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Associations should ‘be warned’ if avoiding 365 communities

Associations who avoid creating an online community for its members should “be warned”, according to an industry leader.

Damian Hutt, executive director of the Association of Association Executives (AAE), told how some organisations with up to 30,000 people signed up could lose out to Big Tech players on gaining insights.

This exclusive Transformation Stories interview also details how “every association ought to have a community” – with personalisation being a key feature of event tech to innovate with.

He told ExpoPlatform: “If you’re not having an online community in your association, be warned – because a commercial organisation will come and create one in your field. 

“Every association ought to have an online community. You need an online community and you need multiple sub-communities.

“We have communities of associations in Africa, in India, in Hong Kong. We have them from the UK, we have just European associations. We have communities of trade association CEOs.

“These are subgroups – not specialist groups per se – but they do have so much in common that make them sub-communities.”

Damian added: “There are examples of associations with over 30,000 members saying they didn’t need to create a LinkedIn group, for instance. “Then when it grew to about 15,000, they changed their mind.”

A 365 community allows associations to engage with members year-round, adding value to its offering and helping with things such as career professional development (CPD).

Part of building this year-round model is to create a sense of belonging around a common interest or common purpose – something these membership organisations already have.

Events remain a powerful tool to bring people together, but they are not the whole picture. 

Members also need to keep those relationships alive all year long and digital platforms offer a way to do that.

A 365 approach can be a major source of competitive advantage, building trust around your association. 

That is one reason Damian believes these should not be built on social media platforms, with another being the ability to gain real insights into your membership.

Damian, who is an expert contributor to the latest Community Blueprint, said: “It’s unwise to grow such a community on something like LinkedIn or Facebook.

“You need to have your own online community where you can analyse what’s happening – where you can get a real understanding of what your members are talking about and what their challenges are so you can then provide the solutions to that. 

“This needs to be all year round. You’ll see when you link it in with your events – your supplier directory and your exhibitors – they’re really pretty much the same. It’s going to be quite normal.”

AAE supports association executives to increase the value and effectiveness of membership, events, products and services.

It also works to boost the strength and influence of their organisation, as well as their personal and professional skills and competencies. 

Members include executive heads, CEOs, senior Executives and managers from professional, scientific, learned and business associations, societies, federations, councils, chambers and other membership organisations.

Meanwhile, Damian believes event tech will see strong innovation around personalisation of online activities for individual members.

That includes tailoring content around interests, positions, locations and more.

Content is the lifeblood of any community as it is where an association makes its value proposition real every day – with new useful content to engage its membership. 

This is what keeps social media channels active and engaging, it’s what makes email newsletters get opened and it’s what starts to pull in new members through search engines.

Damian said: “A really important part of technology is personalisation. This means that for example, the website – everything from the homepage to other pages could be personalised.

“That mustn’t exclude other content that you find in a serendipitous way, but you need to have personalised and certain context of international associations.

“You may have a lot of members who want to see things that are local to them or relevant to them – especially when you’ve got segmented groups.

“We as an organisation have what we call business member organisations or trade associations. 

“We have individual member associations, we have federations and associations, we have European and international and other groups. 

“So we need to personalise content that is specific to those different groups of our members and of course, also their job function and job level. 

“This is something where personalisation is important – if you’ve got these different groups, these different segments, these different personas – it enables you to grow more to provide more relevant content.”

He added: “This is going to be a very, very big thing.”

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it useful. At ExpoPlatform, we want to help you build better events and communities. Please get in touch and ask for a demo here. Thank you 😀