Friday, August 28, 2009

Social Media and the Membership Life Cycle

Tony Rossell, a dear friend and mentor, explained that The Membership Life Cycle is made up of 5 steps: Awareness; Acquisition; Engagement; Renewal; and finally, Re-instatement. How can associations effectively use social media to drive this cycle?

This is a huge topic full of peaks and valleys. For the sake of simplicity, I plan to address each of these 'levels' one at a time, begining with "Awareness" and hope that you readers will chime in with your thoughts.

Awareness is the first stage of the Membership Life Cycle. An association obviously has no hope of any individual becoming a member without first that individual's awareness that the association even exists. And, once the individual is aware of the association's existance, the individual still needs to become aware of how the association applys to his/her professional and/or pesonal life before he/she is ready to become a member.

Historically, associations have counted on word-of-mouth or personal recommendation as the basis awareness. Individuals, who have a personal experience with the association, talk about and/or recommend the association to their associates and friends. This experience takes many forms from simply reading an article, to saving money, to enhancing a career. The bottom line in all of this is how that individual benefitted from knowing about the association.

The use of social media in this process is obvious. At no other time has the flow of personal experience been so open as it is today. Almost unbridled by geography and language, social media allow individuals from around the world to freely communicate with each other.

The key to effectively using social media as a tactical marketing tool lies in the establishment of a clear goal and the measureable steps necessary to move a prospect from unware, to aware and ultimately to becoming a member. But as we've seen with word-of-mouth, the content placed in the social media must be dedicated to delivering a positive, and more importantly "personal", impact. Therefore, the goals that you establish to measure the effectiveness of social media must be based upon measuring the positive, personal, impact it has had on the potential member.

Therefore, your goals may not only include the number of 'hits' or 'views,' but the number of solicited or unsolicited responses from those individuals who have read the content. To take it a step further, perhaps you also measure the number of personal success stories that resulted from individuals who read and acted in someway on the information they read.

You can then use these 'responses' to further your impact by distributing them throughout other channels to include your website, direct mail, as well as additional social media.

I'm interested in your opinions.


  1. Erik -- Thanks for adding social media to the discussion of building awareness of an association. Social media tools are ideally suited for this job. I am looking forward to more posts. Tony

  2. Very interesting. Look forward to the rest in the series. I think that the keyword here is positive. You can market in such a way that you will get those who feel it is their professional "duty" to be a member. But, if you want to attract the larger portion that will only join for value, there has to be a positive impression provided by those who are members now or by the samples that are provided to non-members.

    Positive awareness is the most likely to reach the next stage.