Running an organization with members offers a ton of positive benefits, from an audience to hear your message to recurring revenue (if you charge for it). But the challenge that brands can feel when they have members is providing them value. Whether it’s creator communities, alumni networks, national associations, or even a religious organization, keeping members engaged and capturing their attention can be a challenge in a busy world.
In this post, we’re going to talk about membership engagement strategy, especially for online communities. These best practices will help you connect with and keep your members for the long term.
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In this article…
What is membership engagement?
Membership engagement in an online community is the measure of the interactions between those who belong to that community and the community Hosts and other members, usually valued in terms of participation and contributions. The goal of trying these membership engagement best practices is to actively increase member participation and contribution in the hopes that they will get more benefit from their membership.
10 Best practices for membership engagement
Focus on them
First and foremost, one of the biggest mistakes that brands and organizations make is focusing on what they are doing instead of what their members value.
This is one of the traps that a great membership engagement strategy needs to avoid. While it may not be easy, examining everything you do through the lens of what your member actually needs helps you get clear on the value you give.
For example, imagine if you were sending an email out about a new course. A subject like, "We're launching a new course" isn't actually about the member at all. Changing the subject to something like "Our new course will help you master your business taxes," puts the focus back on them and the value you bring to them.
Don't be tempted to think that members want to be members just for the sake of it. Show them the value their membership brings. Making it about the member first and foremost is the foundation of all other membership engagement best practices.
Serve your ideal member
With all the people you can be serving with your brand, it's tempting to try to be all things to all people. Unfortunately, this divided focus will hurt you in the long run.
Get a clear focus on who your ideal member is, and bring them value. Ideally, you do this work to clarify who they are at the start of your journey to building a membership community. You can understand who your ideal members is by using a big purpose statement.
It looks something like this:
Automate your new member experience
One of the most important touchpoints of member engagement is your new member experience. When a new member joins your community or organization, it's important to help them get acclimatized quickly. At a minimum, they should have a clear sense of:
- What to expect
- How to navigate your platform
- Who to talk to if they need help
- How to get the most out of what you offer
All of these are important, but it's really vital to set expectations early. Members without a clear understanding of what to expect on a daily or weekly basis, or unrealistic expectations about what your community will provide, are a recipe for trouble down the road.
When we added the live stream feature to our communities, we realized the added value it gives when serving your members. Live streaming is such a neat thing, letting you add a level of spontaneity to how you serve your members.
While it can be intimidating at first, one of the best things about live streaming is that it's a pretty low lift. You can set yourself a list of things to talk about, or, go live to talk to a special guest or a member of the community. And don't worry, the conversations will be recorded so that people can watch them for a long time to come (although if your worst fears come true and it’s a total flop you can always delete it–but don’t worry, that’s very unlikely to happen).
Use an app
Member engagement is changing. And one of the biggest transformations is the use of mobile in serving your members. Whether you're an organization, national association, alumni network, or creative community, chances are your members can be served through a mobile app.
Choose an app platform that lets you bring members together and lets them find community around your shared purpose. We're proud of our community options with Mighty Networks that will help you connect your members with discussions, content, courses, and subgroups.
And if you're an organization looking for your own branded apps, check out Mighty Pro.
Master the email value
Email should be a part of your community engagement strategy. If you're like many member-serving orgs, there's a good chance you aren't emailing your members enough. It’s important to be in your members’ inboxes on a regular basis.
But a good email strategy isn't just about marketing. Go back to your ideal member and try to understand how you could use their email to provide value. Spend some time building subject lines and messaging that teaches, entertains, and inspires, and you will find that your members are much more responsive when you do have something to sell.
Pro tip: You can use audience segmentation to tag people according to their interests. Most email marketing platforms let you do this.
Get real on social
If you are using social media as an extension of how you add value to your audience, get real. We are all so over the cold corporate speak and the formulaic ways that organizations are tempted to use social media. (e.g. “We are pleased to announce that…”)
In their desire to sound official and serious, many member-serving organizations or community leaders risk boring their members to death.
Again, if you can teach, entertain, or inspire with your social media channels, you will be doing well.
Pro tip: many people prefer engaging with real people on social to engaging with a brand. If you're comfortable, using individual profiles to promote what you're doing with your membership community can work really well.
While not every membership community is the same, can you charge something for it? Charging for a community does more than simply bring in some revenue for you. We've discovered that, with communities, members value what they pay for. That means that paying a membership fee can paradoxically make your community way more likely to succeed, since people will take it seriously and show up.
Ask for feedback
Of course, you don't just want to throw things against the wall. Find ways to periodically ask for feedback. This could include things like:
- 1:1 member interviews
- Anonymous surveys
- Open feedback meetings or Q&As
If you can find ways to get real, honest feedback from your members, it will be worth its weight in gold. You might even consider offering a prize or holding a draw for members who give feedback, to make sure you can get as much as possible.
Build an engagement culture
Instead of just running all the member engagement yourself, what if you could build a culture of engagement?
Believe it or not, when you build an online community, it gives you the ability to do membership engagement at scale. This isn’t just because you can reach all your members at once (although you can). A great online community actually lets your members engage each other, and as your community grows you’ll see members building long-term friendships, showing up to talk to each other, sometimes without a prompt from you! We call this the network effect, which essentially means that the more members join your community the more engagement will grow exponentially as they talk to each other.
If you’re ready to feel the power of an online community, we hope you’ll put these membership engagement best practices to the test and experience the awesome power of a great membership community! More than just a good business model with recurring revenue, membership businesses let us connect, thrive, and grow as we build relationships with the Hosts and with fellow members, and that’s why a good member engagement strategy will pay dividends!
And if you’re looking for the perfect platform to host your membership community, try Mighty Networks for free (no credit card required)!