to Increase Member Engagement with Your App
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
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.
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
- More likely to use a smartphone as a primary
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
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.”
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:
it easy: Require only one login and transfer member data throughout
the app. Keep forms simple; typing on a smartphone is challenging for many
it clean: Keep the interface simple to use, and avoid flashy (distractive)
content and design.
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.
videos for in-depth content: Short videos deliver great
volumes of content that would otherwise overwhelm readers in text format.
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
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.
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.
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:
goals: How will you measure success? Set goals for the first 30
days, six months, and 12 months after the launch of your app.
If you have a printed publication, make certain the next few issues have plenty
of coverage about your new app.
the extras: Inform your audience that extra content and advertiser
deals are available in the app. Use in-app push notifications when available.
social: Nail down your social media strategy, including the
wording and timing for your tweets and posts.
Set up Adwords and Facebook ads that drive interested traffic to your app
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.