For most professional associations, member engagement is key to success. Your most active members will be the most likely to stay with you, take advantage of professional development opportunities, participate in grassroots advocacy, and pay their membership dues. But, in the age of constant distractions and alternatives, how do you maintain that engagement.
Through our blog, we have shown many ways in which you can accomplish that goal. Through all of them, you will be able to find a key thread: involve your members directly in the organization. In this article, we will focus on one particular way in which you can accomplish that feat: user generated content, or UGC in short.
The Power of User Generated Content
Make no mistake: regardless of what industry your association represents, user generated content works. In fact, a recent survey found that 75% of online users found that content generated by their peers makes a brand seem more human and authentic. That tracks with other studies, which have found that more than 90% of consumers find UGC to be an invaluable tool when making a purchasing decision.
If you don’t think that these types of statistics apply to associations, consider the implications. Especially in the online sphere, you’re competing not just with other associations but with countless brands for your members’ attention. They’re drawn naturally to content created by their peers. Competing, and drawing them into your communications strategy, has to include a component of the same type of content.
The Dual Nature of UGC
One reason UGC is so powerful is simple: it benefits everyone involved. Naturally, and as highlighted by the statistics mentioned above, your organization can gain credibility through it. The process is simple: others talking about you seems more authentic than you talking about yourself. And when you make your online presence a home for expert voices from the field, that expertise spills over to your brand attributes and personality as well.
But it doesn’t end there. On the user end, the same concept can be just as significant. That’s because allowing your members to share their own thoughts and expertise significantly raises feelings of empowerment on their end. They begin to realize that you’ve given them an outlet they can use to raise their own profile.
Once that happens, you begin to enter into a type of self-fulfilling prophecy. Sharing user content means showing all of your members that their voice matters. That, in turn, leads to more of them wanting to take advantage of the idea, which leads to more UGC – and the cycle repeats. That, along with the credibility your organization gains, is the core concept behind the dual nature of user-generated content.
Building a UGC Strategy For Your Association
Of course, that concept can only be successful if you don’t piecemeal it together. Simply put, you cannot succeed if you randomly pick out individual members and ask them to share their thoughts on a random topic. Doing so can lead to feelings of favoritism, and resentment within your organization. Fortunately, there’s a better way.
Mature organizations know that every initiative can be improved with a coherent strategy. That’s just as true for UGC. The right strategy helps you organize it into a coherent plan, and point it into the right direction to make a tangible difference for your association. Build a strategy document that answers the following questions:
- What’s the goal of your UGC strategy?
- Do you have a group of ‘power users’ who can pilot the initiative with content of their own?
- How will you measure the success of your strategy and individual pieces of content?
- What tactics will you use to encourage your members to submit their own proposals and content?
- Where will you publish the content, and how can you deliver it to as many of your members as possible?
- What type of content will you focus on to maximize initial and sustainable success?
Make your strategy document as comprehensive as possible, and don’t be afraid to gather input from stakeholders before beginning to implement your strategy. Once that happens, the last two questions deserve especially close attention.
The Right Platform and Delivery Vehicles
Naturally, any UGC strategy can only be successful if you find a good way to publish it, as well as a sustainable way to actually promote it to your members. The first part is relatively simple: feature the content generated by your users on your website. Make it prominent, be it through a section on your homepage or its own blog page.
Promoting it to your wider member base gets more complex. Social media, where many stakeholders affiliated with your association already follow you, is a natural fit. But don’t end it there. You have their email addresses in your database; utilize them. Ideally, segment your members based on their professional and personal interests, and push out content to them based on those variables to maximize its relevance.
Finally, if your association has a mobile app, push notifications can make a major impact. They land directly on your members’ mobile devices, encouraging them to read the content right there. The goal is to provide value to them, so stay away from overtly promotional messages in favor of actually highlighting the content written by your users.
What Type of Content Can Help Your Organization Succeed?
Most often, a personal perspective from a member on a topic currently relevant to your industry makes the most sense. A marketing association, for example, might share the opinions of an agency executive coping with the fact that more companies are building their own, in-house agencies. Consider this a ‘voices from the field’ approach in which topics you already cover get a different angle by coming from your members.
But that doesn’t have to be the only type of content you publish from your users. Because needs differ so widely based on industry, let them help you find better alternatives. polls, for example, are an invaluable way of gauging members’ interest in specific topics, which you cna then use as a prompt to any member interested in writing about it.
As you might imagine, much of the above requires an existing digital infrastructure to publish and promote the content. That’s where Engagifii comes in. Work with us on comprehensive association management software (AMS) designed to help you reach and engage your members. That way, as you begin to embrace UGC, the foundation is in place for it to make a major and sustainable impact on your member engagement.