Lunch & Learn Recap: Breaking Through the Digital Clutter

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By Meridian Watters


There’s an attention challenge in the digital era, and as associations, our goal is to break through the clutter to engage members.


As we learned at AM&P’s Lunch and Learn, “Digital Content Challenges for Associations,” strategically leveraging digital tools can help your content get seen to ensure your members feel supported.


A panel of experts moderated by John Bond from Riverwinds Consulting included: Joe Vallina, director of product management at the American Nurses Association (ANA); Larry H. Hoffer, president of the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association (WMIA); and Bibiana Campos-Seijo, editor-in-chief and vice president of Chemical & Engineering News at the American Chemical Society (ACS)


Although each panelist’s association has distinct member needs, technological resources, and staff size, when it comes to making digital engagement decisions, it’s clear they share one common guide: their members.


Here are five check-points to keep your digital content strategy focused on your members.


Are you using the pay wall effectively?

Members-only content is a tangible member benefit and can be a compelling incentive for those who haven’t yet joined. If membership is a revenue driver, make sure you’re striking the right balance with which content — and how much of it — you lock up.


The panel agreed on a 30-70 split between open and closed content. How do you decide what to leave open? First, consult your analytics to see what people are clicking on social media, email newsletters, and your website. Campos-Seijo also recommends reaching out to your audience through phone market research to see what they’re willing to pay for.


But what if most people in the field you represent will become members anyway? That’s the case for Hoffer. Rather than leveraging exclusive content to engage potential members, use it to build a sense of support and community among the members you already have.


Are you creating content that truly resonates?

Paying attention to what your members are paying attention to can spark ideas for creative engagement.


Here are three success stories.

  • Molecule of the Moment: If chemistry is a key player in a popular news story, like the recall of canned dog food, ACS doesn’t hesitate to capitalize on the topic.They share a photo and description of the molecule involved and how it ties into that current event on social media. It’s easy to put together and highly shareable.

  • Member profiles: WMIA knows that community is important to their members. So they feature member profiles on their blog and blast them out in newsletters, which end up being the most trafficked pieces of content.

  • Virtual 5k: Health is a top priority in the nursing community, and it inspired ANA’s virtual 5k. Members enthusiastically participate by tracking their training progress and sharing photos on the platform.


Are you reaching each global segment of your membership?

Finding ways to show you are genuinely respectful of cultural differences and serious about supporting all of your membership communities builds credibility. If you’re a global organization, make sure to talk the talk.


Target geographic regions with surveys in their language through social media and email to learn ways they’d like to be supported. Work with members from those countries to translate articles or, at the very least, have the Google translate plug-in available on all of your website pages.


Are you working too hard (and spending too much money) on content creation?

Expensive studio space is no longer a prerequisite for video and photography. Most phones have extremely high-quality lenses, and you should use them. A brief social media live-stream during an event is an inexpensive way to raise awareness, engage members, and drive traffic.


Furthermore, bring all of your social media teams together for a monthly internal roundtable to share resources and decide what to cross-post on your channels, including older content.


Look for opportunities to create evergreen content. Then resurface it. Two common ways to give content a second life are to incorporate themed call-out boxes in your articles — “Most Read” boxes do particularly well — or link to something previously published in newer articles.


Are you hiring the right people?

Technology will continue to advance, so it’s important to consider whether your organization is equipped for the changes ahead with the right people


Candidates should have broad experience and be willing to wear many hats. And they should be able to showcase the work they’ve already done to demonstrate their skills.


Writing for one medium is over. Think clearly about messaging for each membership segment and decide which channels are appropriate. Get savvy with analytics and learn to draw the right conclusions about what’s truly resonating.


It all comes down to knowing your members.


Meridian Watters is digital editorial specialist for the Society for Neuroscience. Association Media & Publishing thanks Meridian for her stellar job of covering this Lunch & Learn for our members who were unable to attend.



Future Lunch & Learns

The next Lunch & Learn is “How to Manage Content Across Multiple Platforms” on May 3 in Chicago and May 17 in Washington D.C. Find more information on future Lunch & Learn sessions and register online.