It's hard to overestimate the effect of mobile technology on members' businesses. Text messaging, Internet searches, and social media are among the top uses of smart phones, and these are all essential components of daily real estate practice. From communicating with clients to searching the MLS and generating leads from Facebook and Twitter, members are never far from their phones. So how can your association begin to capitalize on the mobile movement to reach members where they are most—on their smart phones?
Other than having a mobile-ready association website, which is a given today, here are six ways your association can engage with members using mobile devices. Of course there will always be a segment of your membership that lags in technology use and understanding, but don't let that stop you from becoming a trusted leader in mobile app usage and showing members how to make the most of their mobile future.
Mobile Apps to Facilitate Committees and Directors
The day when all your directors attend a board meeting by staring into the camera on their smartphone isn't far off. Mobile video conferencing apps abound, including Tango, ooVoo, Wire, and Facebook Messenger, and even WhatsApp is expected to introduce free video calls soon. In fact, the most popular, Skype, announced group video calling on mobile phones and tablets in March. This means up to 25 committee members at a time can meet anytime, anywhere with free video calls (when their phones are connected to a Wi-Fi network at home, at the airport, or at Starbucks, for example). Google Hangouts is another video chat option that can connect up to 10 people. Providing members with the option to participate in meetings remotely may boost volunteer participation.
Of course, getting your committee members to see and hear one another is just one piece of the meeting puzzle. They need to be able to read and often collaborate on documents. Many video apps include a chat feature where you can share the link to documents you post online. Google Hangouts achieves this very elegantly since it's part of the Google suite of tools inducing Google Docs. Slack, the free text messaging system for groups, is gaining popularity as better than e-mail when it come to keeping groups in touch.
Enable your committees to use their mobile devices to edit the same document, post updates to projects, upload documents, and assign and manage tasks with popular online collaboration tools such as Basecamp, Redbooth, Podio, and Trello that offer mobile versions or work on smartphones and tablets. Although editing Word documents on an iPhone is not ideal, it works in a pinch.
Take your board meeting to the next level with apps specifically designed to facilitate board meetings, such as BoardPaq, Convene, and BoardEffect. These apps have a wide range of features and enable you to track which directors have checked in and actually reviewed the documents. Directors can review archived meeting notes and save their personal notes in their private access dashboard.
Finally, now there are a range of mobile apps to help you plan a meeting for your committee members and directors. No more multiple e-mails and phone calls back and forth to coordinate everyone's schedule. Try ScheduleOnce, Doodle's MeetMe service, or SelectTheDate.
Mobile Apps for Conferences and Events
There are a lot of options for mobile event apps ranging widely in price and features, but if a simple schedule and session descriptions are your main goal, then there are plenty of free and low-cost options; Eventbase, Guidebook, and Twoppy are a few. Mobile event apps are great for everything from small meetings and classes with agendas up to large-scale conferences with exhibitors. Robust options offer built-in event surveys; push notifications (such as "The welcome reception starts in five minutes in Ballroom B"); attendee chat functions; and storage for presentation handouts or PowerPoint slides to download. A mobile Dropbox for your handouts is a cost-effective alternative if your event app doesn't have storage.
Mobile Apps for Voting and Surveys
Paper ballots are relics at most associations, yet electronic voting participation is often very low. Try encouraging members to vote for leadership and directors with a click on their mobile device with apps such as MyVote, Electionbuddy, and Doodle (the same app you can use for meeting scheduling). With MyVote, members can cast votes for association leadership from their mobile phones. Electionbuddy provides candidate profiles that offer the same amount of information for each individual. This feature is proven to increase voter participation because voters feel more involved in the process. Rather than a simple polling app, look for an election app that enables you to securely upload your member list, then send a unique voting link to each eligible voter. You can't see whom members voted for but you can track if they voted. Follow-up with e-mails or texts to members who haven't voted yet.
Most voting apps can also be used for polls and short surveys, from how members rate their latest class to business polls and feedback on your customer service. For more comprehensive membership surveys, including multiple-choice questions and write-in answers, there's still not much competition for Polldaddy's and SurveyMonkey's sleek mobile versions.
Mobile Apps for Volunteer Signups
Make volunteering for committees, events, and work groups as quick and easy as possible with a mobile app. Sure, your voting or survey apps could double as sign-up apps, but specific apps for this purpose, such as SignupGenius, VolunteerSpot, Volgistics and VolunteerKinetic, are more appealing.
SignupGenius offers a nicely designed, easy-to-use template page where you describe the purpose of your committee, work group, or charity event and enter the dates and times for which you need members' help. In addition to soliciting official work group participation, these types of apps are ideal for organizing YPN events, Habitat for Humanity builds, clothing or school supply drives, and neighborhood beautification programs. There's an option to text volunteers with updates and reminders.
Once volunteers are signed up, continue the virtual engagement with apps that send messages via text and track volunteer hours and project progress. Some apps let members earn points for tasks completed, which can help spur participation for virtual volunteers.
Mobile Apps for Silent Auctions and Fundraising
Expand your silent auction participation to members not attending your event with user-friendly apps such as Handbid and Bidpal. These apps feature photos and descriptions of the auction items, mobile bidding, and real-time, higher-bid notifications that keep participants in the game.
Raise money for your association's charitable arm, education foundation, or disaster relief fund with mobile apps such as Givelify and Crowdster. These require members to download the app, but a new breed of donating via mobile from companies such as @Pay enables members to simply reply to an e-mail or a text message instead of entering their name, address, and credit card information into online forms. With the rapid adoption of mobile wallet technology from Apple and Samsung, paying for items or services (and donating) with a smartphone may soon seem as normal as using a bank card.
Another mobile giving option growing popular comes from apps such as ActionSprout that link to your association's Facebook page and are optimized for mobile use. ActionSprout enables you to launch fundraising drives (as well as volunteer and event sign-ups, and other "actions") directly inside of Facebook. Members' actions are then shared to their Facebook friends and followers to spread the word.
Facebook itself introduced a new donation feature in November 2015 that enables charities to launch standalone fundraising pages—in addition to their general Facebook profile pages—to collect and track donations for a specific collection effort, such as disaster relief or your association's annual charity drive. Once users enter their credit card information, the donate button will let users contribute to a charity through Facebook instead of having to navigate to an external donation site.
Remember, RPAC fundraising online is legal only when using technology that enables you to solicit only from REALTORS®, not the general public.
How do I learn (and teach members) how to use these new apps?
If your association is offering or recommending these apps to members, you—or at least someone on your staff—is expected to be the expert. Video tutorials on the vendors' sites and on YouTube are your best source for learning how to get the most out of your new apps. Alternatively, appoint a committee member, YPN chair, or other tech-savvy volunteer to assume the role of app master at your association.
Mobile apps from NAR: All these apps are available for iPhone and Android users and are free of charge.
The NAR Action Center app features political stories from the REALTOR® Action Center, the Washington Report, and online dynamic reports to track state and local REALTOR® Party engagement and Call for Action participation. Plus, members can make their annual investment via their phone.
The NAR Member Center app enables members to review their benefits; read the latest information from their local, state, and national associations; customize and display their membership card; and more.
REALTOR® Magazine's app features the latest issue and web exclusives.
The REALTORS® Conference & Expo app is a guide to the event's more than 100 education sessions, nearly 400 industry exhibitors, and more. NAR Legislative is the app for the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.
With RPR® Mobile, REALTORS® can use their location to search for on- and off-market properties while also uncovering mortgage, historical and distressed data; flood zones; school info; and more. Then, easily create one of five different property and neighborhood reports, each branded with a photo, logo, and contact information.