What Makes a Good Association Website

For associations and other nonprofit member organizations, it is crucial to keep their members engaged and informed through an updated and well functioning, user friendly website. At the same time, the website should also attract potential members – therefore act as a sales tool. To design a website that suits both criteria can be challenging.

Here is what you should keep in mind:

Look & Design:
Make sure your website has a clean look: choose colours and fonts wisely. The days of bright flashing headlines are long gone. It needs to be intuitive and easy to navigate. Keep in mind: when people do not find what they are looking for within 5-20 seconds, they will likely leave the site. User friendliness is key to a successful website. To ensure a good user experience, make sure your menu & navigation bar is well thought through. Areas of the website that your audience visits often, should be easy to find. Make those areas their own menu item.
It is also very important that your site is mobile friendly or responsive, as Internet usage on mobile devices nowadays exceeds the Internet access via computers.

Audience:
Who are you targeting? Baby Boomers, Generation X’ers or Millennials? Do not forget that each generation (age group) uses the internet slightly differently. If you are targeting Millennials for example, be sure your website is connected to all existing Social Media Channels. Millennials practically live on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. However, connecting with others through Social Media might not a priority to your older members. If your organization is formed of members of all ages, targeting your audience might be tricky.

Content:
Make sure you provide relevant content for your members: inform about industry news and changes from around the globe, current stats and predictions, industry influences and maybe even industry history. Do not forget: if your audience has a wide age range, be sure to also make this information available through other funnels: regularly update your Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media Sites with information that link back to your website. The younger generations get almost 100% of their daily information through Social Media.

Call to Actions:
You likely want your audience to take a specific action when visiting your website: Join? Renew? Sign up for an event? Donate? Download industry relevant information?
No matter what it is you want people to do, their eyes always land on visuals. Make your ‘Call to Action’ buttons stand out; do not let them get lost within paragraphs of text. Although the design of your CTA’s should stand out, be careful not to exaggerate. It should be cohesive with your branding.
If you have a white paper, invite your site visitors to download it. The downloaded paper automatically turns into a lead for a potential new member/sponsor, etc.

Build Community:
Besides your common Social Media Networks, consider a ‘members only community’ on your website – it could be a valuable member benefit. Exclusive access to important industry information and expert advice can be one of your top member acquisition and retention tools.
Online communities not only help people connect and stay connected in between events, they can also be the base of discussions and a place for members to seek for advice or help other industry professionals.
Optimize your site:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a very important aspect of a website. Without SEO your website can not be found as easily. And if it cannot be found, it does not exist. Your members may know about you, but what about all the potential members, the potential sponsors?
SEO requires constant maintenance: it’s all about keywords and content. However, social shares, inbound links, time spent on your page and numbers of pages visited all factor into the search equation.
Make sure to use important keywords and phrases people will search for as headlines on your page. Tag your post or the pictures you use in your post with said keywords. Use keywords throughout but do not constantly repeat yourself. Use a variety.
It is also important to add new content to your website regularly. And don’t forget about your audience that spends most of their time on Social Media: drive them back to your website through posts on your Social Media Channels. Lastly – offer quality. Your content needs to be relevant and valuable. Link to other external sites if necessary; hopefully your content will be valuable enough to them to link back to yours.

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How To Engage Your Association Members

The success of an association is based on the strength and satisfaction of its membership. What does your organization have to offer to its members and supporters? Educational and social networking events? A monthly newsletter? Great – but that’s likely not enough to keep your followers engaged. Time to think outside of the box and get creative. Here are a few tips on how to engage your association members better:

1 – Create a Blog: Every successful business has a blog to promote their industry events and discuss the latest industry news. So should your association: a regularly updated blog allows your members and followers to give their opinions and start a discussion with their industry colleagues. Whereas a newsletter only reaches the people in your database, a blog allows you to reach a broader audience. Another benefit: If people find your blog valuable, they can share it to their social media network. And by doing that, they help you increase your followers.

Can’t keep up with the posts? Invite your association’s members, sponsors or other industry partners to write guest blog posts. They will be happy to help if that gives them the chance to showcase themselves or the company they work for. Who does not like some free advertising?

2 – Showcase your members: Feature a “member of the month” on either your website or blog. Allow your members to submit nominations by highlighting outstanding achievements or exceptional contributions within your industry.

3 – Use Webinars & Videos: Engage your members by offering free weekly or monthly webinars. Ask your sponsors and other volunteers to come up with content that is relevant to the membership. Again, it gives industry experts the chance to showcase themselves through your channel.
Do your members need to collect CE credits? Participating in those webinars can be an alternative to visiting your annual conference or continuing education events.
Did you have a great guest speaker providing expert insight at your last event? Video or audio tape his presentation and make it available exclusively to your members in your members-only online portal.

4 – Start discussions on your Social media channels: Use your Twitter and Facebook accounts to spread valuable industry news, but also to get people talking: Ask a simple question, or post an article to trigger a discussion within your audience. Show them that their input and opinion is important to you.

5 – Get personal: This is probably the hardest, but yet the most effective way of engaging your members: pick up the phone and connect with people!
There are a number of reasons to connect on a personal level with your membership or partners: a personal invite to an upcoming event, to congratulate on a member’s work or membership anniversary, to express gratitude and to thank a supporter for their recent sponsorship or donation, a reminder about an upcoming membership renewal, a personal call to someone who has not been to an event in a while or who has not renewed their membership. Making a personal connection is a great way of expressing that you care about your members and partners. And that can make all the difference.

By Patricia Tait, Account Manager

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