Member associations: how are you enabling community participation?

What do your members care about?

“People buy why you do things, not what you do,” ~ Simon Sinek, TED speaker (2010). Community engagement leads to more memberships, but more importantly, it leads to gaining a better understanding of what people want from your organisation and how you can deliver that.

To create value for you members, how is your organisation acting as a platform for community participation? Or to engage in conversations and activities that are important to them?


Australians are the most prolific users of social media in the world. More than half of Australia’s population – 13,500,000 use social media every week. The favourite platforms are Facebook (11.5m Australian users), YouTube (11m), LinkedIn (2.4m), Twitter (2.1 m) and Instagram (1.08m).


The days of being limited to an Internet cafe or desktop PC are over. Most of us use a personal smart phone to stay updated on social networks at work and at home. More than three quarters of Australians who access the Internet do it with a smart phone. Most smart phone users (90%) in Australia use them while working. Researchers have even dubbed this  with a new apt pseudonym: BYOD (bring your own device). This opens doors for us to stay ‘connected’ 24/7. As the Internet and social media live in our back pocket, those people who don’t have desk jobs or previous exposure to online technology in their day to day lives through work, now do.

Social media has become a priority channel for politicians and media. There are 99 Australian MPs are using Twitter to talk policy. Journalists are using Twitter to source stories with 478 Australian Journalists currently known to be active users. LinkedIn has become critical to the white collar professional acting as a search engine optimised CV and calling card with visible links to your colleagues and business partners and a tool for reputation management based on skills endorsements and testimonials from your online connections.

The nitty gritty for member associations and social media.

In member associations, community is everything. Individual members represent strong word of mouth networks of like-minded stakeholders. Who are they? What do they care about and how can you enable them to participate  in community activity and engage with one another?

For instance, they may gather together in issues-based discussion groups on LinkedIn. If they are a sports member base, they may meet every month at the pub to talk about football. Sticking with the sports theme, club members may use social media to coordinate pre-season drinks or fundraising events, organise a lift or car pool to a game or give feedback to your organisation on something they’re not happy about.

Your colleagues, strategic partners and members are having ongoing conversations online (and off!) to discuss issues that are pertinent to your organisation right now. You may belong to some of them yourself. Take Women in Sports Enterprise (WiSE), for example. As a Melbourne based network of women who work within the sports industry, WiSE share ideas and discuss issues using a LinkedIn public group as their forum. WiSE also hold an annual conference – a great chance to connect face to face and solidify relationships established online.

The key is to first find out who is in these networks (your audience) and where they go to communicate with one another. Your role as an organisation catering to a membership base is to shift the conversation towards participation and create a space for sharing. Useful, timely or topical content that is aggregated or creating specifically for these networks is the approach that we use at Ellis Jones and it has proved shareable and effective for growing audience reach time and time again.

Contact us for more information about online engagement or check out some of our recent work in this area.

Image credit: JNFerree