Insights from Harnessing the Web 2016 Research Summary Report

This week’s Memberwise event for the launch of the Research Report – Harnessing the Web to Drive Membership Value and Growth provided an excellent insight into the topics, trends and challenges facing membership/association professionals.

The research took feedback from 357 managers and directors within the membership and association sector and the presentation of the findings highlighted key areas where membership organisations have made changes and what will be their focus in coming year(s).

Member Engagement tops the list

Increasing member engagement was seen as the most important goal for 2016 and beyond. It was pointed out that this is the first time since conducting the survey that member engagement has been higher than increasing member acquisition.  As highlighted by Richard Gott from MemberWise “This year we have reached a tipping point. For the first time we are placing more emphasis on long term member engagement rather than short term member acquisition.”

Clearly, hand in hand with this key goal will be the measurement of member engagement. Measure of member engagement needs to be across all channels to provide the complete picture of the member interactions and would provide the ability to highlight risk members who are not engagement.  Worryingly, 78% of organisations highlighted they had a challenge to measure member engagement. (How others engage members with mobile pdf download here)

Member Benefits and Millennial Expectations

Whilst 55% of organisations have reported that their members have seen a positive change in the last 12 months, only 4 in 10 organisations say their members are seeing an increase in member benefits. This is becoming a bigger challenge for organisations as they see member expectations increasing. Many of the services and benefits offered to members are seen as a minimum expectation of membership and organisations now need to look at how they can offer more services or benefits.

Membership organisations generally agree that members expect their online experience to be interactive and engaging. There is an increasing challenge of meeting the digital expectation of millennials. This generation are using their smart phones every day to access information and collaborate on social channels using the latest and best funded websites and mobile apps. The user experience they get from these channels is driving up their expectation for their digital engagement with their membership body.

Personalisation is a challenge

Three – quarters of membership organisations and association are finding it a challenge to deliver personalised content to their members via the website or other channels. Around three in ten organisations use member name and / or member grade to personalise their content on the website whilst only two in ten use special interests. It is clear that a much greater level of personalisation is required to support the desire for deeper member engagement.

Greater use of analytics will be required to enable more advanced personalisation based on members’ behaviour or engagement history. Whist fewer than one in ten membership organisations have yet to offer the “amazon experience”, it was suggested this may start to be a necessity in the next 3 to 5 years, in order to gain higher member engagement.

Interestingly, while 93% of membership organisations are now using e-mail marketing on a regular basis, only 61% use targeted content based on special interests. It was also worthy of note to see that only 64% focussed on rendering the e-mail on a mobile device. (See article showcasing the success around personalisation here.)


Click above to see an infographic of the survey results from Memberwise

Use of Social Media

Use of social media channels remain high with 95% of organisation using Twitter and 81% using LinkedIn. It is significant that 28% of organisations reported they now employ a dedicated person to look after their social media channels; an 8% increase from last year.

However, it was interesting to learn that only half regularly monitor social media channels and perhaps more surprisingly, only 6% of organisations quantify a Return on Investment (ROI) from their social media activity.

This is perhaps evidence that there is no social media strategy with goals and KPI’s behind the activity and thus no incentive to ensure the goals are being met.

There is a similar story with the use of analytics on the website. Whist 87% of organisations are using an analytics tool, less than half of them are reviewing the analytics in operational meetings. This is perhaps indication that there is a desire to know how members are using the organisations digital landscape but many do not have the time or resources to really understand how their members are currently engaging. (Click here to read the article showcasing the specific use of social media to drive revenue.)


It is clear that membership organisations and associations are increasingly focused on a Member First approach. This year has seen the tipping point where, for the first time, there is more emphasis on long term member engagement rather than short term member acquisition. This is perhaps good timing as the member’s digital expectations continue to increase, as they look to access targeted content anytime, anywhere and on any device.

The sector understands that information access via mobile is a key part to increasing member engagement and this is demonstrated by the high use of social media by membership bodies. However, whilst web and mobile technologies can enable organisations to deliver a deeper level of engagement for members, there are many challenges to overcome.

By the end of the event, I had written down five phrases.

  • Member First Strategy – increasing member engagement needs to be driven by the development of an organisations Member First strategy that includes the key goals and measurement targets.
  • Mobile First – as digital expectations continue to increase with the members’ desire to access targeted content anytime, anywhere, organisations will need to develop a Mobile First approach  to their content delivery. This should be an integral part of the Member First strategy.
  • Personalisation – the use of tagged and targeted content will need to be an integral part of a strategy to increase member engagement.
  • Business Intelligence – the use of analytics across all channels are going to become critical to understanding member engagement and ensuring the targeted goals and ROI is being achieved
  • Resources – membership organisations and associations will need to invest in the time and resources to enable
    • the creation of the right targeted content
    • review and act on the analytics of member engagement activity and behaviour

timTim has been working with membership organisations to develop their digital marketing and member communication strategies for many years. He’s recently joined our team and is ready to help you reach your members in new ways.

Call Tim on 0207 183 3695 or arrange to meet us at Membership Excellence 2016






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