An education session I attended at the recent ASAE Membership, Marketing, and Communications Conference had a fun way of discussing the different types of digital personalities we interact with online. While the session (hosted by Jeff De Cagna of Principled Innovation and Maddie Grant of Social Fish) focused on ways membership staff could boost engagement, it got me thinking about how an association's publication and media staff could play a role in engaging these members.
Here are the three types of digital members we discussed, along with some of my thoughts on how a publication could build a relationship with them. What other digital personalities do you see in your association? What strategies have you developed for engaging them?
The Engaged Non-Member. This digital personality is a non-member who interacts with important stakeholders in your organization, but isn't yet a member. In the education session, participants brainstormed ideas like offering short-term trial memberships or introducing them to an existing member who can speak to the value of the association.
But engaged non-members can be a great resource for association publications. Are your association's social networks like Facebook and Linkedin open to the public? If so, allow these engaged industry professionals to drive conversation and discussion in the forums. They'll help make these discussion sites a more valuable resource by encouraging more responses, and in turn, the non-member may learn about some of the valuable networking opportunities your association offers. I also find it's helpful to talk with non-members who are engaged in my association's industry to ask for story ideas. They'll often come up with compelling ideas along with potential sources—many of whom are members we can feature in our publication.
The Digital Extrovert. This is the digital personality who is at her best in the online world, whether she's coming up with great ideas on her blog, posting a provocative note on LinkedIn, or networking with other members on Twitter. Participants at the conference recommended using the digital extrovert to spread the word on grassroots advocacy or reach out to new members online. But these members also make great contributors to your association's publication—both in print and online. If the digital extrovert in your industry is a prolific blogger, would she be willing to post her blogs on your site to gain influential readership? Would she be willing to act as a conversation starter in your online community? Or could any of her thoughtful commentary be repackaged in your print magazine? Content that provokes interesting debate on a blog may be just as stimulating as a bite-sized department item.
The Lurker. By now, most of us have heard of the 1-9-90 rule that says 90 percent of an online community is the "audience,” a group that prefers to read and observe but not contribute. These members may simply want to engage in their own way, on their own time. Give them easy ways to contribute. Offer quick polls or allow them to rate comments or documents on your community site. These are quick, unobtrusive ways members can lend their expertise without committing too much time. And while these members may not be ready to offer their opinion, they are paying attention to what you have to say. Make the most of their interest by using pieces of your articles in different ways across different forms of media. One piece of the article might make for an interesting discussion topic on Twitter; another might be a useful resource on your community site; another could be expanded into a multimedia resource on your website. Finally, acknowledge that lurkers are present and let them know their comments are welcome. Who knows, they could become your next digital extrovert.
What are the digital personalities you've encountered?
Jeffrey Lee is manager of communications, National Apartment Association and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee. Follow Jeff on Twitter.