Virtually any type of group can benefit from harnessing the power of the Internet to communicate, and trade associations are no different. These days, digital communities can provide trade associations with the ability to provide useful information to members, offer updates on the latest in industry news, and also organize meetings, both online and off. Digital communities can also allow members to voice their opinions about an association’s actions or direction, making for a more cohesive industry overall.
Planning Your Trade Association’s Digital Community
When putting together a digital community for your trade organization, you need to plan ahead to be successful. Consider who needs to be included in the community and who should not be included. Keep in mind that starting a digital community may be a great opportunity to expand your membership. For example, if your trade association is focused on food suppliers, you might consider getting transportation companies that carry your member’s food products involved.
You’ll also need to think about the possibility of changing the structure of your membership dues to help offset the cost of creating and managing your digital community. Likewise, you’ll need to budget accordingly for marketing costs associated with attracting members to your digital community.
Things to Include in Your Digital Community
One of the most important things to include in your association’s digital community is the ability to receive feedback from its members. This can be done via an email app or through a comments section located at the bottom of each piece of content your association posts.
Likewise, you could include a forum or message board to allow members to communicate with one another and with your association’s leaders. You might also consider including the ability to send a newsletter or even text messages to members regarding upcoming events. Finally, try to include a way for members to RSVP or register for upcoming events so that your event planning will be more efficient.
Managing Your Association’s Digital Community
Once your digital community is online, there are a number of things you need to keep up with. First and foremost, take time out of each day to respond to member questions and concerns. A community cannot function without communication.
Second, offer regular updates on industry news, and if none are available, offer updates regarding your association’s actions, potential actions, upcoming events, and any other information regarding your association. Essentially, you want to keep your members engaged so that they will feel more encouraged to play a bigger role in the association.
Notable Examples of Thriving Digital Communities
If you’re interested in getting more ideas for your association’s digital community, check out the Specialty Graphic Imagining Association, or SGIA, at sgia.org. This trade association focuses on imaging and printing, and its digital community features news, a journal, and even an association store. You could also take a look at the community for the Digital Analytics Association, a trade organization that focuses on data acquisition located at digitalanalyticsassociation.org. Its website features a member forum, a knowledge center, and also career resources.