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Higher Logic Blog

Why Your Online Community Needs the Board of Directors

What’s the one thing almost all associations have in common? It’s formal volunteer leadership programs. Volunteer leaders are highly visible, engaged MVPs in the association, lending credibility and encouraging other members to attend events and participate in activities. There are volunteer trainings, guidelines and formal committee structures and procedures, all of which boost the program’s credibility and desirability; members aspire to join the ranks of these MVPs.

The Community Roundtable recently released its 2014 State of Community Management report. You can read the full report here(link), but Joe Rominiecki makes a really good point in this article in today’s Associations Now(link) about how two parts of the study are particularly relevant to associations: leadership involvement and CEO participation.

The Community Roundtable report findings show that, among communities with formal leadership programs, 71 percent can measure the community’s business value. Only 33 percent boast the same among those without formal programs. Interestingly, while hundreds of associations have successfully launched private communities, the governance structure that exists for other parts of the association is still primarily absent from the community.

A topic of frequent interest and debate among Higher Logic clients is the auto-login feature. Auto-login embeds a user’s credentials into community discussion group emails, enabling users to click on links in emails generated by the community platform to engage in the community site without having to manually login.

Many community managers think it’s a great idea, especially when they’re looking at migrating a community that has “lived” on and communicated via a listserv for years, and they’re worried about the barrier of requiring users to visit a website to participate in the community. However, the issue isn’t totally black and white; there are definitely some risks involved with auto-login. If you’re debating about whether or not to enable auto-login for your online community, here are some pros and cons to think about.

  • Auto-login lowers the barrier to participation. Especially in the association space, the concept of an online community is nothing new; it’s just the format that’s new. Listservs have been one of the most popular benefits for many associations for years, because of the ease of use and low barrier to entry, since members are able to interact with each other via email. Especially when a community is migrating from a listserv to an online community software platform, auto-login can greatly ease the transition from old to new. It can really help mitigate users’ reluctance to log in to the site every time they visit, and we’ve seen community sites falter, if not fail, because the org didn’t enable auto-login.

When organizations launch a new private online community that includes a member directory feature, one of the big questions that always comes up is whether or not to automatically include all members, or require individuals to "opt-in". Privacy is a big concern these days, so it’s understandable that associations want to give members complete control over whether or not they're included in a member directory. However, asking members to opt-in just doesn't work. Success rates will be much higher using automatic enrollment with the option to opt-out, versus asking users to opt-in.

Granted, this evidence is from a Vanguard analysis of 401(k) plan enrollments, but I think it’s a pretty good bet that similar behavior could be observed in members of an online community. The Vanguard analysis

What happens when a member posts a negative or inflammatory comment in your online community? Having negative comments, or "detractors," in your community is not a bad thing; in fact it’s a great opportunity for an organization to demonstrate transparency and a culture of openness. There's a saying, “The conversation is happening whether you’re listening or not.” If a member voices a concern related to the profession/industry, or even about the organization itself, the odds are that other members have similar thoughts. It’s best to address concerns head-on and open up a dialogue about the issue. Although after looking at the moderation analytics from over 400 organizations representing over 100,000 communities, it actually appears to be a fairly infrequent scenario.

Detractor Considerations:

  1. Unlike LinkedIn, most professional private communities are by their very nature “private” and made up of industry professionals, who usually join the organization to network, learn and share with other like-minded individuals that have been vetted by a membership application process.

This is a guest post by Evan Hackel, Founder and Principal of Ingage Consulting

Franchisee Proactively Recommends Franchise SystemFranchisee Proactively Recommends Franchise System

I recently conducted a study with the Franchise Business Review, which polled 24,000 franchises and 300 franchise brands. We asked, “What is the root cause of your engagement issue?” and one of the most common responses was ineffective communication. Communication is vitally important as a way to keep franchisees focused on executing goals, staying focused, and avoiding repetitive messaging. I’ve compiled five tactical tips that can help franchises stick to their business models, communicate well with audiences, and embrace engagement.

Tip #1: Your Audience

Why do they care and what’s in it for them? Make sure you are developing a relationship among your management, franchisee, and employees, so that you are all on the same page about how to keep your audience engaged.


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