This is a follow-up post to my recent post on ROE vs ROI – A Focus on Engagement; if you haven’t read it yet, check it out!Online Community Your association’s online community is where your members can engage with not only each other but with your association’s resources.  What are you doing to encourage participation and keep members engaged?

It’s important to look at engagement as the investment as opposed to investing in engagement. Andy Steggles, President and Chief Customer Officer at Higher Logic agrees. I recently reached out to Andy to get his take on return on engagement (ROE) for associations. Here’s what he said:

“Associations tend to identify niche verticals within their organization which might benefit from improved collaboration (committees, events, special industry groups, etc).  We find that organizations that look at engagement more holistically (online & offline engagement as well as Traditional & Micro-Volunteerism) and incorporate these elements into a well-defined strategic plan, recognize better results than those who do not.”

While researching for this post I also came across another great article published in Associations Now a few years back. Many of the ideas presented in ’10 Ways to Engage Members in Your Online Community’ are still extremely relevant. With those in mind,  I decided to compile a few of my own ideas on engaging members in your online community.

1) Post Videos. Videos can say a lot more than a still image. As technology has evolved and become more accessible to the masses, video has taken the place of traditional photography.  Many of the world’s top marketing and engagement strategists are also predicting that video will dominate online content in 2014.

2) Comment Sections. Ensuring members are free to comment on your posts and in your community is an important part of giving your audience a voice. Your online community members should feel heard and have the ability to discuss. If they take the time to comment, ALWAYS respond and encourage further engagement.

3) Identify Leaders. Seek out key members who can help engage others within your community. Encourage them to become leaders and influencers in the online community and reward them for their participation (see tip #4).

4) Reward Participation. Individual recognition is great but rewarding groups of members who answered a poll question or participated in a file drive is an even greater opportunity to build a strong sense of community.

5) Inspire. Not everything your association posts needs to be a question, opinion or informational. Consider sharing inspirational stories or quotes that are RELEVANT to the community or industry.

6) Introduce. When someone new joins the association’s online community one idea is to have a “welcome wagon” that helps introduce the newbies with an informative video on how to get the most out of their interactions. Have a representative of the welcome wagon also take on the task of interviewing new members and introducing them to the group.

7) Sneak Peeks. Feature a sneak peek of an upcoming vlog (video blog, hint hint), a screenshot of a new online course you’re going to offer, or the background information of the keynote speaker for next year’s conference before it’s announced. This is a great way to get members talking, guessing, and gossiping about what the association’s future holds.

8) Measure. Are you measuring your ROE? Community managers often forget that time is money. To keep things in check and on budget, make sure you’re accurately measuring your efforts and the return on investment (ROI).

Ben Martin, Chief Engagement Officer at Online Community Results, explains that “every social media and community manager should be prepared for the day that “the powers that be” question your organization’s ROI from social technologies — and potentially the ROI of your continued employment with the organization. It will be far more compelling to point to dollars and cents than respond with social media dogma like “What’s the ROI of your mother?” The more you can draw a straight line between engagement and revenue, the more compelling your case will be.”

What’s the takeaway? Remember that online engagement is just one piece of the puzzle, define your association’s goals, create a strategic plan, and most importantly, measure your results. Social media, your website or blog, and online communities are just a few of the many ways to increase engagement, and as a result your ROI.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on the importance of data and how associations should be measuring it to calculate their ROI.

Would you like to continue this discussion?