Making Your Member Communications Multi-Channel w/ Beth Arritt
Making Your Member Communications Multi-Channel w/ Beth Arritt
In this week's episode, our host Alex is joined by Higher Logic's own Beth Arritt. Beth is an association strategist and marketing automation expert who today talks about multi-channel member communications. Beth shares how important it is for associations to be where their members are(multiple channels), including tips on engaging with the next generation of the workforce, Gen-Zers! Tune in now!
Beth ArrittAssociation Strategist and Marketing Automation Expert
Alex Mastrianni: Welcome to The Member Engagement Show with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals looking to boost retention, gain new members and deepen member involvement.
Heather McNair: Throughout our show, we'll bring on some experts, talk shop about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.
Alex Mastrianni: I'm Alex Mastrianni and we're happy you're here. Hi everybody and welcome back to another episode of the Member Engagement Show. I'm so excited that today, I have my colleague and friend Beth Arritt, association strategist here at Higher Logic, joining me as my co- host and guest today. Hey, Beth.
Beth Arritt: Hey Alex, how's it going?
Alex Mastrianni: Going pretty well. I'm excited that you're here. I feel like we chat, we were just joking that we get the updates from Microsoft, what is it that we engage? I don't even know, constantly.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, it was like 17 hours or something.
Alex Mastrianni: In the past week of collaboration, yes. So, we talk to each other a lot, but I'm excited to have you on the podcast today to talk about something that we were discussing the other day, all about multi- channel member communications and how important it really is for associations to make sure are everywhere that their members are because some folks can tend to over- rely on one channel, but if their members aren't there or are not seeing it, then it's going to be tougher to get their attention the next time they're online and looking for you.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, absolutely. So, one of the things we're going to be talking about today is using RSS feed, which is an old school thing. So old school people please don't run away. I swear there is relevant stuff from this decade, this century. But one of the things about RSS feeds is that back in the day, the way we found out when websites got updated, was somebody typed it on a little rock and then held it out for a... No, I'm just kidding. No, almost every site had an RSS feed and you would just subscribe to the feed and your feed reader would just feed this constant update, kind of like what your Twitter timeline is now, this constant update of news you actually wanted. Obviously, we got away from that in part because of email sites got more sophisticated, marketing got more sophisticated and we were actually able just to say," Here, here's my email address. Email only when your site does something that's relevant to me." So we started, we gave out our info, we started getting emails, and more emails and more emails. And now we just have email fatigue.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, it's so funny when you mentioned RSS feeds, and the word feed in particular just made me think of, it was probably like 12 ish years ago when I was very reliant on Google Reader, I think it was called, and then-
Beth Arritt: Yeah, Google Reader.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. And then they got rid of it a couple years after, but it was a daily thing for me, multiple times a day, checking my feed reader and I was obsessed with it. Then they got rid of it and I think I started using feedly and then feedly made a bunch of changes and I didn't love it. So, then I just started relying on my Twitter timeline.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, yeah. And it's interesting because RSS feed, I went through the same thing and RSS feed fell by the wayside for a while, but it's making a comeback and in starting to do all this research, because I realized during a conversation with about gen Z, not opening email, I was like," Uh- oh, well, they're the next workforce." And we always email fatigue anyway. I'm like, how do as marketers in particular, especially association marketers, we don't have the budget of target, most of us don't have the budget for TV advertising. How are we going to get our message in front of people? What about marketing automation? Marketing automation's such a great tool. How do we adapt? So, I started looking at ways to get information in front of people. One of my colleagues from AAAE, when I used to work there, mentioned that she worked with some of her gen Z student leaders using GroupMe, which is kind of like WhatsApp for the next generation, I guess.
Alex Mastrianni: Okay. I was going to say, I don't know what GroupMe is.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, it's basically like an app for group texting more or less. You can join and leave groups and things like that. So I was like," Well, how do we get the message in front of that?" I was using a community feed from HUG the Higher Logic User Group. I took that and I had never heard of GroupMe. Within 25 minutes I had the GroupMe app on my phone, I had used the RSS feed from community through a little connector called Ifty that I'll talk about. Not only did I have the RSS feed from the marketing automation community and HUG going straight to my phone on GroupMe, but I had GroupMe turned on to send texts. So, now I get all of the updates from whenever somebody posts on HUG and the marketing automation community come to my phone as a text message in a couple of minutes. For me, that's awesome because-
Alex Mastrianni: Wow.
Beth Arritt: ...I don't have a ton of text messages coming as a feed like that. That's something that I really want to pay attention to. So now, I'm basically picking and choosing my own Twitter feed, so to speak. Because you can do that in Twitter, but Twitter's starting to add more and more advertising, so it's becoming just like everything else. It's harder to get your news from there. So, we have to deal with that email fatigue. We can't just stick heads in the sand. Obviously it's a huge impact on marketing automation experts, but it affects communities too, because communities in the same boat as everybody else, it's a website. You have to rely on people to go to it or to see it and read the emails, digests that they get. Or they have to download the app and allow notifications. And that's great if you've engaged your customers and they really like to chat, they like to network, then those people are going to keep coming back because they're bought in. Well, I mean, all these things are key to success of your core community members, you still need those, but how many more customers could you get to buy in if your message could go to a bunch of other is where they are all the time? How many semi- engaged customers would become frequent posters, if they saw your latest posts in several different places in one day? What if your customers who use GroupMe, for example, could just join a group there and then every time a new post goes up on the community, they get that on GroupMe or as a text message? Or what if it inaudible to a WhatsApp group? How much more do you think your engagement is going to go up? Whether it's in your community, whether it is with your latest product, your event, how much more could you get your engagement to go up if you could syndicate your message across a lot of places at once?
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. So let's talk about some of those different channels. If everyone is having trouble with getting those emails opened, especially some of the gen Z members that are coming in, or they're trying to get to come in, what are some of the best non- email ways that associations can think about reaching out to their members?
Beth Arritt: Well, just to underscore the importance of what we're about to say, this is horrifying to me, but the oldest gen Z- ers are 24.
Alex Mastrianni: Oh, wow.
Beth Arritt: I always love the stunned silence that that gets. Yeah, so they are in the workforce. They are your target audience. They're your latest group of potential members, so they're kind of important.
Alex Mastrianni: New to the workforce, new to the industry definitely can find value in the membership, so you want to be reaching out to them. You want to be on their radar. Where do you go? What are those channels?
Beth Arritt: Yeah. So RSS feed aside, we'll talk about that a bit. There are a lot of different non- email ways to get your message to customers. Obviously you should be posting on social media. You should be posting consistently, you should be posting things that are relevant. You should definitely engage with other posts, Twitter, those kinds of things, social media, are not megaphones, they're conversations and you want to engage with other people, otherwise your message is just going to get... you're shouting into the void and then obviously tag people, but make sure it's when it's appropriate, don't tag people or use a bunch of hashtags to just try and get noticed, because that will get you blocked. There's also advertising. There are a lot of things you can target. Advertising can be amazingly inexpensive if you target well. You can target demographics, you can target interests. You can target geo- location to within a mile of a specific location. So for example, if you know there's a conference going on somewhere that is your audience, you can target that conference hall, that exhibit hall, that convention center, and you can do it during certain hours and within a mile radius of that place. Then you can add demographics to further make sure that you're hitting your people, including only people who visited the website of that conference, so you know it's those attendees. So, there's so much you can do. You could even target specific email addresses. So now we've gone from, okay, you can target your audience, to you can target your members. So right now, you can upload email addresses and target specific people on Google Ads, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. So, your associations, could get their message right in front of you, Alex, because you're relying on Twitter as your main newsfeed. YouTube, so that YouTube ads show up there and everybody's favorite business, social media, Pinterest.
Alex Mastrianni: Do you find a lot of associations are using Pinterest?
Beth Arritt: I don't, but I also know that almost all of them have locked down their Pinterest username because you have to. I mean that in this day and age, if you haven't gone out and locked down every single one of your-
Alex Mastrianni: Accounts, basically.
Beth Arritt: ...accounts, yeah. The handles for every single one of your accounts, that's a problem. I actually had to go into one of my previous jobs, I had to go almost to a cease and desist to get somebody who had co- opted one of ours. So yeah, lock those down early people, they're important. But you can upload the email addresses. I mean, just because associations aren't using Pinterest, doesn't mean your members aren't. So, being able to market to your members on there, the problem with that is, like you said, not all of your users are going to be all over the site. When it comes to Google, they may have ad blockers. They may pay for YouTube so they don't have to watch ads. You also may not have the right email address. I mean, I'm not going to be signed up for Pinterest under the same email address that I'm giving you for my work job.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, that's a good point.
Beth Arritt: For my work job? For my work job.
Alex Mastrianni: For your work job, you use a different email address.
Beth Arritt: Yes, for my work job, I use my work job email. Yes, listeners, this is what 15 of those 17 hours sounded like.
Alex Mastrianni: So, it's really all coming back to the point of those people who might not be engaging with email could be seeing your messages or your ads on Twitter if that's where they are, like I am, looking for some updates or maybe they are just surfing the web and they happen to get served up an ad because your association has uploaded the email address. It could be another way to bring them back into the community to serve them up the latest content that they need to know, need to see, association announcement, whatever it is. So how does RSS play into all of this? Why should this still be on your radar?
Beth Arritt: Well, we talked a little bit at the beginning just about how people have email fatigue and that yeah, the advertising will work, but for example, say you're using your community's RSS feed, it's really hard to just keep putting that into your Google Ad as things update, same thing for your messaging and there are other places you want to make sure it goes. So, feed readers are actually making a comeback, I swear Alex, should you'd be interested in switching from Twitter back to a feed reader of some kind.
Alex Mastrianni: Good to know.
Beth Arritt: There's one called Feeder that makes an RSS feed reader for Chrome and Firefox, it's an extension. Basically if you click on a feed, you come up with an XML feed or something like that, it'll say," This is a feed, do you want to subscribe?" And you can add it. I've actually, in doing all of this research, have learned to love my reader again, which is something I never thought I'd say. I mean, sorry, I hate to tell all these people I heard going," I don't use a feed reader." If you follow a podcast, if you have a podcast app, you're using RSS feeds.
Alex Mastrianni: I was just going to say, maybe we take this back to feeds 101 because it's a weird thing, might not be intuitive to people to make that connection but how do you define a feed? Because back in the day when I was using Google Reader, it was, I don't know, like 50 different blogs that I followed and I just grabbed the feed from those. So it's a blog, it's a podcast that update?
Beth Arritt: Yeah, even webpages could have them. There are even apps that will actually, or not apps, websites, that will actually go to a site and tell you," Oh, this is the feed for that site," but it's basically an XML code, which is structured in a certain way to tell you in your feed reader," Okay, this is the title of this feed, or this blog post, or this podcast." Those of you who got this podcast through a podcast reader, congratulations, RSS feed gave you that. It tells you the description. If there's an image, it'll pop that in beside it, things like that. So, a feed is just, it's feeding content to these readers in a way that it can understand. It's kind of like a very simplistic version of HTML, and then that, these readers know how to read it and output it to you in such a way that it makes sense to you. It's like Google Translate for code.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, that's a great way to put it.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, so that's a feed reader. What a feed is and what a feed reader does with it.
Alex Mastrianni: So how can folks think about using an RSS feed with all of the different feeds that they might have? Whether it's their website or if the organization does have a podcast, how can they use RSS feeds to help disseminate some of this information?
Beth Arritt: I am so glad you asked that question. So, I mean, if you go beyond those readers, obviously there's a world of opportunity. There are things like aggregators, like RSS Mix, where you can create your own mix of several feeds and you can output them into one feed. So, say your org has a podcast feed and a blog feed and a community feed, you can create that mix that has all three of them and someone can just get all of your updated content. You can add your community posts in there, so they get that too. Say it's Higher Logic, actually has all of those things, so let's say," Here's the Higher Logic feed. This is all of our news and information." You could use that code to turn that RSS feed into a widget of latest discussions, blogs, podcasts, everything, all on your website, your social media pages, your app, AAAE has an app that I put the RSS feed is the first thing you see when you log into the app.
Alex Mastrianni: That's awesome.
Beth Arritt: So when you log into the app, you get all the updated news first, and then you have to click elsewhere before you can search for, I don't know, certification or something like that. So anywhere that you can put a widget, or a feed, or even HTML, there are actually free sites out there that will convert your feed into HTML for you.
Alex Mastrianni: So, what I love about all of this is I was listening to someone else's podcast actually, a couple weeks ago, and they were talking about how a lot of marketers don't have content creation problems, they have content distribution problems. I feel like this is such a simple solution, or just another way to help people who are already strapped for time, strapped for resources. This is just a simple thing that maybe sounds a little complicated or a little scary to take on, but can really help with that content distribution.
Beth Arritt: Yes. So for example, most email programs, definitely Higher Logic informs Higher Logic inaudible, careful product placement, most of them though, allow you to stick an RSS feed into the email. So for example, you could have your RSS feed in a... Say you've got a blog and you use email distribution. So, every time your blog has a post, you can set up your email to send out the latest blog post whenever there's content, automatically. So you don't have to then go, " Okay, I've created a blog. Now I have to go over here and I have to make sure I put it on my website on the front page. And I have to make sure that I send out an email to all the people who subscribe to the blog so that they have updates." No, you post the blog, your RSS feed pops up on the home page of your website, the blog post pops up on the homepage of your website, it pops up into the email program that says," Oh, new content. I'm going to send that out to the people who have subscribed." Maybe you have widgets placed elsewhere. You've got RSS feed going to your social media, so it instantly distributes itself to Twitter, puts itself on your Facebook feed. So, it distributes itself for you the moment you hit Post.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, that's amazing, and therefore covering all those bases no matter where the member happens to be at that given moment.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. And by the way, we were talking about the ads. One of the things that I've been looking into that I think is kind of exciting, is that sites that are starting to accept HTML ads and because you can get that HTML to RSS, you could conceivably have that RSS feed update your advertising real time, wherever you've got it placed.
Alex Mastrianni: Oh, now that's interesting.
Beth Arritt: I know, right?
Alex Mastrianni: I didn't know you could do that.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, it's so cool. The HTML ads like that are still a little bit of a new thing, because it's kind of like a dynamic HTML, but yeah, imagine the possibilities.
Alex Mastrianni: crosstalk.
Beth Arritt: Every time you post something new that you want somebody to see, every time a new post goes up on the community and you're targeting your members and only your members with Google Ads, imagine that they're seeing the latest blog post wherever they go on the web, not just your website.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, I love that.
Beth Arritt: I mean, that's pretty awesome. Now, say one of the other things I've been working on is a way to just add an email address when you're creating your marketing automation emails. That email address sends your email to an RSS feed and turns it into an RSS feed. So, now imagine let's go one step further, you've got five members who are in your renewal campaign and they get the next email, and that email also goes to that RSS feed, and suddenly those members are now seeing their renewal message as a Google Ad.
Alex Mastrianni: Oh wow.
Beth Arritt: I'm not claiming to be able to do this 100% yet. This is something I'm still working on, but...
Alex Mastrianni: That would be pretty cool.
Beth Arritt: I know, right?
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, that would definitely keep you top of mind and it's not so much of a loop that you would be sending folks on, but it's just, you're constantly where your members are and they're seeing the right message that's relevant to not just what they're doing, or what's going on with your association, but where they are in the member life cycle with you.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, exactly. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities, which is what I love about it and it's all based in something that I grew up with.
Alex Mastrianni: So theoretically then, you could also use RSS feeds to build out different newsletter for different member segments. Is that right?
Beth Arritt: Yeah, yeah.
Alex Mastrianni: Every association has a newsletter.
Beth Arritt: Oh yeah.
Alex Mastrianni: A lot of folks look at that as their primary mode of communication, email communication at least.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. ASAE did a survey recently and 93% of the association managers that they talked to said that their primary goal and their primary need from their members was to be a trusted source of news and information. 93%.
Alex Mastrianni: That's huge.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. And then there was another study recently and I'm blanking on who it was that did the survey, but the survey turned out that associations were actually the most trusted source of news for members because you have the same sort of viewpoint, the same mission, the same goals, which is why you joined the association in the first place and that's hugely important.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. We always talk about how newsletters are more successful, perform better, more effective, more... I don't want to say personalized, but when they are really relevant to the different member segments that you are sending to, because everyone wants to send their newsletter of course. But when you can dynamically, edit the content and make sure that it's the most relevant for whatever segment you're sending to, it just performs so much better. So, how can you tie the RSS feed into these different newsletter segmentations?
Beth Arritt: So yeah, there's a couple of different ways you can do it. One is, I mean, you could send one newsletter, but you can do different story level targeting if you have various audiences and curate those feeds carefully, so that say for example, using AAAE, my most recent association, Airport Association, you could have people who are interested in security side of airports, people who are interested in safety, people who are interested in operations, and they can all have different targeted groups and there may be some overlap, but you're only reading news that's of interest to you and you've curated the feeds for each of those sections to match that. Or one of the other big things about association newsletters is that they are a source of ad revenue. Imagine if you were to do say, six different newsletters, all targeted to a specific type of audience, suddenly you've just increased your ad sales possibilities by six, times six and because you're doing this with RSS feed, you've curated the feeds, takes a little bit of time front, just like a campaign does, but once you've curated those feeds, they just run on their own. You can sit back and sell the ads, which sounds lot easier than it can be sometimes, but yeah, you've suddenly created very targeted audiences and you've increased the vehicles for those to go out times six, and you've decreased the workload.
Alex Mastrianni: Got to love that. Always a top priority but while you might be concerned about the number of eyeballs decreasing on those ads, I would bet that you're going to get a lot more action on them and sponsors, partners, whoever is buying that ad space, will be a lot happier with the conversion rates in the end.
Beth Arritt: Yep. If the people who are buying the ads are smart, they recognize that quality is better than quantity. Who would you rather have see your message? 25 people who are the absolute audience and are probably going to click or 2, 500 people that you're paying for, where only 25 people are going to see the ad and click?
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, great point. This has been illuminating Beth. Anything else that our folks need to know about RSS feeds?
Beth Arritt: Honestly, I think that the capabilities are just only... I mean, there's so many things you can do with it. We've only just started uncovering all of the capabilities. It's kind of like finding the Rosetta Stone and realizing that it translates languages that didn't exist when Rosetta Stone was created. For all you people who think I'm talking about just the software, google it. So, I think the biggest thing is to just keep an eye out. Watch news, watch for news on RSS feed, create an RSS feed to give you news on RSS feeds. Alex can tell you at the end of every one of the conversations that made up that 17 hours, this is how goofy I get. There's just so much you can do with it, just watch for possibilities. Think about how you're going to handle that next generation that's coming into the workforce, that's already in the workforce, and think about where you need your message to be, just think about where you need your message to be. I would be willing to bet you, nine times out of 10, there's a way to use RSS feed and distribute the message to get it there.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, that's awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Beth. If our listeners want to find you and ask you questions about RSS feeds, where can they find you?
Beth Arritt: Well, if you're a customer I'm always on HUG. I am also really active on LinkedIn and Twitter, so you could find me either one of those places.
Alex Mastrianni: Great and join us, customers and non- customers, next month at Super Forum, our virtual conference. Beth will be there.
Beth Arritt: I'll be there.
Alex Mastrianni: Maybe talking about RSS feeds, but definitely talking about a lot of other things. I have seen the schedule, so she will be there. We have tons of speakers. I think we've got more than 40 or 60 sessions, something crazy like that.
Beth Arritt: 60 plus.
Alex Mastrianni: 60 plus, there's a ton of them.
Beth Arritt: 60 plus.
Alex Mastrianni: 60 plus sessions.
Beth Arritt: It's a free event over three days, so definitely join us there and we will see you all again next week on another episode of The Member Engagement Show.