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7 Ways to Increase Member Engagement with Your App - 2/2/2016 -

7 Ways to Increase Member Engagement with Your App

Engaged, active members are more willing to donate their time, talent, and treasure to further your organization’s mission. Here’s how to use a member app to enhance the conversation.

By Andrew Shackelford

A well-developed and marketed app can be a critical tool to drive member engagement. It can help maximize the benefits of renewed membership, enhance volunteerism, increase non-dues revenue, and expand event attendance. So how can an app do all that? Here are seven ways to create an app that helps increase member engagement.

1. Target It
Who do you want using your app? Much of your app’s functionality, user interface, and user adoption marketing are derived from demographics, needs, and behaviors of your target market.

Conventional wisdom suggests that your early app adopter will hail from the younger generations, members who may not yet fully be invested in the association but are loyal to their devices. Creative and marketing software and solutions giant Adobe, Inc., however, suggests an alternate target demographic — one that is not defined solely by age, but by behaviors. These individuals make up approximately 20 percent of the general population and are further along in the mobile adoption curve than the rest of the population.

In their recently released 2015 Mobile Consumer Report, Adobe identifies mobile users:

  • 34 percent are 18–29 years old
  • 36 percent are 30–49 years old
  • 30 percent are 50–64 years old
  • 53 percent are male vs. 47 percent female
  • 1.9 mobile devices used vs. 1.8 for the general consumer
  • More likely to use a smartphone as a primary device

2. Define It
What does increased member engagement look like to your association? Is it revenue-based, showing up in your budget as consistent membership renewals, increased event registrations, or higher product sales? Perhaps it manifests itself in headcount metrics like better committee attendance, more voting at the annual meeting, or higher event attendance?

How your association differentiates itself from its competition plays a big role in designing the core functionalities of your app and increasing member engagement. Do you offer certification or CEUs? Then your app should facilitate registering, paying, and studying for the educational classes. Does your group exist to provide legislative resources and representation? Then your app should be a grassroots organization and mobilization tool. Do you provide best-in-class industry knowledge through publications, blogs, and various media? Your app should be an additional plank in your multi-platform publishing efforts.

3. Separate It
The so-called Mobile Elites are primarily focused on their smart phones, so resist the temptation to develop your app as simply a copy of your website. The extra effort and budget devoted to app development gives your association a fighting chance for their time spent on screen. According to a Nielsen Cross Platform report, mobile users spend the majority of smartphone time in apps: 88 percent of time spent is in apps, while only 12 percent of their time is spent browsing on mobile web.

Your members still connect to and interact with your databases while in an app; with a well-designed interface, you’ll keep them immersed in your brand’s experience longer. Anne Lewnes, senior vice president at Adobe, explains in a recent Adobe blog post that an app’s inherently immersive environment allows organizations to "engage with customers in ways that the mobile web experience can’t.”

4. Simplify It
With professional, personal, and technological distractions plentiful, design your app for ease of use. Keep the following tips in mind to help streamline the user interface and increase engagement:

  • Make it easy: Require only one login and transfer member data throughout the app. Keep forms simple; typing on a smartphone is challenging for many users.
  • Make it clean: Keep the interface simple to use, and avoid flashy (distractive) content and design.
  • Make it short: Monitor the wordcount in your app content; reading lengthy content on smartphones is tiresome. Some experts recommend five paragraphs or less per page.
  • Provide videos for in-depth content: Short videos deliver great volumes of content that would otherwise overwhelm readers in text format.

5. Personalize It
Your members all have one thing in common: your association. Beyond that, each member is different and likely expects a unique experience based on level of engagement and interests. To help increase engagement, create an app that provides personalized interaction based on a member’s individual profile in your membership database.

To those members requesting participation in your legislative efforts, include a grassroots advocacy campaign tailored to your member’s congressional district. For those members who’ve chosen your association for its educational offerings, provide a customized curriculum specifically for their industry or interests.

Don’t forget to include your business development team in your app personalization efforts. Sponsors and underwriters, often also dues-paying members, join specifically to create and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with your active members. Provide and monetize the ability to target specific, opt-in members with sponsor content unique to each member.

6. Gamify It
Gamifying your app means using game mechanics and reward systems like points, levels, challenges, goods, and leaderboards to influence behavior within your non-game app. If your association’s goal is to increase attendance at seminars, keynotes, and tradeshows, consider creating an app with a modern take on the old-school tradeshow scavenger hunt concept. Instead of collecting ribbons at different event venues, your attendee would check-in with their smart phone at the same venues. And instead of an after-hunt prize raffle, your app could tally the check-ins on an in-app leaderboard.

Want to raise the hipness level of your app? Allow attendees to auction or gift their prize winnings to colleagues or clients.

7. Market It
Just because you build it does not mean your members will use it. As with any event, member benefit, or other association differentiator, consistent marketing will be a key factor in member app adoption. Here are five sample steps to app marketing:

  • Set goals: How will you measure success? Set goals for the first 30 days, six months, and 12 months after the launch of your app.
  • Print it: If you have a printed publication, make certain the next few issues have plenty of coverage about your new app.
  • Promote the extras: Inform your audience that extra content and advertiser deals are available in the app. Use in-app push notifications when available.
  • Get social: Nail down your social media strategy, including the wording and timing for your tweets and posts.
  • Click it: Set up Adwords and Facebook ads that drive interested traffic to your app landing page.

Taking the necessary time to understand your market and define your app functionality will prepare you to create a very powerful app. Developing and marketing a downloadable app that is simplified, personalized, and gamified will help you increase membership engagement with your app. Adobe’s Lewnes summarizes, "Once you’ve gotten people to download an app that they’re satisfied with and using regularly, you’ve won.”

A member of Association Media & Publishing’s Content Creation Committee, Andrew Shackelford has worked with and for associations for over 27 years. He has been involved in every aspect of publishing, from designing and writing association magazines early in his career, to later building and managing association publishing teams with responsibility for over 60 different titles. Shackelford joined Walsworth in 2013 as a sales representative.


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