Attracting new members to your association can present some challenges. What may have worked just a decade ago may not be as successful today. If a majority of your membership are well into their careers or nearing retirement, it’s of the utmost important to continue to “fill the pipeline” with those who are still in school, just beginning their careers, or in a mid-level position. Students, recent graduates, and millennials are all looking for guidance – this is where your current members come in. To grow your membership, consider using your current members as influencers.
Who else knows your association better than your members? Bringing their knowledge of the industry and experiences being affiliated with your association, these individuals serve as the perfect candidates to network with non-members and help boost membership registration rates, thus influencing them on how they can better their careers and prospects, should they become a member. Not to mention, they may create some positive press with their efforts – thus opening up a world of possibilities to those you may not have considered targeting previously.
Influencers can bring to mind social media superstars that travel and dine at luxurious places around the world. That isn’t the type of influencer campaign I’m discussing here, although there are some similarities that your members share with these social media celebrities:
They have a unique personality – This person thrives in a social setting. They might be very involved in the association, or have achieved a well-accomplished career. They understand the steps needed to be successful, and are willing to serve as a mentor-like figure to those early on in their careers. They are an introduction to your association and its offerings, leaving a first impression in the minds of potential members.
They know digital media – Because let’s be honest, that’s where your future members are. Make sure your association has an up-to-date, mobile-friendly website and is active and engaging on social media outlets. Is your influencer active on Twitter? Students might feel more comfortable tweeting them rather than picking up the phone to call their place of work.
They can host small-scale events – Annual conferences and trade shows won’t always be able to target potential members in an intimate setting, but local chapters can host meet-ups at nearby restaurants or universities and colleges. Speaking of tweeting, why not hold an open forum online, complete with a hashtag to follow and encourage “attendees” to participate in a Q&A session – hosted by your influencer? Held over the course of a few hours, these forums seek to bring a given audience together and gain new insights. If these experiences prove successful for prospective members, they’re likely to want to be present at your next event.
They can show how your association benefits their lifestyle – Networking, education, and social opportunities with fellow members of the industry are all on the minds of those looking to further their careers. In my own experiences, conference attendees don’t always expect to meet new people onsite, and are pleasantly surprised when they do – and they look forward to seeing them again at upcoming events. That’s a personal win for them, and a win for your future conference attendee numbers.
Membership drives might not be the only pursuit of your influencer. In a piece on members as influencers, Associations Now points out that “associations have such great resources, but students are just completely unaware of them.” They go on to highlight the success of Cue Career, a tool for students and recent graduates to engage with professionals to discuss career paths. Using YouTube, a 10-minute discussion between a student and a professional has had up to 30,000 views, ultimately putting Cue Career on the map. What will your association set out to make itself known for?
Membership goes beyond registration and paying dues. Your members want to belong, and using some of your strongest and most instrumental members as influencers will be a great asset to your association’s future. But once they’re in, don’t forget about them – continue to foster the relationship. They themselves might eventually become the influencer; another advocate for your association’s brand, ultimately continuing to grow your association and the public’s awareness of its offerings.