This is a follow up post to my recent post on ROE vs ROI – A Focus on Engagement; if you haven’t read it yet, check it out!
Your association’s online community is where your members can engage with not only each other but with your association’s resources. What are you doing to encourage participation and keep members engaged?
It’s important to look at engagement as the investment as opposed to investing in engagement. Andy Steggles, President and Chief Customer Officer at Higher Logic agrees. I recently reached out to Andy to get his take on return on engagement (ROE) for associations. Here’s what he said:
“Associations tend to identify niche verticals within their organization which might benefit from improved collaboration (committees, events, special industry groups etc). We find that organizations which look at engagement more holistically (online & offline engagement as well as Traditional & Micro-Volunteerism) and incorporate these elements into a well-defined strategic plan, recognize better results than those who do not.”
While researching for this post I also came across another great article published in Associations Now a few years back. Many of the ideas presented in 10 Ways to Engage Members in Your Online Community are still extremely relevant. With those in mind, I decided to compile a few of my own ideas on engaging members in your online community.
1) Post Videos. Videos can say a lot more than a still image. As technology has evolved and become more accessible to the masses, video has taken the place of traditional photography. Many of the world’s top marketing and engagement strategists are also predicting that video will dominate online content in 2014.
2) Comment Sections. Ensuring members are free to comment on your posts and in your community is an important part of giving you audience a voice. Your online community members should feel heard and have the ability to discuss. If they take the time to comment, ALWAYS respond and encourage further engagement.
3) Identify Leaders. Seek out key members who can help engage others within your community. Encourage them to become leaders and influencers in the online community and reward them for their participation (see tip #4).
4) Reward Participation. Individual recognition is great but rewarding groups of members who answered a poll question or participated in a file drive is an even greater opportunity to build a strong sense of community.
5) Inspire. Not everything your association posts needs to be a question, opinion or informational. Consider sharing inspirational stories or quotes that are RELEVANT to the community or industry.
6) Introduce. When someone new joins the association’s online community one idea is to have a “welcome wagon” helps introduce the newbies with an informative video on how to get the most out of their interactions. Have a representative of the welcome wagon also take on the task of interviewing new members and introducing them to the group.
7) Sneak Peeks. Feature a sneak peak of an upcoming vlog (video blog, hint hint), a screenshot of a new online course you’re going to offer, or the background information of the keynote speaker for next year’s conference before it’s announced. This is a great way to get members talking, guessing, and gossiping about what the association’s future holds.
8) Measure. Are you measuring your ROE? Community managers often forget that time is money. To keep things in check and on budget, make sure you’re accurately measuring your efforts and the return on investment (ROI).
Ben Martin, Chief Engagement Officer at Online Community Results, explains that “every social media and community manager should be prepared for the day that “the powers that be” question your organization’s ROI from social technologies — and potentially the ROI of your continued employment with the organization. It will be far more compelling to point to dollars and cents than respond with social media dogma like “What’s the ROI of your mother?” The more you can draw a straight line between engagement and revenue, the more compelling your case will be.”
What’s the takeaway? Remember that online engagement is just one piece of the puzzle, define your association’s goals, create a strategic plan, and most importantly, measure your results. Social media, your website or blog, and online communities are just a few of the many ways to increase engagement, and as a result your ROI.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog posts on the importance of data and how associations should be measuring it to calculate their ROI. The best way to stay updated is by subscribing below:
When I began my career 20 years ago, I was designing some of the earliest CD-ROM based simulations for the US Navy. These experiences involved free-play interactions that used sophisticated algorithms, variable tracking, and multipathing. And they were very daunting for instructional designers to create. With all of the variables, I was constantly faced with the challenge of how to storyboard and how to make sure the simulation was effective.
Back when I was designing these early simulations, I was also a playwright, creating stories with intricate plot twists, conflicts, and complications. And over the years, I’ve come to realize that these two disciplines are not mutually exclusive. In fact, by designing simulations around story, instructional designers can more easily create engaging simulations that align with learning objectives.
Imagine you want to create a simulation for sales training. The first step the salesperson must accomplish is to establish rapport with the prospect. A traditional simulation would involve displaying the learning objectives, and then introducing the “initial conditions”—the beginning state of the simulation. During the “establish rapport” step, the learner completes an action or makes a decision. But how do you storyboard this? Often this is where instructional designers end up creating multiple choice selections, where the learner receives remediation and is either directed to the correct choice or remediated and advanced automatically.
This single path experience is easier to design, but often does not truly reflect a real-world scenario (Figure 1). Without some degree of multipathing, the learner never really experiences the consequences of his or her actions. The objective of this type of simulation becomes merely selecting the correct answer to each prompt.
Figure 1: A single-path experience is easy to design, but it often doesn’t resemble what happens in the real world
Based on the Freytag pyramid, the story arc simulation model is the basic model for dramatic storytelling (Figure 2). The pyramid begins with an inciting incident: Something happens to establish the action. At that point, there is conflict that leads to crisis, and then there is a resolution. Since Aristotle’s Poetics, this structure has been the basis for storytelling for the last 2,400 years.
Figure 2: The Freytag pyramid describes the usual structure for dramatic storytelling
In her book Resonate, Nancy Duarte also refers to the Freytag pyramid. But instead of inserting story into the arc, as her sparkline model does, the story arc simulation model creates story through a series of interactive scenes. Each scene involves one or more objectives, and the decision points create the arc of the simulation.
Here, the sales simulation story begins with an inciting incident. Your prospect is resistant. You sense that they are in a hurry and not really interested in your product. What do you do? The learner needs to address the conflict by making a decision that will result in consequences.
Instead of thinking of the simulation as a series of possible steps, actions, and algorithms, think instead of scenes. Imagine a situation that demonstrates the objective in the real world. If we’re in scene 1, a salesperson could overcome this resistance and establish rapport. Or they could rush past this step to the sale and lose the prospect’s interest.
Knowing these outcomes, you create a Freytag pyramid for each of those objective-driven scenes (Figure 3). On the resolution side of the pyramid, you would write three different endings. To control the number of paths, you might create an effective response, a bad response, and an average response path. In some cases the bad response may result in the prospect losing interest and throwing the sales person out of the office. Great! In that simulation, you’ve created a path where learners can apply the objectives and experience the consequences in a real-world way.
Figure 3: In the story arc simulation model, the designer creates multiple endings for each scene, showing each of several possible resolutions
If you think of the simulation in terms of dramatic scenes, rather than a series of steps, it’s easier to design the simulations. Each path could take you to different versions of the simulation. While this type of multipathing does take more time, designing by the scene is a much easier way to storyboard truly effective simulations.
If you’ve been a member of the association universe very long, there’s no doubt you understand the importance of member engagement. The Decision to Join study showed that the more engaged a member is, the more likely they are to register for events, renew their membership, volunteer their time, etc. As more and more membership organizations have come to value member engagement, more emphasis has been put on the association’s return on engagement (ROE).
But does that mean associations shouldn’t be concerned with the return on investment (ROI) for their efforts in social media, on their website or blog and in their online communities? And if ROE and ROI are both important measures of success, how do you increase your return? These are the questions I hope to answer for you today.
It is my belief that “if you engage them, the return on investment will come.” But let me first explain some things about ROE. Unlike ROI, where the goal is to show immediate sales or profit from every marketing spend, the goal of ROE is more long-term. The goal is to grow your community, strengthen loyalty, create an unbreakable bond with the association, and a desire for the member to refer your association to others.
The first step towards your goal of increased ROE is deciding how your association defines “engagement.”
a. Liking/sharing/promoting your content on social media?
b. Frequenting your website or commenting on your blog?
c. Participating in and contributing to your online community?
d. All of the above?
Generally, associations use these three channels to drive engagement:
1. Social media
2. Website or blog
3. Online communities
And with proper management and execution, associations can show a positive return on their investment for the human, capital and technological resources needed to run them. Here’s how:
ROE Tips for Your Social Media
Social media is everywhere; it’s the fastest, broadest form of member outreach and often a gateway for prospective members to learn about your association.
How you engage on social media is determined by your association’s goals, this of course goes back to ROE and ROI. Here are some practical tips for keeping current and prospective members engaged on social media:
1. Post regularly. You can’t engage only sometimes. Be consistent and you will see results. Think your members aren’t on social media? You’re wrong. More than likely, if you’re having trouble getting members to engage, it’s because you aren’t posting anything worth liking, commenting on, or sharing.
2. Post images and video, even if you are sharing a blog post or article, attach an image. A photo is worth 1000 words and can engage your audience more than any plain text can.
3. Post fresh, unique content. Stale or widely circulated content isn’t very engaging, give your audience timely, relevant content they haven’t seen before.
ROE Tips for Your Website or Blog
Think of your website as a destination for members and ask yourself, “If I were a member, would I be interested in this content?” Wouldn’t it be awesome if members were so engaged that they made your association website their homepage – a part of their daily routine, or even subscribed to your RSS?
Educational resources help further the mission of your association by providing members with valuable, industry or trade specific tips or training. A blog, like this one, is a great way to keep members engaged and share useful tips and tricks of the trade.
One idea would be to have a “Dear [Association Name]” feature every week that aims to answer common industry questions or issues. Get members involved, encourage them to submit questions and even help answer questions from their peers. Guest blogging is also a great way to involve your members. Many members have years of experience and feel they have a lot to share with the community, give them a platform! Just make sure you have a comments section enabled and social media share buttons are in place.
Need another idea for adding fresh content? Feature a Member Spotlight each week about a volunteer or active member’s involvement and role in the association. Better yet, share a short, casual video interview with the featured member. This is a prestigious position for the member being featured and entertaining to the viewers. For more advice, Wild Apricot published an article on Tips for Building Membership Engagement that includes resources for developing fresh content.
Overall, the key to ROE is starting conversations. Focusing only on ROI won’t get you nearly as far with current and prospective members. Instead, invest in engagement. Focus on engaging members and constructing an active community of members; the referrals and renewals will follow. Speaking of community, stay tuned for our upcoming blog post on online communities. It’s easy to subscribe below.
Technology is truly beginning to transform what learning is. If you’ve attended any of the many eLearning or training & development conferences, you know there is a lot of buzz around augmented reality, immersive learning simulations, serious games and social learning applications. While we believe these technologies are already bringing seismic changes to the learning landscape, we need to remember not to maroon the traditional learner.
If you’ve seen the film “Castaway” with Tom Hanks, you remember his frustration at being forgotten and alone on a desert island in the Pacific. He started talking to a volleyball he called “Wilson” to help cope. In this sea of complex new learning strategies, more traditional learners need to have their preferences addressed too. They should have someone who understands their situation, a “Wilson.”
Here are four tips on how to help make your eLearning friendly to traditional learners:
Trying to learn new information while learning how to use a new program makes both tasks more difficult. This may be especially true for older learners who may not feel comfortable with technology to begin with. Providing simple instructions on how to navigate the eLearning course can make traditional learners more open to the learning itself. So definitely include a: “How to move around in the course” section every time.
Also, having responsive support to answer questions and help troubleshoot can go a long way toward minimizing user frustration. Will the learners know who to contact if they’re having trouble? Make sure this is clear.
Employ Accessible Design
Traditional learners may also be older learners, and may have physical limitations, such as hearing difficulties or trouble with their vision. The National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine (NIA/NLM) has created a set of technical guidelines for making information technology usable by older adults. Among the considerations are consistent placement of navigation aids and screen structure, reducing the need for scrolling, the use of reader-friendly fonts like Helvetica in 12-24 point size, and avoiding the placement of blue and green design elements near one another. Take a look at the guidelines. It’s a nice checklist during design to make sure you’re accommodating everyone.
Traditional learners value the ability to work at their own pace. They can learn just as well as members of other age groups, but they tend to like learning at their own pace. As a result, they’re more likely to prefer self-paced, asynchronous learning. They also will be more likely to want to acutally read material! So, providing printable versions of the course content can be a great learning aid for them, too.
Explain the Benefits
Older adults are more likely to use a new piece of technology, such as eLearning, if they can see the benefits. It’s a good rule of thumb for any learning, but traditional learners want context. Let them know when and how the new skill or information will be used, and how it relates to information the learner is already familiar with. They want to know why they’re supposed to learn something new, not just what they’re expected to learn.
Traditional learners aren’t that different from other learners. They like to understand how to use the technology. They want an experience that accommodates, based on the physical limitations we all face as we get older. And they want to know the context for the learning. By slightly adjusting our instructional design approach, we can easily make sure not to abandon a major segment of our learning community.
Try these simple tips to design your eLearning for traditional learners, so you can get on board with their learning, rather than stranding them on some uncharted isle!
I recently earned my undergraduate degree in history before coming to join the team at Digitec Interactive as a Writer and aspiring Instructional Designer. Interestingly, I’ve had several people comment on how strange it is that I’m working “in an unrelated field.” But the transition to eLearning seemed natural to me, almost as if I’d been studying it all along. In some ways, I was lucky.
Many Millennials, like myself, don’t realize that there’s often a huge gap between the content they learn in college and the skills they need to succeed in the workforce after graduation. The content (the concentration or major) is the aspect of a college education that Millennials seem to fixate on. It’s often the major factor that guides graduates’ job hunts and further education. The skills acquired along the way, the “how” someone got their degree, seem almost invisible by comparison. For example, the careful research, organization of ideas, detail-oriented revisions, and time management that produce a quality term paper can be applied to more than just the content of that assignment. These benefits are underrated. They can open a wider range of opportunities than the content of a degree can on its own.
Joining a trade association or professional society is one avenue for helping realize those opportunities. But my college’s Career Services department never mentioned them to me. I didn’t know anything about associations, let alone that many of them offer certifications in areas I’m interested in. Think about it as a recent graduate; a certification is a lower-cost way to enhance my resume and complement my existing education while providing the immediate knowledge needed in a specific field. There’s even a section for adding certifications to your profile on LinkedIn! If a senior or recent alumnus finds a topic that grabs their interest, and feels they have the hard skills to pursue a career in it, I would encourage them to join a related association and investigate certification programs, regardless of their college major.
Degrees seem to be a requirement in this day and age, but since so many people have them it can be hard for a recent graduate to stand out. Rather than spending weeks searching for another overly competitive internship, recent grads should join associations that can provide specialty training and help them network.
So, what can associations do to ensure college students and recent grads know they exist and that a membership in a trade association or professional society is a worthwhile next step for job seekers? Offer Student Memberships and make sure you market to Millennials! Shannon Nesser of XYZ University echoes this idea in her blog post, Examples of Successful Student Association Chapters. Shannon explains that associations need to actively recruit generation Y members, before they settle for a job at Starbucks. Unfortunately, a lot of graduates simply don’t know that there are associations for their respective fields, let alone the unique value they can provide to someone entering the workforce. It’s your job to make sure Millenials know your association exists.
According to a 2013 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 52% of associations offer a Student Membership category. This means nearly half of associations are missing out on an opportunity to attract a budding member base, one that represents 30 million students annually. Convinced yet? Here’s a great article on how to develop student memberships at your association and, more importantly, how to keep them for the long haul.
Is your association part of the 52%? I’d love to hear how you market to potential Student Members and engage the ones you have.read more
This week’s post by Jack McGrath is featured as a guest blog post on .orgSource and discusses how associations can leverage the same game mechanics used in the Candy Crush Saga to increase member engagement.
Here is a excerpt:
Many of you are probably familiar with the popular Facebook and PC game, Candy Crush. In fact, since the game gets an average of 45 million people playing it per month and has earned its creators approximately $230 million, there’s a good chance you’ve played it or you’re playing it right now!
So what makes this game so sticky? And what can associations learn from this type of experience that can help us increase member engagement?
1. Unpredictability: We’ve been hearing for years how important consistent branding is. So, it’s ironic that one of the most addictive features of game play is its unpredictability. In great games, we continue playing just to find out what will happen next, even if it’s just a silly animation when we complete a level. So why is this so addictive?
Continued at the .orgSource blog!
The following is a guest post from Tom Morrison, an association CEO, professional speaker and recipient of The Florida Society of Association Executives’ Association Executive Member of the Year Award for 2012. He is passionate about helping associations achieve true transformation for the future and build a REVOLUTION!
These new learning styles are incredible opportunities for your association to create new income streams.
Many associations have printed content, some in book format, a lot in electronic format just lying around. They have videos sitting in a closet. They have PowerPoints that have been used in prior general sessions. They are hosting conferences with no video camera in the room capturing what could be an incredible income stream for their association.
All of the above are pieces to a new revenue model called, “Repurpose, Repackage, Reuse,” to selling knowledge to your members.
Let me give you an example of how this looks in the real world. Our association had a five module course that included a thick 3-ring bound Instructor’s Guide, five student handbooks and written tests. The thick Instructor Guide was OVERHEADS! Yes overheads.
This program sat dormant for 2 years with none sold. Then, one day the light clicked on. We began to ask the famous… “What if we….?” The “what if we” was, what if we converted the overheads to PowerPoint? What if we partnered with one of our industry professionals to create 2 hours of video for each module to take the teaching out of the member’s hand? What if we also gave an option for members to take the course online and call it the Qualified Furnace Operator Program?
One thing led to another and within a few weeks, we had everything we asked for: A totally repackaged product that started selling like crazy in both print and online. The print version sold for $1,200 while the online version sold for $1,000. Within just a couple of weeks, we sold $20,000 of the printed version with many others taking the course online through our subscription program.
The key to the whole innovation was inventorying our content and then starting to ask… “What if we….?”
The next bit of innovation was purchasing a $300 HD camera and a tri-pod. We began to take it with us to all of our regional conferences and videotaped our sessions with the approval of our speakers in our agreements. Most speakers were industry professionals and wanted the exposure. We then began to build our online content, one live meeting at a time. Now we have over 200 hours of content and over 350 courses being taken each month. This has lead to an annual income stream of over $100,000 in just seven years.
And that content makes us money for as long as we can deliver it effectively.
“Small firms” like Boeing, Eaton Corporation and FedEx are all clients to our online learning center. We finally found the golden nugget that pulled the big companies into our membership space.
By repurposing, repackaging and reusing content, it has enhanced our member engagement and increased our revenue per member from $1,500 in 2006 to $2,200 in 2013. With our size membership, that was another $180,000 a year. That is 100 new members we did not have to recruit! That was huge!
Remember this… it is more cost effective to convince your current members to spend their money on meaningful programs than it is to recruit new members.
In closing, I would encourage anyone reading this post to do the following:
1) Inventory your current content or print, electronic, Power Point presentations and videos
2) Inventory your meetings of all types and determine which you could record
3) Seek out industry professionals who could put video to your printed content and PowerPoints
4) Brainstorm an industry certificate program that members receive when they complete “x” number of training hours
5) Most importantly… get your team together with all this information and then start asking the question: “What if we…(insert idea)?”
Education and training, done right, can be like printing money for any association.
Join me and Digitec Interactive President and Creative Director, Jack McGrath, for 6 Steps to Printing Money at Your Association with eLearning, a free Webinar October 15, 2013 2:00-3:00 PM EST. Start your printing press today.read more