membership (refer people there for assistance, encourage public exchanges of information and member-to-member mentoring)
- Ask your community for their feedback on new ideas or existing services
- Make changes accordingly and communicate these back to the community
Easing the integration of new members
There is a sensitive period just after a member has joined your organisation, which will greatly define how engaged they will be going forward. There is a window of opportunity when they are excited and interested in your organisation, but also unsure of how it works or what their options are. Seize this opportunity to welcome your members and show them the ropes:
- Send a welcome email with key information and contacts, including a link to your website’s FAQ section
- Create an interactive tour of your website, highlighting the important sections and ways to get involved
- Introduce them to the community (if appropriate)
- Give them an incentive to participate (such as a ‘new member discount’ on an online course)
- Nurture them with carefully crafted communications (don’t bombard them with emails but do send interesting, relevant informations, special offers and suggestions) until they become active members.
Encouraging Staff Participation
Your organisation should make your website a priority and invest time and effort in it. Encourage your team to be a part of content creation. Ask them to write blog posts with their unique perspective, take pictures and videos at events and upload them to the site. Ask them to join in online conversations and answer questions in their relative fields of expertise. Personally stay on top of how engaged your community is and participate in discussions, you’ll be able to learn a lot about your members and how they interact. You’ll then also be able to:
- Actively solve problems and give advice
- Understand where the conversation is going and help direct it if needed
- See who the active members are and reward them
- Reach out to people in real time and address concerns
- Help promote events, courses or other areas of interest
Going the Extra Mile
It is important to remember that all of these different factors should work together to create a holistic experience for your members. The different sections on your website should complement and promote each other. Pay attention to the unity of your message as well as the look & feel.
You can also use your website as a tool to provide you with valuable real-time information so that you can react to events happening with your members on a personal basis. For example:
- Pinpointing members who’s activity has dropped and reaching out to them in real time
- Reaching out to members just before their membership renewal date with a personalised message (which can include interesting information, an invitation to an event or course or other special offers)
- Finding occasions to surprise & delight (for example giving members a small gift on their membership anniversary or upon completion of a course)
- Sending personalised notifications to subscribed members about new content as it is added to the site, or new activity within your community that they have previously shown interest in.
If you invest in your website and create ways for your members to engage within it, your community will thrive. If you succeed in creating a thriving community, members will come together and support each other, increasing the perceived value of membership. Once perceived value is increased, churn will be reduced, and you will find yourself having to work less and less on retention and being able to concentrate more and more on growing your membership base and investing further in your organisation.
Bonus – Download our ‘State of User Experience on Membership Websites’ Report (Free)
If you found this article interesting, we invite you to download our report examining the State of User Experience (UX) on Membership Websites, published in association with MemberWise. This report aims to provide a detailed snapshot of the online offering of the membership sector, showing both the current areas of strength and the challenges that still lay ahead. In this report you will discover the key findings of our research, along with explanations and screenshots of how the websites analysed performed on the different aspects of user experience.
Click on the button below to download the full report and discover how your website measures up to some of the larger organisations in the Association and Membership Sector.
We’d love to hear your feedback
We do hope you have found this article useful. We’d be delighted to hear from you if you have any follow up questions or would like to discuss your own website.