How does Web 2.0 impact your association and how can you make Web 2.0 tools work for you to help your membership grow?
In the following interview, Kathryn Lagden, General Manager at AIMS, answers these questions and shares her tips on using Web 2.0 to engage your members - your association's most valuable assets. Kathryn has a wealth of experience in both online marketing and business management. She first experienced AIMS as a member in 1998 when she joined the online world as a Marketing Manager at Mediconsult.com. She is also a guest lecturer at Ryerson University and a member of the Humber College Marketing Program Advisory Board.
Can you begin by giving us a big picture of what AIMS does?nptech nonprofit web2.0
AIMS is Canada's largest Internet association, representing over 5,000 members from a broad range of roles and industries and with varying levels of online experience. From long term internet afficionados to relative newcomers, our members all have the common desire to stay informed and up-to-date with the latest industry developments. Our members include interactive marketers, salespeople, executives, developers, designers, consultants, business owners, and many others. We deliver education, networking, and discussion through events and online community building initiatives.
What are your thoughts and feelings on how associations can/should use social web 2.0 tools?
I think there is a big opportunity for associations to use some of the new web 2.0 tools out there at the moment. They are inexpensive (sometimes even free!) and they focus on helping people connect…which is a goal of many associations. It seems there is sometimes a tendency to view new tools and technology as a threat to existing revenue streams. However, I view it as an opportunity for associations to demonstrate real leadership and pave the way for new business models that provide value to their members and help them connect with each other in new and innovative ways.
How do you engage your members online?
Since we’re an internet association it makes sense that the majority of interaction with our members is online. New or prospective members can find lots of information about us on our website, in fact we don’t even print a membership brochure. Members stay informed of industry and association activities through our newsletter and blog. Members can subscribe to our RSS feed and have news delivered to them every day. Each member has a profile on our website – they choose whether they’d like to display it in the member directory. We don’t print our member directory - it is online and updated in real time. We also have a regular poll as part of our blog and members can join the AIMS Linked In group and display our logo on their Linked In profile.
What tools/systems do you use to attract and engage members? What have you experimented with which did not seem to work? What worked well?
Del.icio.us – on our blog we have a resource of articles and information. We invite our members to use delicious to tag content they think is relevant to the community. It creates an information rich library that is built by the community, for the community. It takes very little time to manage and quickly builds up a lot of topic-specific content. However, it does take time for people to start using a new tool so lots of encouragement and reminders about anything new is a good idea.
Community blog – any of our members can post on our blog. For the association it saves a lot of time not having to write every blog post. Plus, it helps members build a name for themselves and demonstrate their thought leadership.
Website – of course our Wild Apricot website saves me a lot of time as an administrator (and no, I wasn’t asked to include Wild Apricot in this list – I really mean it!). I update the content on our website frequently to keep it fresh and give members a reason to come back.
Meeting Wizard – an online tool that seems like a useful tool for finding a meeting time that works for everyone. It saves a lot of back and forth emails with different time/date options. However, I usually have at least 3 or 4 people who won’t fill out the online availability and I have to follow up with them manually so it doesn’t really save time in the long run.
Newsletter – we have a regular newsletter to keep members informed. Everyone (free and paid members) receive the newsletter. It’s an opportunity to showcase what the association is doing and demonstrate the benefits of being a paid member.
Are you using web 2.0 tools internally for your board and volunteers?
On my to-do list is setting up a wiki for various board and volunteer councils. I think a wiki is a great opportunity to improve interaction between meetings and much easier than tracking changes in a document. At the moment I have a google group set up for each volunteer committee – it’s great for group communication. I also use google documents for documents that I share with volunteer committees. For example, I have a document that outlines all the event space the ‘events’ committee has researched. Anyone on the event committee can update it when they find a new venue that might work for us.
What advice would you give other associations to make web 2.0 tools work for them?
Jump in! Best way to experiment with a new tool is to use it yourself first. But don’t introduce it to the membership before you’re comfortable using it and can answer questions about it. There are always people who are hesitant to change and trying new tools. I use success stories to highlight how other members are getting value out of the tool. For example, a member recently sent me an email that said how much she liked the AIMS blog and that it was the first thing she read at her desk every day. She agreed to share that as a testimonial and I put it up on our website. I’m always hearing about people who connect at our events or on our blog and end up doing business together. I share these success stories as much as possible to demonstrate the value of getting involved with the tools we have available.