Every association wants active members. A membership platform opromotes interaction and simplifies communication within the association. For this to succeed, you need to understand the user life cycle in member platforms.
Associations in the digital era – How a member platform can help
Associations can benefit greatly by embracing the digitalisation of member relations. A member platform promotes member interaction and enables easy and fast access to knowledge and important resources. At the heart of such a platform are the respective users. They connect, share content and participate in the association’s activities.
But such platforms rarely spring to life by themselves. The key to sustainable member activity is a profound understanding of their needs and challenges at any point in the user life cycle. New users will login for other reasons than regular users or even power users.
6 phases of the User Life Cycle on Membership Platforms
Phase 1 “Visitors” (Members without a user account)
The user life cycle begins before the initial registration in the member platform. Essential for its success is that it is made accessible to all members. In this phase it is crucial to make members aware of the benefits of the platform. Many Associations make the mistake and communicate benefits from their point of view. But Members have to realise the added value of the member platform for them. Failing to make these benefits tangible will lead to a reduced acceptance of the platform and it will take longer to win over the majority of the members. So start by offering an overview of what the membership platform can do for the members. This is also a great moment to offer guidance for the maybe less digital members. First steps, a concise registration guide and regular crossmedia promotions are a good starting point.
Phase 2 “New Users” (Members that are new to the platform)
As soon as members register, they have completed the first step of the User Life Cycle and enter the next phase: Being a new user. Now it is all about creating relevant touchpoints for the users to return and engage. A compelling and continuous stream of content is usually a good start. Mixing official news from the Association with deeper insights, user generated content and backstage tidbits will offer something for every member. But the key here is relevance. The membership platform has to be able to aggregate the content depending on the interests of every individual member.
Phase 3 “Returning users”
Returning users re-visit the member platform now and again, but not on a regular basis yet. These users are not fully engaged, but have at least found some basic value in visiting the member platform. Maybe they only have a low emotional attachment to the association or they simply are not interested in the day-to-day activities of the association and only passively consume information on the platform. They usually only inform themselves about dates and upcoming events and take away some of the key news. These returning users become regular users by habit and by experiencing value that they can not get anywhere else. This is where interactions with a low barrier to participate help a lot. One-click opinion polls, expert questions and answers and other forms of engagement content attract users and show them what they might be missing out on.
Phase 4: Regular users
Returning users will become regular users when they have not only experienced the unique values of the member platform a few times but also participated in the community. The key motivators for regular visits span from wanting to find out about any news as quickly as possible, participate in discussions, share interesting news and experiences with the network or simply finding inspiration. This is where active community management helps a lot. Community managers can help by showing gratitude for new posts and comments and by commenting under member generated content.
Phase 5: Power users
The so-called “power users” are the heart of the member platform. They not only consume news, but actively contribute to the success of the platform. They are often directly involved in the association’s activities and share their experiences on the member portal. Due to their high level of activity, they know the platform best. Thus, power users are very important stakeholders with strong promotional value for your platform and to the other users. Most power users are emotionally invested in the association and usually in the member platform, too. A great best practice to show your power users appreciation and to keep them engaged is giving them access to behind the scenes information. This could be a closed group for key stakeholders, information on platform updates in advance or inviting them to specific events and activities. You should also ask your power users for their opinion on features and procedures and at least consider this valuable feedback.
Phase 6: Inactive users
If users unsubscribe from your network, this is not always a cause for concern. Not all members will always remain equally active in the association. It is useful to pay attention to who is leaving the platform and whether it is only a case of inactivity on the platform or in the association as a whole. If regular users or even power users suddenly become inactive, you should look for possible reasons and counteract them. A personal conversation with absolutely key users is usually the best way to go, as the reasons for inactivity often lie in personal changes or dissatisfaction.
How you can use the User Life Cycle for your association
Based on the phases presented, you can analyse the users on your member platform. Depending on which phase your members are in, you can work out starting points for improving your network. In this way, you can perfect your member platform on the basis of the users’ wishes and problems. Satisfaction and participation are essential for the success of such a platform. Once the member platform has been accepted as the main source of information, you will soon realise added value. Since it is always accessible from anywhere, users can find out about news in the association in just a few seconds. Through clear votes that can be held in a short time, members feel more involved in what is happening in the association. A thriving member community demonstrates the value of the association and the network around it. This not only increases member retention but also helps you recruit new members.. The more digital generation in particular can be motivated to participate in the association’s activities, as they are already familiar with interactive platforms from their private lives.