Hot Topics from the ASAE MMCC Roundtables
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. Welcome back to another episode of The Member Engagement Show. I am so excited today to be joined by three of my awesome colleagues and engagement experts here to talk about the ASAE Marketing, Membership& Communications Conference, ASAE MMCC. From a couple of weeks ago, has a great partner of ASAE, higher Logic had the pleasure of hosting community conversations. We did round tables on one of the days where the attendees were able to come and join a round table to talk about any of their pressing issues, burning questions around community value and going beyond the typical engagement that they might be seeing in their communities, other organizations. So I thought it might be really fun to have some of our folks who participated come back and join the podcast to tell us what everyone was talking about. If you weren't able to make it, or maybe if you were just to hear what some of the other tables were talking about. So today joining us, I have Beth Arritt, she's an association strategist. Sara Maloney, team lead and community manager. And Conor Higgins, associate consultant and community manager, all from the Higher Logic team. Hey everybody.
Sara Maloney: Hi. Good to be back.
Alex Mastrianni: So excited, you all are here. Before we dig into the meat of the conversation here, I know some of you have been on the show before, but some new faces as well. Do you want to each go around and tell us a little bit about what you do at Higher Logic? And just for fun, because we all love communities here, what's your favorite community that you are a part of? Beth, why don't you kick us off?
Beth Arritt: Yeah. So for those who don't know me, I'm Beth Arritt. I am an association strategist here. And that kind of means I sort of float around a little bit and work with different associations on engagement, on email marketing campaigns, on best practices and things like that. And my favorite community is always, always, always, the HUG communications product community. They rock.
Alex Mastrianni: That's awesome. For folks who might not know what is HUG?
Beth Arritt: Oh, right. Sorry. That's the Higher Logic Users Group where all of our users join and are very active.
Alex Mastrianni: Yes, I love HUG too. Sara, how about you?
Sara Maloney: Yeah. So I am a part of a few Facebook groups about goldendoodles. I will be getting my own this fall. So I am a very active lurker at this point in a couple of those.
Alex Mastrianni: That's awesome. Do you have a name picked out for your goldendoodle yet?
Sara Maloney: It is up for debate, potentially Willie. Maybe Belle, if it's a girl. We don't know yet. So TBD.
Alex Mastrianni: Love it. Can't wait to see pictures. I love goldendoodles. I think they're just the cutest cuddliest looking dogs.
Sara Maloney: They really are.
Alex Mastrianni: Conor, how about you?
Conor Higgins: I thought it was going to be unique in saying there was a Facebook group that I was a part of, but the parks and the office have their joint community. It's like 81,000 members to it. And it's like weird, conspiracy theories, fan fiction, all that kind of stuff. And I just love how active they are and I take, sometimes their engagement, their questions are interesting to take and apply to other clients. So I love following them.
Alex Mastrianni: That's cool. And what do you do here at Higher Logic?
Conor Higgins: Probably, that was the more important one, I'm an associate consultant. I work with Annie O'Brien on her team, but I also work with elements of Sara's team and Annie Moncure's team on just, I do a lot of the monthly coaching and moderation clients.
Alex Mastrianni: Awesome. Well, so excited to hear what everyone was talking about. I think it was about a week and a half ago, we had this event and we had about 10 different tables that we were facilitating. And I'm sure there was a variety of topics that were brought up, but Beth, why don't you start and tell us maybe the biggest topics that were brought up at your table.
Beth Arritt: So I think probably the biggest topics, just kind of all ranged around engaging at different age groups and different levels in their organization, their associations membership. And there was one that was really working to retain and engage members who had become more senior in their field. They had a lot of members who are joined when they're earlier in their career and they want to advance. They want to talk to those more senior members, but by the time the senior members get up there, they're tired. They just want to go home and sit and not have to think about work. So trying to get those people into engage with the younger members in their profession is a little bit of a challenge for them. And then we had another one who had a large group of students, thousands of students who were members, but they were lacking a mentor. So I guess it was kind of the same type of thing they were lacking in the more senior mentors, because there was thousands of students, but less than 200 mentor/ mentee matches. So they were looking to grow the mentor program, but was kind of a similar issue where it's harder to engage those senior level people at the rate that the younger people want to engage.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. It's funny. When I was talking to you before we started recording about this topic, it seems like that's the perfect way to bring some of those senior to, I don't want to say kill two birds with one stone, but I don't know if these people are at the same organization when this topic was coming up, but that's the perfect way to engage at multi- levels is a mentor program because you it's a huge benefit for younger members, people who want to join, but then also for those senior members who maybe, I don't want to say it could be a lighter lift for them. I think it probably depends on their profession, but it could be a great way for them to share all of their experience with younger folks or people who have just joined.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, I mean, I think, part of joining an association to me has always been giving back to the industry. And so it would seem to me, you would think that mentorship would be a natural way to do that because it's not, like you said, it's not a heavy, heavy lift, it's not like there's a class and you're going to grade them. It's just, talking to them about the industry that you're in and talking to them about what they need to do to improve and to grow, and to reach the next level, and giving them an example of how you did that. It's not a hugely heavy lift. I mean, I would be thrilled to hear and I'm sure a lot of our listeners would as well, any suggestions that any of the panel have actually for ways to bring people into a mentor program like that or get those senior level people more engaged, because it does seem to be a little bit of a challenge for a lot of organizations. Those are the first two that I've talked to, they've had that challenge.
Sara Maloney: Yeah. That's something I hear come up a lot with clients. And when they launched their program, first off, we recommend finding mentors before you open the program. If you open the program and you open it to mentees and they go through very excited to find a mentor, but none have signed up yet. That's a very deflating experience. With getting mentors to be involved in the program, the biggest thing that I've seen is defining what that means for them. I've seen mentor programs where people request mentors, but they don't have any definition around how long they're expected to be a mentor or how much they expect to be contacted. I've also, from personal experience when I was actually setting up kind of a mentoring program in college for my marketing club, our alumni who volunteered to be mentors were pretty upset when they were put into a relationship. And then the student who's the mentee never actually contacted them. So making sure that there is that accountability so that people want to participate in the future is really important.
Beth Arritt: That's a really good point, well, I know there was another organization that had not at the stable, but that I've known in the past, who had a lot of students who sign up for the mentorship program, wanting to mentor other people as opposed to be the mentee or mentee work, mentee work, I think it is. Yeah. So the students who were signing up who wanted to mentor someone who were looking to mentor younger students and didn't realize that they were signing up to be the mentee and not the mentor, which I thought was interesting.
Sara Maloney: And that gets into an interesting idea of mentoring. That person probably has a lot of knowledge in one area, but not all the areas. And so offering kind of micro mentoring opportunities like resume reviews or really small opportunities like that, that are short maybe a day, maybe an hour gives a good opportunity for someone to show off their expertise in something small.
Beth Arritt: Micro mentoring. I like that.
Alex Mastrianni: That's a great idea. I'd never heard that. And I think that all goes back to what you were saying about the expectations. When you create programs like this, letting everyone know exactly what they are getting into or signing up for, whether they're concerned about what the lift is on their end or the time that they need to put in, but also just telling people you can give as much time or as little time as you have, we'll take it. It will mean something to somebody. So, that's really cool. Sara, one of the things that you mentioned that was a big topic was around how difficult it can feel sometimes to share metrics. The right metrics, the frequency of the metrics, how you display them, how you share them with leadership. What were people talking about when it came to reporting out on community performance?
Sara Maloney: Yeah. So Conor can probably speak to this a little bit too, because we were in the same room, luckily, but how this came up is we had a couple of community managers who were fairly new to their organizations. And one thing that they were struggling with is they were kind of handed this task of pulling metrics without any context, without any reason as to why it was done the way that it was. And so some people were pulling them as frequently as weekly, without really any insight into, is anyone reading these? Why are we pulling these? What's the larger goal here? So, that's kind of how this conversation started that we were having. And it was really interesting to hear all of the different expectations and the different ways that people were presenting metrics to higher ups. What we kind of talked about is the importance of making sure that there is a larger strategy in mind. So it makes sense to pull logins. If the goal is to get new people into the community, maybe it's to see if non- members are signing up for accounts, then that totally makes sense to track logins and new accounts. But if that's not something that matters to you this year, then those metrics become less important. I think that within the community industry, we always want to benchmark and we always want to generalize, when a lot of times that's not the right path. So really starting with what your organization's goals are, is important. And then building the strategies and the metrics off that is going to be the best way to go. That way, when you do have to present to your leadership team on the success of the community, you can really define why you are presenting the metrics that you are in a very easy to digest way.
Conor Higgins: And honestly, I think that a lot of people were finding difficulty to build the process, right? To go from data collection to, okay, now asking the very important question of, so what? Right? So, Sara mentioned the community manager who is pulling metrics every week, but they weren't doing anything with them. They were just pulling them to pull them and to check a box, but then they had no process in place for the, all right, what do we do with this information? And it's not enough to just pull information, what processes and what frameworks do you have in place to take action on that information? And that took up probably about 60% to 70% of what we spoke about at our round table. And it was a very interesting discussion because you had the newer community managers who had no process. And then you add the one from the medical association who had been doing this for decades was like," Oh yeah, we have this, this, this, and this in place." And it kind of provided a good idea of where you might want to get to as a community manager, especially on the association side.
Sara Maloney: And I think when you come into an organization as a new community manager, where they've already had a new, how to community stood up, it's a unique opportunity to help redefine what you are going to track. Even if you've only been at your organization for a few weeks or a few months, you have this kind of outsider perspective. That's really important, especially if you've managed communities elsewhere. There's always a starting point that you can work off of. You can position it as it's the start of a new quarter or a new year, or, it's the biannual reset. There's always an opportunity to reposition what you're pulling from metrics and why.
Alex Mastrianni: So if someone is taking this refresh approach, whether it's because they are new to the organization or they just need to change the way that they're looking at, how they're measuring and reporting out on community. What timeline do you recommend? Is there a base timeline? I know you said weekly is maybe too much, is quarterly too infrequent or monthly? What's the best place for people to start?
Sara Maloney: Monthly is definitely the sweet spot. I will say, we will see fluctuations from month to month that might look concerning month to month, and then quarter to quarter can give you that bigger picture of being able to say, everything's actually fine. We saw a dip for one month, but it wasn't concerning. So I, yeah I would say monthly, and then quarterly and annual are great to track as well. I think it's also important to keep in mind that there will be regular fluctuations. So in November and December, we always see decreases in metrics because of the holidays. People are just not discussing as much online, they're busier in their personal lives. And when COVID hit, I mean, we saw a huge spike across all our communities in March and April of 2020 that we had never seen before. And having that historical context, when we look back is going to be significant to understand where those spikes came from. And it wasn't actually really anything that we necessarily did. It was just the nature of the situation.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. That's a really good point. Having the context helps explain things. Conor, what would you say is the big thing that stood out to you in terms of discussions at your table?
Conor Higgins: I think the concern over COVID other than the metrics, was the biggest thing because to me, we, Sara and I kind of tried to drive those conversations together. Like, how are you reading the changes in your community from the effects of COVID? What are you going to do with that information now? But to me, the COVID pivot was such an, we needed to talk about it. It was the elephant and gorilla in the room at the same time. And I really, I thought that it was necessary to get some, because we had such an array of experience. I wanted to know how each different community manager responded to COVID. And because in the end, a community manager is a problem solver. And that's what I think we wanted to discuss the most is how are you solving the last year's big problem or addressing it because no one's going to solve it. And that is, what are your strategies for almost like a come to Jesus moment, like," Oh man, COVID is happening. We can't meet in person anymore. We can't do this." How is our business model going to change? And then adapting to that, that was a very interesting and lively discussion. I thought.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. Any interesting stories stand out to you in terms of how folks approached the shift with their community strategy?
Conor Higgins: There was one client that relied solely, or not solely, a large part of their revenue came from in- person classes. And they were like," Oh no, we can't meet in person anymore. We can't grow our association anymore. What are we going to do?" And then they discovered," Oh wow, Zoom classes and other classes and virtual meetings allow us to meet on a much larger scale." And so they were seeing actually that their activity on the community had increased their, attendance had increased because people don't have to choose between, going to a movie at 7: 00 and going to waiting, go into your webinar at 7: 00, they have to choose between pretty much nothing else and then go to your webinar. So the market was there and was perfect and almost red hot for them to strike on that idea of," Okay, well, we can't be in person anymore. We're going to go virtual." And in monetizing, it was a very impressive kind of a pathway to hear about.
Alex Mastrianni: Sara or Beth, any similar conversations come up in your group?
Beth Arritt: Not really in mind. I mean, ours was very focused on specific, I think, scenarios that the group had run into, so that didn't really come up a lot. I am curious though, because, not the hijack or anything, but Sara had mentioned that talking about December in particular being a bad time. Did anyone talk about the summer necessarily being a bad time or has it come up in your experience with other organizations that you've worked with?
Conor Higgins: No, but I will say this. I was a teacher for seven years and we don't talk to each other over the summer. They're there, of course there are those that do. There are a lot of those who are just like, they're going to do continuous learning, they're going to do cohorts together, they're going to go to, but teacher teaching associations, there's a reason why, so like, I'm on two or three education- based accounts right now that are in the launch process. And they're all in the launch process during the summer, because now is not the time when they're going to be using a lot of their or their community is going to be utilized. They all want an August and early September launch because they want it to coincide with teaching. And then there's, to me, that's an interesting professional correlation, because I'm sure there are bunch of other ones out there that are seasonal like that.
Sara Maloney: Yeah. I was going to say an educational association that I'm working with as well as dealing with that. It's also tough because they've, we haven't seen maybe quite the engagement levels that we've wanted to. They launched in March and they just have really felt like their members are so busy right now that there's no time to engage. However, with the summer coming up where we know it's going to be slow as well, we're really pushing for some creative ways to engage their members over the summer that will be low lift. So that comes September when they do go back to school, we already have at least an active community to build off of, rather than a community that's been alive for six months, but really hasn't had a lot of engagement.
Beth Arritt: And how do you manage the expectations when you've got a group like that? That just might get a little disheartened?
Sara Maloney: I honestly it's been the opposite. I think they're managing my expectations. Every month, when we look at the metrics I've said to them," We're not quite seeing as much as we thought we would." And they're like," Totally what we expected." But to answer your question, I think for other clients who may be get disheartened, we talk specifically about, well, why did you expect this number to be higher or, well, what actions are you taking to promote the community? If you're not seeing as many new members come in, is it being promoted in newsletters, or on social media, or in any events that you're doing? So I think that if you have a client that is discouraged, you can talk to them more specifically about what they're doing outside the community, that, to kind of help maybe hamper their expectations and help make them realize, this is kind of what it is, but you know your members better than we do. And so we do expect you to be able to provide a little bit of context around what's happening and why.
Alex Mastrianni: That's so interesting. One other thing that you just said a few minutes ago, which I wanted to touch on is some of those ideas that you said you share or have people implement in their communities that low lift engagement ideas, what are some examples of those things?
Sara Maloney: We're working on setting ups kind of a summer contest. So each week of the summer, we will ask you to come in the community and do one small thing. Whether that's upload a profile photo, or write a discussion post, or join one of our other special interest group communities on the site. That's what we're beginning to develop now. Additionally, this association happens to have their kind of annual conference over the summer. So we're building a conference community around that. Between those two initiatives, I think we're not going to worry too much about doing big summer things, rather, we're going to start planning for the fall and what initiatives we want to begin then.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. It's so interesting to think about, obviously COVID had a huge impact on community engagement throughout the pandemic, the time of the pandemic, and then going forward, there's just those normal fluctuations, holidays, different changes in different industries, or things that are happening that can all have impacts on those metrics and looking back at things. But this has been really cool to hear some of the topics that people were talking about. Any final parting thoughts on the round tables or takeaways that you think people are going to look at as they go back to their organizations and their communities.
Sara Maloney: I think one thought that I had was, it was a really cool event. It gave the people, it gave everybody the opportunity to talk about issues they were facing with other community managers where, because they're the only community manager at their organization. And I don't mean this to be a self promo at all. But I do think that joining HUG and posting in HUG is a great way to get that kind of feedback year round. I know that sometimes that can feel like overkill, right? You manage a community, you don't want to also post in a community or participate, but really we see a ton of benefit come from that. Especially when you can ask people regularly, instead of just once a year at an event like this.
Beth Arritt: We always like to talk about it on the MA side, just got to give more of a plug to HUG, but about it being kind of community for people who use the same software you do, because if you go on another community and you're asking, how do you handle this? Or how do you do that? You might get people saying," Oh, we use the software for that, reset software for that." But when you ask on HUG, you're getting the people who are using the same equipment, same software.
Alex Mastrianni: Well, thank you all so much for joining us before we sign off, I have to ask you the question that we ask all of our guests, of course, because this is The Member Engagement Show. What is your favorite engagement tactic? Conor, we'll start with you.
Conor Higgins: I like the badge in ribbon gamification path thing, just like creating both the serious and fun aspects of it, like a mentor badge or something like that. But also, you're an unanswered thread questions rockstar, stuff like that. It's just giving them the distinction in the community that wants them to keep engaging.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. Keep them motivated. Beth, how about you?
Beth Arritt: I am a big fan of the tried and true question, what's your goal this week? It is different every week. It can really draw other people in to help with thoughts on how to get there or how they've handled that kind of goal. And it sometimes delves into the personal side of the community members lives a little bit, which sort of strengthens the community itself as people sort to get to know each other a little bit better. So I love that question. It's such a fun one.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. That is a good one. Sara, how about you?
Sara Maloney: Yeah. So when I was thinking about those question, what I kept coming back to is put something in the community that's special and unique that your members are not going to get elsewhere. So depending on what's important to your organization, that might be opportunities to participate in journal reviews or an" Ask me anything." event, just something that they really can't get elsewhere to force them to come in.
Alex Mastrianni: That's awesome. Make it special. So thank you again for joining us today and thank you everyone out there for listening. If you have any questions for our panelists, definitely add them to our LinkedIn post for this episode or join the conversation over in HUG. And we'd love to hear from you. See you on the next episode.
This week we gathered three engagement experts to talk about the ASAE Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference. You'll hear from Beth Aritt, Sara Maloney, and Connor Higgins about why mentorship programs are beneficial and tips to help you get your mentorship program on the right track. You'll hear them dive into metrics for engagement, including ideal timelines to pull metrics and what you should be looking for. Tune in now!