I belong to a couple of professional membership organizations that are for-profit. One is a group for entrepreneurs (just over 1,000 members) and other is a group of professional speakers (just over 700 members). These groups are not huge but when I take a look at their online community member participation looks like a community of 100,000 members. Not only are there a large number of posts, there are a large number of quality posts. The posts and comments are strategic, interesting, smart, and friendly. When someone makes an accidental blooper, the community self-corrects in a positive and supportive way. Sometimes the community’s owner chimes in but often they do not have to.
Wouldn’t you love to have this kind of participation in your association’s online community?
Many things contributed to the health of these two communities but, I suspect the prime driver of engagement is the members of the community have very similar mindsets, goals, and outlooks. They are a cohesive demographic and psychographic subsegment of the broader profession.
Take the speaker’s organization for example. These are budding professional speakers and they are sharpening every single speaking skill on their professional journey. These speakers are not beginners, many are booking between 20 and 50 gigs a year, and neither are they mainstage keynoters (yet). This is not a community for every professional speaker, this is a community for a subsegment of professional speakers. This group gets each other and the community owner gets the members which boosts engagement tremendously.
Associations are different because at most associations everyone in the industry or profession can join. The problem is there are many different subsegments within each industry or profession, some of which do not see eye to eye, and this can fracture member engagement. Your innovators will not want to spend all their time with members in maintenance-mode and vice versa. Visionaries do not get administrative-focused professionals. Excited young professionals may get turned off by the been-there-done-that group. Associations who are for everyone are challenging to manage and even more difficult to grow because it is tough to engage every member in every subsegment.
Should your association really be for everyone in the profession or in the industry? Or should your association be for a subsegment of the profession or industry?