Older member outreach to build tech skills
by Carolyn Schwaar
It’s not surprising to learn that the members who are least likely to adapt to new technology are those who have been successfully practicing real estate for 30 years or more. Often, these members have to be pushed to register for classes online, take the online ethics course, pay dues online with a credit card, or visit your Web site to print out new resources like forms and PDF brochures. Below are some tips for getting your “seasoned” members to use technology, and maybe even embrace it.
Lead by example
Seek out seasoned members who have embraced technology and ask if they’ll be role models for technology use. Feature them and their technology use in your print publications, ask them to become technology mentors to other members, or invite them to test new association technology offerings and offer feedback.
Offer business tips online
Show members the wealth of business-boosting information available on Web sites such as REALTOR® Magazine Online (http://www.nar.realtor/realtormag), which features regular columns on personal marketing, property marketing, prospecting, working with buyers, handouts for consumers, and, of course, getting the most out of technology.
Offer a quality product
Nothing turns novice computer users into technophobes faster than error messages, broken Web site links, inadequate hardware, and unfriendly software. Be sure your online applications are easy to operate and your technology training facility is up to date.
Feature people online
Realtors® like to read about other Realtors®, so feature snapshots of members and their business successes online in a weekly or monthly column. Be sure to feature seasoned members often.
Infuse tech ed
In addition to introductory technology classes, include tech how-to’s in all your classes by featuring related Web sites and how to navigate them. Provide course handouts via e-mail or online, and invite students to e-mail their questions or visit an online Q&A about the class topic.
Provide computer training
Provide information in your print publications about opportunities for seasoned members to become computer literate, or post notices about classes offered at community colleges and libraries. It’s important to offer seasoned-members-only classes, since older members may have anxiety about the pace of study in a mixed-age environment.
Ask seasoned members to contribute to your electronic communications. They can provide tips or advice for a monthly e-newsletter or be featured in a “From the Experts” column online. Chances are they’ll want to see their contribution online, as will their peers, and will eventually become more comfortable with the medium.
Have a user-friendly design
Be sure that your e-mail can be read easily (a clear font, in a dark color that is 12 point or larger) and that your Web site home page is uncluttered and easy to navigate.
Save members money
Offer small financial incentives for members who register for classes and pay dues online.
Build a community
Develop Web site features that encourage members to interact with one another, such as an online chat room, job posting area, garage sale notice board, or even a member directory with photos.
Once seasoned members become aware of what the computer can be used for, what types of business and personal information can be found on the Internet, how e-mail works, and that surfing and browsing are fun, they will have greater incentive to learn about and use technology.