If most of your community members sit at the same desk for the better part of the day, looking at the same platforms on the same device, their online community engagement patterns may be a bit predictable. It might be easier to build strategies around how to deliver messaging to them, what kind of messaging, and at what times.
But today, how people do business has changed. And what about members who don’t have desk jobs?
Community members are on the go. Maybe they are in the office. But even then, they might not be at a desk or using a desktop. They may be on an iPad or phone in the lounge, lobby, or outdoor commons area. They might be at the office, but running in and out, interspersing personal errands as needed. Maybe they’re working from home, or in their yard or on their deck. Or maybe they’re even part of the digital nomad class, working from Switzerland and alternating three hours of work with two hours of skiing.
The Biggest Mistake You Can Make
Yes, if someone is sitting still in one place on one device, they might engage in an online community more frequently and it might be a bigger part of their daily routine. As much as we’re doing on mobile these days, there are fewer barriers to replying to discussions or uploading materials on desktop.
But the biggest mistake you can make as an association is to think that members will adapt their behavior, or go out of their way, to find, consume, and engage with the messaging you want them to see. It’s you who have to adapt and conform to member lifestyles and their changing ways of working.
Let’s dive into how you can make your online community accessible and easy to engage in.
Three Ways to Help Achieve On-the-Go Community Engagement
1. Mobile is a Must
We’re sure we don’t have to convince you of the rising dominance of smartphones and mobile for both work and entertainment. But what we can do is remind you of the extent to which mobile is participating in the evolution of how work is done in 2022 and beyond.
- There are 6.4 billion smartphone users worldwide, projected to be at 7.5 billion by 2026. What should make that even more impressive to you is the fact that the entire population of the planet is 7.9 billion. (Statista)
- In 2019, the average US adult spent 3 hours and 43 minutes a day on mobile devices.
- At the start of 2015, 31.1% of global web traffic came from mobile. Six years later, it’s 54.8%. And that’s before 5G is dominating the market. (Statista)
So that’s how much the world has gone mobile. Looking at how that is subsequently affecting the workplace:
- 70% of millennials literally feel varying levels of anxiety when they’re away from their phones.
- 60% of the apps employees use at work are work-related.
- 82% of employees keep their phones “within constant eye contact” at work.
- Smartphones account for 70% of total digital media time in the U.S. (Comscore)
You’re getting the picture. Even when you have an image of your member sitting at a desk doing most of their work on a desktop, their phones are right by their side. Every time it lights up or there’s a notification, they’re probably going to stop what they’re doing and look at it.
Here are three ways you can make sure your community is mobile-friendly.
- Make sure your website is designed to be fully responsive. This means when your members look at your website on any one of several devices, of every kind, size, and shape, your site is clean, usable, appealing to the eye, and clear on how to get to specific information. Add the fact that search engines like Google prefer responsive websites, and the issue becomes undebatable.
- Adopt an online community platform with a mobile app. You might think this is an unnecessary luxury. But think about it. Mobile apps have real estate on smartphone home screens that are seen countless times a day, every time the member looks at their phone. Seeing the app icon is a constant reminder of the association, their membership in it, and a prompt to see what’s new in it. Beyond that, many members prefer to interact through apps that were designed specifically for mobile user experiences as opposed to pulling up a web browser on their phone then finding your site, which may or may not work well in the browser. Apps also give you the ability to send push notifications to members who allow them.
- Do both. Today’s members are very used to having choices and determining how to get the most value out of everything they use. The hard truth is, going to your association’s community and engaging with the content there is an option for members. They are not obligated to do it, and only will do it if the experience is to their personal liking.
Higher Logic’s online community mobile app gives your community members multiple ways to participate. In the mobile app, your community users can:
- Browse the feed for latest content
- Filter and search for specific topics
- Participate in discussions by asking or answering questions
- View and RSVP to events
- Upload photos and files to the library
- Create one-on-one connections
- Explore blog posts
- Manage their profile
2. Time Your Posts
At a desk, you have a much better chance of successfully “interrupting” what the member is doing. Maybe they’re bored with what they’re working on. Maybe they’re so good at their job they can see what you’re sending them then go right back to what they were doing without missing a beat. Maybe they perceive reading your material as a “break.”
For mobile members, timing becomes more critical as well as more challenging. When members are on-the-go, that typically also means they’re on-task. More focused. When are such people most likely to log into a community or check email? Use your existing online community engagement data to see when logins spike.
If your best guess or best practices are all you have to work with, then start there. Begin timing your posts to maximize the number of people who will see them. But also, be open to learning that your assumptions are wrong. Your online member community platform should arm you with metrics with which you can start tracking when members are most active based on type of device and adjust distribution accordingly. The point is, today’s mobile workforce is working when they feel they work best, not at pre-determined parts of the day based on old school thinking.
Lastly, you can always put the timing in the individual members’ hands. Have them change their email preferences so they receive emails from the community when they want them.
In Higher Logic’s online community platform, you can give members the ability to choose from real-time emails, daily digests, consolidated emails, or no emails – this helps them decide when and how to stay in touch with the online community.
3. Enable “Reply by Email”
Next to a text message, email stands the highest chance of being quickly seen, read, and replied to. You want to make it as easy as possible for association members to engage through email. What does that look like? Obviously, they can reply to an email they receive, as they would after getting an email from a work colleague. But why stop there? “Reply by Email” can be a prominently visible option that you offer for your online community.
As common as it is to hear people complain about email, nearly everyone uses it. And frankly, most people like it. It’s only the unwanted emails they don’t like. Email is a channel that makes your online community more accessible, and on the terms and platforms members like and are already using. Those platforms have already been pre-customized by the user according to their preferences for things like message layout, inbox columns, filtering and folders, font, sorting, flagging, text to speech, etc.
A good online community platform will not only give you this capability, it will apply targeting and automation for increased message relevancy and likelihood of engagement.
If You Listen, Members Will Tell You Where and How They Work
The above is intended as general guidance. We understand that every community is different, and every membership has traits and practices that are unique to it. There are some who do still conduct most of their work at a desk, on a desktop. There are others who are mostly on mobile, but who prefer to engage with their associations at night, at home, on a laptop. Membership engagement is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
Because of these realities, it’s vital to know your membership, ask them how they want to interact with you, have your technology watch what they do and when they do it, experiment with different communication strategies to see what works best for most members. Then segment and customize messaging from there to fine tune your appeal. You’ll find a community editorial calendar to be very helpful as you work through all this.
Consultant, Strategic Services
Stephanie Salsini is a consultant on Higher Logic’s Strategic Services team. She’s worked here for three years, helping associations of various sizes and industries launch their online communities and migrate their communities from existing platforms. Stephanie hails from Denver, Colorado.
Suggested Higher Logic Posts
3 Automated Email Campaigns Professionals Australia Used to Strengthen Their Association
Associations, Community Strategy // With over 40 diverse member segments, Professionals Australia uses automated email campaigns to recruit, onboard, and engage new members.
Building Buy-In for an Online Community at Your Association
Associations, Community Strategy // Need to pitch community to your association’s board? We’ll walk you through aligning your strategy with their priorities and overcoming common objections.
6 Ways Associations Can Use Webinars to Engage Members and Increase Non-Dues Revenue
Associations, Community Strategy // Discover six new ways your association can use webinars to engage members and increase non-dues revenue during a time of limited face-to-face interaction.