ROE vs ROI – A Focus on Engagement

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).Balance of ROE to get ROI

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.”

Is it:

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.


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Sarah Lugo

Digital Marketing Coordinator at Digitec Interactive

A relative newbie to the eLearning scene, Sarah is no stranger to the association and non-profit world. Before joining the “dark side,” Sarah served as a marketing and communications specialist at various organizations including the American Lung Association and the Association of Corporate Contribution Professionals. Today, Sarah serves as Digitec’s Digital Marketing Coordinator or “SM Queen” for short. In her new role, Sarah enjoys blogging, tweeting and sharing membership engagement tips for association professionals. Sarah earned certificates in non-profit and volunteer management as well as a B.A. in media and communications from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL.

Spirit animal: Lion
Diet-breaker: Bacon
Comfort object: Sunglasses
Personal vice: #longhashtags ;)
Useless talent: Can fall asleep in seconds
Unreasonable paranoia: Tsunamis
Wishes more people cared about: Recycling and the environment

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