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A Website Shouldn’t Be Your Member Engagement Strategy

There’s a difference between your website being useful and being used.

There’s a difference between your website being useful and being used.

And when it comes to acting as a member engagement platform, wow does it leave a lot to be desired.

Across all of your association’s assets, your website is likely one of your most valuable. In fact, it’s probably hard to imagine existing without one. And while websites are amazing, this often leads us to expect too much from them – especially when it comes to member engagement.

News posts, directories, ancient forum tools, file storage, the list goes on and on. We cram all sorts of features into our site thinking it’ll bring more people to it and keep them coming back. But in reality, all of this leaves us with a complex and unmanageable website that does more to deter use than encourage it.


Why a website is not enough for member engagement

Association Website and Member Engagement

Today's association members expect more than just a website


Don’t get the wrong impression, your website, and everything you’ve invested in it, is likely money well spent. Your site is the digital face of your organization, and it’s the first thing most people will see and use to learn about you.

But your relationship with your members doesn’t end there. You know that.

You need a website to start the relationship, but you need to bring more to the table to keep it going, that’s where member engagement comes in, and where websites struggle.


Why investing in member engagement is worth it

Improving Member Engagement for Associations

Smart member engagement means a better ROI for you, your members, and your sponsors

One of the most common reasons associations double down on their websites for engagement is due to budget. Developing and maintaining a website is costly, and so it only makes sense to work with what you’ve got before investing in another solution for member engagement.

It may sound like the financially prudent choice, but you’re actually leaving a ton of money on the table for your association with this approach. Here’s why:

  • Member engagement is the most important ingredient when it comes to members building a strong connection to your association and renewing – Keeping those renewal numbers up is key to your association’s long-term health. The more connected a member is, the more likely they’ll plan on investing their budget towards remaining a member with you.

  • Done right, it fosters an active community that people will pay just to be a part of – An active community is a valuable resource for your members. A place to find quick answers, collaborate with peers, and build their personal brand gives members an even greater ROI on their membership dues and makes membership with your association a must for anyone in the industry.

  • It creates a centralized community that is extremely attractive to sponsors - Just as events can be a great way to attract sponsors and grow non-dues revenue, an active and engaged member community provides the perfect place to promote products and services and generate new business for your sponsors year-round.


So, what’s wrong with my association's website?

Website Redesign for Member Engagement

Before your next website redesign, consider this


Again, nothing is wrong with your website (probably), but if you’re serious about member engagement, it’s not going to help you enjoy the growth and revenue benefits listed above. Let’s look at why.

  1. Websites are about one-way communication – They don’t offer your members an opportunity to connect and express themselves.

  2. Websites are static – Not much changes day to day. There’s not a lot to come back for.

  3. Websites put all of the engagement work on YOUR plate - Members can’t reach out to each other and collaborate easily via a website. This puts you in the middle when it comes to networking.

  4. Websites are a one-size-fits-all experience - Members can’t tailor what they see on it to their needs. This means there’s a lot of noise they’ll just tune out or be turned off by.

  5. Websites don’t offer members a ROI for their time and engagement - They rarely offer profiles, there’s no way to build connections with other members, and you can’t build your brand on someone else’s site.

  6. Speaking of that, a lot of this applies to social platforms as well - Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups put your association and its members at the mercy of someone else. You don’t control the experience which means you can’t respond to member needs effectively and a million other things are vying for their attention on the platform. This makes engagement that much harder.


Give your members more than just a website

Member Feedback for Association Member Engagement

Consider your member's needs before you commit to your new digital strategy


So, what can you do if you want to get serious about member engagement? Here are three great next steps.

  1. Identify your engagement goals – Sure, you want to drive member engagement, but why? Are you looking to make it easier for members to collaborate with others in the industry on your terms? Want to make daily engagement with your association a priority for your members? Whatever member engagement looks like to you, it’s important to clarify what that is because the tools and tactics you’ll employ may be good for getting certain results than others.

  2. Understand how much time and budget you can afford to invest – No matter how important member engagement is, time and budget will always be a factor. Limited budget but a little more time? Perhaps dipping your toes into social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn might be a good start. Able to spare a little extra and want to preserve your time? A dedicated platform like Tradewing can take on a lot of the work that comes with growing your member engagement while keeping you in control.

  3. Check in with your members – Probably the most important step, your members know best about what their needs are and where you can help them. It’s important to frame this in a way that doesn’t focus them on what they think your association can do for them, but what would make them more successful. By understanding their deeper needs, you can more easily understand that benefits and tools worth adopting.

Few things can provide a better dollar-for-dollar ROI for your association than investing in member engagement. If you want to ensure that your association is able to keep its place at the center of your industry, now is when you should be growing your digital toolbox beyond just having a website. There has never been a better time.

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