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How to Use Networking Tools in Your AMS Software to Improve the Member Experience

Posted by Julie Dietz on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 @ 08:30 AM

Tips improving the member experience with your AMS software's online networking tools.

There’s a reason why Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Snapchat have exploded. In a digital age, these websites are doing what your association was doing decades ago: bringing people together and building connections.

Connections, both personal and professional, are still the leading driver of association membership. According to the 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, networking is the single largest reason why members join. They want to meet people in their field, learn, give back, and find jobs.

All of that makes networking an important activity that you need to facilitate for your members. With members of different ages, jobs, locations, and schedules, however, it can be hard for people to connect with one another. They live in different places and are very busy, which is what makes your live meetings so popular. But what happens when the lights go down on your event?

Take a cue from Facebook and take networking online. Use your AMS software’s digital networking tools to help members find and establish the connections that will be most valuable to them – regardless of location, age, or schedule.

5 Networking Tools in Your AMS Software to Take Advantage of

The best association management software is built around your members, helping them engage with your organization and their peers. Here are five tool that will help your members build relationships your organization and each other.

Tool #1) Discussion Forums

Discussion Forums allow people to post questions, answers, and comments in an interactive setting. A user can start a new thread or topic discussing industry news or sharing their thoughts, and then have others respond, creating an online dialogue. Many AMS systems allow you to control which members can see discussion forums, as well as who can post to them.

How to Use Discussion ForumsDiscussion_Forums.png

To jumpstart your discussion forums, post seed questions that your members can answer. As responses build up and members start browsing other forums, they will interact with other members and find experts who they want to connect with. Members can also ask their own questions, finding out who among their peers has the information that they need. They can then connect privately with those members via email to further the relationship.

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The interactive dialogue of discussions helps members feel connected, as though they’re having a conversation, which improves the overall experience of your association.

Tool #2) Profiles and Directories

Profiles display your members’ demographic information, professional credentials, personal bios, and other information relevant to your association. Public or private settings can be used to make members feel more comfortable.

Members who choose public profiles are often included in directories, which allow members to search for one another, experts, and other professionals or vendors in their field. Directories can be searched based on location, name, job, or other credentials.

How to Use Profiles and Directories

Use onboarding email campaigns or on-screen ticklers to encourage your members to set up searchable profiles. Once their profiles are set up, it becomes easier for members to find peers and experts who could teach them new skills.User_Profile_.png

Members can also use their profiles to highlight their personal brand by
pulling in information from other websites, such as blogs and YouTube videos. Personal brands are one way for members and industry professionals to market themselves, and may even open up new opportunities or lead to job recommendations from peers.

Finding jobs may be of particular importance in engaging younger generations. A recent survey showed that finding employment is the number one reason why millennials join associations. And, according to Bloomburg, most jobs are still filled based on recommendations. Use this to your advantage by including the importance of networking and job recommendations in your acquisition campaigns. Don’t promise to find members a job, but let them know that your networking tools can help.

Tool #3) Groups

Groups are exclusive populations of members with common interests, alleviations, or experience. They are often with private areas in your online community, that link members, calendars, resource libraries, discussion forms, jobs, or volunteer opportunities. You can create groups of members based on any relevant criteria, including location, age, job title, or expertise.

How to Use GroupsAdvisory_Groups.png

Many associations benefit from setting up committee, chapter, and volunteer groups. These private groups provide exclusivity for those included, and give committee volunteers and chapter members a place to connect and discuss their agendas or local events.

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Often, private online groups also help boost participation by making it easier for members to participate regardless of geographic or scheduling. Your online community, after all, is available 24/7 from anywhere in the world.

Tool #4) Public Social Networking Feeds

It’s often possible for members to link to their public social networking profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn directly from your community. The best association management software will even go beyond linking. It will pull public social network feeds and updates onto your members’ profiles in your private online community.

How to Use Public Social Networking Feeds

Give your members the option of pulling in public posts onto their profile in your system. This helps them feel more connected with your association and boost their personal brand by building a micro-network of peers and thought leaders. It also solidifies your website and community as the single place members need to go to connect and learn about one another. With public social network updated in your community, there’s no reason to leave your site.Social_Networking.png

Tool #5) Private Social Networks

AMS software platforms differ in how they describe private social networks and the tools in them, but top platforms will include tools such as “following” and “connections” to help your members build relationships.

Members should be able to follow association staff, peers, or experts to get information about their latest activity, including blog and forum posts. They should also have the option to add peers and experts as “connections” and define their relationship. Specifying that a connection is a “colleague” is a good example.

Updates from connections and followed topics or members will appear in an activity feed, just like in public social networks.

How to Use Private Social NetworksFollowing.png

Encourage members to follow experts who have advice they’re interested in. These experts may post relevant blogs or forum comments that will help your members learn and develop. Suggest that members also follow friends or colleagues to learn about what’s happening in their industry or the association as a whole. The more they follow and connect, the more robust their activity feeds will be, and the more “in the know” members will feel.

Association Networking Takeaway

Networking is one of the most valuable offers your association has, and it does not have to be a huge time commitment or financial investment. You can provide year-round networking to your members quickly and easily using the tools already included in your AMS software.

The better your networking options, the more positive an experience your members will have. The connections they make could help them learn new skills, find new friends, or even land a new job – things they’ll credit your association for helping them with.

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Tags: Member Benefits, Public Social Networks, Membership Management Software, AMS Software

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