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Satisfying the needs of your members with social technology

3 min read

The social networking and social media phenomena have gripped the world – whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace or any number of similar sites, this type of ‘social technology’ is now in regular use by most of the population connected to the internet.

This social technology is often referred to as ‘web 2.0’, and heralded as the ‘next generation’ of the web.

But while the sites might be incredibly powerful on a social level, such as sharing photos with family, or news and ideas with friends, the question nonetheless remains: can associations actually harness this social technology for their own ends? If this new technology is aimed at connecting people, surely organisations can use it to better understand and communicate with their members. Fortunately, the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’

1. Improved communication with your members

Setting up a social network on your site allows every member to have a presence, or profile, under your ‘virtual’ roof. By following the connections and contributions they make, and the sentiments they express on your site, you soon develop a far deeper and far more beneficial understanding of who they really are.

Members can then be grouped together using any of this new information – giving you something far more powerful than basic demographics and subscription data. These groupings allow you to have direct and relevant conversations (public or private) with one, some, or all of your members quickly and easily.

Increased activity on your website means that you can also let the community take the pain out of your basic administration, including updating their own contact details and payment methods without you having to be involved.

2. Improved communication between members

Better still, members can communicate not only directly with you but also with one another. This means that knowledge is passed not just from the top down, but from member-to-member, improving the ‘collective knowledge’ of the membership community, while also saving administrators from having to respond to every enquiry. The ‘power of the community’ can help to solve problems, unlock issues and help spread examples of best practice within your organisation.

3. A better understanding of your members and their needs

Social tools allow you to truly gauge the needs and desires of your constituents, offering powerful discussion and voting mechanisms and easy ways to aggregate those results for everyone to see. This technology creates spaces for people to talk, discuss and interact; exposing points of view and critical feedback that had previously been out of reach or too expensive to try and collect. You can also act quickly to offer clarifications, counter criticism and engage in a more authentic discussion with your constituency.

4. Grow membership by targeting services and products directly to individuals

Social technology and increased engagement can help to grow membership and to more easily retain current members. It can give you the power to follow, track and map your member – to tease out their individual likes and dislikes, and automatically tailor services, responses, products or content – at the precise point at which they are most likely to need them. These advanced types of membership management tools can help you to decrease churn and increase revenues.

5. Easier, more cost effective administration

A well designed ‘social’ system should not only provide you with flexible control of information, it can also allow you to collect fees quickly and easily, set up automated scheduled payments for users, or to distribute automated messages and communications at key points in the transaction cycle – all of which can lead to huge resource savings. What once might have seemed an administrator’s dream – fast, flexible and automated management of information – is now a common standard in the ‘social web’ world.

Starting a social network on your site can seem a complex and daunting undertaking, but it needn’t be. Handled in the right way, social networking can help you to decrease costs, increase revenues and, above all, keep your membership base well and truly satisfied.

An association-specific social networking site will assist you to:

  • Understand who your members are and their reasons for joining and belonging to your association.
  • Maintain regular contact and an ongoing relationship with members.
  • Stop the regular churn of members, lost revenues and relationships.
  • Stop cumbersome administration, difficulties with financial processing, and massive resource costs.
  • Overcome limited resources and online marketing budgets.
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