Listen to Members. Now Listen to Them More.
Chris Brogan, the General Session speaker on the second day of ASAE's Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference, is a social media expert who cracks a lot of jokes at social media's expense. QR codes are like a "very frustrating crossword." He knows you tend to keep your smartphone by your bedside "as if you were a brain surgeon or a superhero." Pinterest enthusiasts are, as a general rule, interested in "Ryan Gosling's abs, recipes, and updos."
This is the part where I'd usually step back and point out that it wasn't all comedy during Brogan's session. He knows his stuff, and he had useful messages to deliver about online member engagement. For instance: Keep messages short, he said; make them mobile-ready. But you already know all that. I think it's more correct to say that the comedy wasn't a sideshow to his message but the message itself, because the place where associations tend to struggle when it comes to member engagement involves cultivating emotional bonds. And if more associations concentrated on strengthening those bonds, they'd spend less time wondering why their "Please RT!" strategy isn't taking off so well.
"Create interesting, organic information that people are going to share with other people," Brogan told the audience. The word "organic" is the essential word in that sentence---associations that work to craft messages intended to excite members don't always speak naturally, in a way that members want to hear. Fixing that problem is simple---listen to members and find out what they care about. But Brogan argues that many organizations skip that step. They focus on the CMS or social media tactics before deciding who will be listening to members, how, and how what gets learned gets shared. That, Brogan said, is like buying a car but not bothering to have a windshield installed.
"Talk more about your members than you ever have," Brogan said. "Bring your attention to them." That's good advice, on two fronts. First, it puts the spotlight on members and makes them feel wanted---and feeling wanted, Brogan pointed out, is humankind's biggest need. The second reason it works is that when you talk about members, they talk back, freeing up a dialogue that can give you a clearer picture of what they'll need in a future.