We talked about the importance of making a plan to keep up with technology. Now we’re going to help you do it.
by Chloe Kilmartin
The foundation of every successful plan is solid information. Without this, a plan has only luck behind it, even if the other techniques used to make it are sound. As a result, the data-gathering phase of making your digital strategy will receive the most focus here. The other aspects are important, of course. But in addition to being subessential, they’re also less generally applicable. This post aims to be a springboard from which any association can find out how to get the information that will suit it best.
So, let’s talk about the climate of technology as it relates to associations. It’s complicated. But understanding it is important for effective planning, so we’re going to break it down. Each of the levels we’re going to be using refers to a different trend that organizations have been following at different points in recent history. The reason we’re listing them as levels and not, say, bullet points with equal weight is that the order is important. It’s impossible to have the latter ones without the foundation built by the formers. In order to pass each level, an association must be well-established in its online:
Presence: Level 1
Uses digital tools to improve communication with members
People can find out most of what they need to know about becoming a member online
Content: Level 2
Conferences’ value carries beyond their durations
Digital content is available; members benefit from events even when they can’t attend
Engagement: Level 3
Virtual audience feels included and important
Digital events are just as much of an experience as physical ones
Most associations today have already completed level one. If your organization already has an app or is using technology to handle things like membership, event registration, newsletters, and CE credits, then congratulations! You can probably skip to the next section.
If not, then the truth is that you’ve already fallen behind. Now, don’t panic—the situation isn’t beyond hope. But you’re catching up, not keeping up. Luckily, the advice we have for you is simple: just start to incorporate the previously-mentioned technology. While the details of actually causing this to happen are no easy task, our advice on planning it is somewhat one-size-fits-all: just do it!
Level two is where this really turns into a game of strategy. There are a number of different methods that will create varying success depending on the specific circumstances. However, there are several basic steps to planning that are the same no matter what the situation is. Here are the top three things you need to identify in order to create your digital strategy:
The value of your content
Recognize the value of your content.
Pretty much all content has inherent value. Every day, people live out stories that would have great cultural impact were they ever published. But since condensing people’s stories into a readable format is a demanding task, countless powerful stories never reach public awareness.
However, it takes much less work to adapt something from one already-condensed form to another. Conferences are already a neatly-packaged goldmine of high-value content. Associations spend months upon months investigating which topics are most important, finding the right people to present them, and tweaking every detail. Why? To ensure that their event provides the best experience possible.
That’s why it’s such a shame that many associations don’t record them. The benefits of the experience are only ever going to reach those who were there.
Reach your audience.
“Who has access to my content?”
“Who is my content most valuable to?”
“How can I best bridge the gap between the two?”
These are the next questions you need to be asking. For associations that haven’t passed level two, the answer to the first question is probably pretty straightforward. It’s their members who physically attend conferences. Now, we’ve talkedbefore about the reasons people have for not doing so. The point is, there’s not usually a lot of overlap. So, how can you fix this?
You could take the approach of making it easier to attend conferences physically. Lower ticket prices, try and work out a deal to get coupons for travel and lodging, time it when people are likely to be free, that sort of thing.
Those things might, depending on your situation, be a good idea anyway. But they’re unlikely to be as inexpensive or as impactful as making your content available online.
Identify your goals.
The main goal of most associations is to benefit a specific population united by an interest or professional skill. This is admirable, but not very actionable. In order to know how to move forward, it’s best to work toward something more specific. For example, let’s say you’re focusing on expanding your audience to a specific number. There are a number of options that might help with that:
Of course, this requires having those recordings on hand. But some of our clients have had great success with offering access to entire conferences that are several years old as a perk of membership. On the less extreme end, some have a few sessions available to the public for free. Others offer the ability to purchase individual sessions with a member discount.
Giving people free access to events as they occur is a great way to draw them in. If your organization lacks the funding to do so, consider searching for a company willing to pay for it. Our platform is ideal for a sponsorship, working in advertisements effectively but unobtrusively.
Alternatively, let’s say your goal is to increase revenue. What can you do?
A simple but surprisingly effective method. We’ve talked before about why setting the price of virtual event tickets equal to physical ones works. This method also tends to boost physical attendance in future years, and is therefore a pretty good pick for your marketing dollars.
Once you’ve captured an event, there’s more you can do with that footage than just offer it on demand. We’ve established again and again that people tend to choose simultaneous learning over self-paced. And since the bulk of the content is already there, you can focus on the details to make it even more desirable. Interviews between sessions and the ability to send in questions can make it extra engaging.
Engagement is of course an important topic when it comes to making your digital strategy. However, it’s distinct enough that it really deserves a post of its own. Join us next time to learn about the “Top 5 Ways to Engage Your Virtual Audience!”