There is no membership association without members. And right now, smart organisations and nonprofits are attracting new stakeholders – and engaging with existing ones – through private professional networks; digital spaces where members are invited to play an active role in change.
How do you engage your members? How do you encourage them to participate in your community? Of course, the answer will be different depending on what sort of membership association or nonprofit organisation you’re operating. But in most cases, engagement – whether virtual or in person – takes place sporadically, through one-time activities or scheduled discussions.
It could be a conference or any other sort of networking event. It could be a fundraising opportunity intended to connect with donors or members of the wider community. It could be an email newsletter or a new blog post on your website. But whatever it is, it tends to happen in a quick flash.
It doesn’t matter what form of engagement you intend to achieve – to educate, to teach, to support growth, to facilitate networking, to spark new opportunities – the ‘thrill’ of participation is there, and then it’s gone. It’s short-lived. Members are interested for a while, then go back to their day-to-day lives. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to maintain that high level of engagement longer? To make that engagement a more stable, more consistent presence across your association?
It can be. But we’ve got to be willing to change.
It’s no secret that things today look a lot different to how they did just a few years ago. Every business, every nonprofit and every member association has faced brand-new challenges in one form or another. It’s created a landscape of uncertainty. It’s human nature that, in times of uncertainty, we resort to familiarity. When we’re unsure, we stick to what we know.
What we have today are member associations and nonprofit organisations using the same engagement tactics as they always have. But they’re not having the same effect.
In today’s environment, we all need to be prepared to do things differently. Fortunately, we have the precise tools available to us that empower us to do that, such as private professional networks.
Private professional networks are a powerful mechanism for ensuring members remain involved and active within the community. Even outside of those scheduled engagement events and activities.
These networks invite members to be a part of what you do; to play an active role in facilitating widespread change; to come together with others to work together for a brighter, better tomorrow.
Ultimately, these networks – which are private, invite-only alternatives to public platforms like LinkedIn – provide an always-on channel for digital engagement; an online space where members can get that ‘thrill’ at any time, feeling closer and more connected to what they do, all through the year.
Eventually, we can make that ‘thrill’ even more thrilling. How? By listening
The purpose of a private professional network, of course, is to network. To discuss. To chat. To question. Of course, this happens in real life – and within other communities like LinkedIn – but that data is not yours to use. You can’t do anything with it. With a private professional network, you can.
The data that exists within that network is yours. And you can leverage this to your advantage to build engaging experiences that encourage members to keep coming back for more, to keep getting involved, and to keep enjoying that excitement knowing that they’re making a real difference.
Through this data, you can gain unique insight to learn what your members want, understand what they’re looking for and provide them with what they need to really want to get involved. It’s about taking their goals and aligning them to yours, to create this mutually-beneficial community.
It’s a good question.
Why does a private professional network achieve better results in terms of member engagement than, say, a public professional like LinkedIn? Or even something broader such as Google?
The answer is simple: it all comes down to trust.
Imagine that you’re an avid hiker, and you’re about to jet off for a long weekend in the Austrian countryside. You’re looking for some great ideas for routes you can follow that will take you through some amazing natural scenery. Which do you trust to give you the most relevant answers?
A: Some random articles in Google Search, or LinkedIn?
B: Other keen outdoor enthusiasts that are part of your community?
When we look at it from this perspective, it seems clear, doesn’t it? Public networks and the web in general don’t drive engagement in the same way because the trust isn’t there. We don’t know these people. We may not have anything in common with these people. Private professional networks, on the other hand, are made up of those who are all there for a reason. They’ve all been invited. They’ve all been included because they’re relevant to the conversation. We feel a closeness and connection with them, even if we’ve never met them. We trust that this is a place we want to be.
Having that trust there, and feeling connected and included, is key to member engagement. And this isn’t a line; it’s a circle.
It takes just one member to feel engaged and take an active role in the community to encourage another to do the same. And then for them to do the same. And so on until you have a powerful network of motivated and engaged individuals who all want to come together to achieve more.
It’s incredibly easy to be a creature of habit. But in doing so, we can be missing out on opportunities to meet members’ needs and give them what they’re looking for. To motivate them, to inspire them, to engage with them – and help them feel excited about taking an active role in their community.
Members know what they’re looking for. And if you’re not it, they’ll find it somewhere else. Don’t let that happen. With a private professional network, you can develop an engaging space where your members feel active and valued. Get in touch with us at Freestyle Internet to find out more.