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Activating Community Engagement with AAE

Associations, Community Strategy // All communities need strategies, but every online community needs its own unique strategy. Hear how the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) approaches getting their audience engaged.

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Engagement doesn’t happen on its own. That’s why growing healthy member engagement in your online community requires planning. In a recent episode of Higher Logic’s Member Engagement Show, we heard from some association communication pros about how they approach member engagement in their online member community.

The Guests

Names: Kim FitzSimmons, Natalie Hughes

Who They Are: Kim is Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), and Natalie is their Integrated Marketing Manager. AAE is a global resource for knowledge, research, and education for the profession, members, and public. Endodontists specialize in saving teeth, armed with additional training and specialized techniques & technologies. Fun fact: All endodontists are dentists, but less than 3% of dentists are endodontists.

How to Reach Them: Kim’s LinkedIn, Natalie’s LinkedIn.

Episode Takeaways

Best Advice from Kim and Natalie:

An often-underused means of getting members engaged in the community is to gamify experiences there. It helps activate new voices, add unique content to the discussion forum, and drive member action. We’ve involved the community in a virtual walking challenge where if members post to a specific thread, we award them bonus steps towards that challenge. We’ve also tried some giveaway threads that encourage members to take action for a chance to win something. It starts with telling your community manager what action you’d like members to take, then brainstorming ideas for how to execute it, including how to use list building or automation or email triggers. You learn and iterate with gamification. Not everything’s going to be wildly successful, but you mix and match content until you find what works for your members.

Their community goals for the rest of 2022

Setting the community up for success with goals and planning. That’s critical to how well the community runs and how it’s received. We go through a strategic planning process involving the community manager, some community volunteers, and a few super users. We also include association staff from across departments. From those conversations, we develop a roadmap to guide our engagement strategies for the year. Right now, that’s focused on diversifying both contributors and content to bring discussions to life. We’re also rolling out new communities for smaller membership segments.

Getting the whole staff to take part in the community

It’s not just the responsibility of whoever’s managing the day to day of the community. Staff is part of the annual strategic planning, and that’s not a one-and-done conversation. We’ve established this roadmap together, and something new we implemented this year is monthly cross-departmental meetings to keep us on that roadmap. Everybody’s bringing the plan to life, and we learn from each other how other teams are using the community to support different initiatives. We’re also using communities this year for committee work between staff and volunteers, which gets staff more comfortable being hands-on with the platform.

How important community is as a member benefit

It’s increasingly becoming a key benefit, and the draw to the community evolves over time. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, we quickly pivoted and launched a COVID community. That met a huge need since our dental specialists were seeing patients at the beginning of the pandemic and needed help from peers on how to treat patients safely. And we were able to quickly share the science that came out and be part of that conversation. Now the conversation has shifted to emerging technologies and the changing landscape of the practice. Those conversations are a draw for members and listening in on them has changed some of our priorities.

Community management mistakes

The biggest mistake we made early on was not defining a moderation process and thinking through code of conduct issues. It’s probably the most uncomfortable part of community management. If you’re working with member volunteers, like we do, asking a member to revise their post because it violates this or that standard is uncomfortable. There needs to be a plan and process for everyone to understand what happens when certain issues arise. And once you have the plan in place, you can’t be afraid to stick to it.

What to do with shy community members

We’re thrilled they’re there! We know they’re logging in and our daily digests have strong open rates. That tells us our members, even if they’re not actively posting, are finding value in the content and community. But we’re always working with our community manager to find tactics that get new voices posting. You never know what’s going to convert somebody from reading to replying, or even starting a thread. We have to create a space where some of our more shy members don’t feel there’s a big commitment so they can dip their toe in the water at their pace.

“I really wish we could…”

Get more organic involvement from our super volunteers, making them feel more comfortable. They’re really busy. They’re great about getting involved if we ping them, but we want them really comfortable sharing their great work with the association. I really wish we could make every member feel empowered to post to our community. Some may not feel like they have nothing to add, but this space is for them. That’s part of the work we’re doing with our content engagement strategies, making sure all members feel welcomed and empowered to contribute.

Listen to the full episode on the Member Engagement Show.

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