Expanding Your Reach: How Tech Helps Associations Go Global
Technology Trends in the Association Industry
- Changes and Choices in Association Management Software (AMS).The available options and add-ons for AMS offerings continue to increase, allowing associations to customize their suite of features relevant to their needs. AMSs also are advancing and evolving into data analytics and business intelligence tools. Rather than simply storing membership data, many AMSs are able to analyze this data and provide insights into member demographics, helping you identify trends.
- Leveraging Communication Channels of Social Media.Members expect year-round interaction with their association. For associations that are looking to increase their reach or go global, it is important to keep members and your target audience engaged by providing relevant, meaningful material to members through tweets, Facebook updates, videos, newsletters and more. Associations should leverage the readily available social media platforms as channels of communication with potential and existing members (including – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube). Beyond generating consistent relevant content, associations should also work to improve their website search functionality, so their content is easily accessible to members regardless of where the content may live online. Improving your search feature on your website is an excellent way to keep members engaged.
- Live Streaming and Audiovisual Tools for Remote Communication.Communications technology continues to advance, expanding the possibilities of collaboration across distance and increasing the possible number of people an association can reach. For example – each year, the Meeting Design Institute hosts FRESH, a multi-city conference, in which participants from five cities “attend” one conference virtually through the use of multiple robotic cameras controlled by a technician, one focused on the speaker and one on the attendees, and the use of push-to-talk microphones with built-in speakers on every table. These tools allow attendees to interact with each other in real-time as if they were in the same room. Associations that are growth-focused will be able to leverage this type of technology to ramp up conferences, meetings, and education, training programs and certifications for their members here and abroad. This type of technology will become increasingly important for the modern association looking to expand, increase reach and stay engaged and connected with members.
- Mobile Devices – Tools for Engagement.The number of mobile devices – smartphones, tablets, wearables – is increasing more than five times the rate the population and mobile usage of the Internet will continue to exceed traditional desktop usage. Associations should learn how better to use mobile devices to engage their members, including use of apps to mobilize urgent campaigns and use of smartphones as a means of staying connected with and between members, and also as a means of gathering phones’ geospatial location data for use in analyzing membership needs.
- Analytics for Data-Informed Decisions.“Big Data” is a tech trend that refers to the incredible amount of bits of data gathered from a variety of unconnected data sources; this data contains information that organizations can use to often gain insights. Increasingly sophisticated analysis of data sets are available that can help associations learn about their members, analyze evidence in support of their mission, evaluate their impact, etc. Precious resources and time are better utilized when decisions are based on actual, real-time statistics. However, data tools and resources can sometimes be a pricey proposition. Before taking the plunge and investing heavily in data solution, start by first evaluating all of the sources of data that your organization currently owns and analyzing that data for any important trends and patterns. Doing so, may help uncover valuable information and insights; more importantly, it may also help to identify what information is missing and clarify your organizational needs regarding data solutions.
How Associations Can Use Tech to Reach Out, and Reach More
Whether going global, seeking to connect to more potential members or supporters or involving existing membership more, outreach is critical. Technology can significantly aid this outreach, specifically in the following ways:
- Data: Prior to embarking on any outreach or engagement effort, the association can review pertinent statistics about the targets of the plan in order to make more informed decisions.
- Content Development: Members can generate their own content in the form of podcasts, blogs and more, and the association can curate. The association and its members benefit from additional perspectives and shared insight.
- Networking: Social media and smartphone apps dramatically increase the opportunities for networking among members and with the association.
Questions To Answer Before Expansion – Going Global
Before taking the steps to go global, an association must assess its assets, capabilities and needs. It might be important to consider the following: Some considerations that might be relevant depending on the type of association include:
- Do membership databases and related systems have support for multicurrency format conversion? Do current or planned systems have multilingual capabilities?
- Do contact management systems and other databases with physical addresses or email addresses feature validation of international address formats and accuracy of information?
- Does the association have adequate knowledge of international laws on spam, donations and email marketing?
- Is the organization ready to go global? Organizational readiness encompasses both cultural and operational elements, including adequate technological expertise. If the necessary level of technical skills are not found in-house, an association may want to consider exploring outsourcing the technical components, using cloud-based services and implementing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions.