There have never been more tools and strategies to use to communicate with members, and next year there will be more. How do you figure out what’s worth your time? Is the multichannel approach to communications your best bet for reaching the most members, or is it a waste of resources? Here we take a look at the top communication channels (and some up-in-coming ones) and how they may apply to your association outreach.
Paper magazines, newsletters, and marketing materials are the most time and labor intensive to produce, but don’t discount their effectiveness in the digital age, especially when combined with a complementary online component. Your older members may still prefer the tactile experience of a print magazine, which remains popular with B2B advertisers and is a good source of nondues revenue. Member reach: high
Although the media is full of reports that email is dead, or dying, in a sea of other social platforms, most REALTOR® associations rank email as the number one way to reach members with news and information.
Tip: Although email can be free, e-newsletter products such as ConstantContact, Emma, and MailChimp offer better-looking communications that are more likely to be opened and are mobile-friendly. Plus, their delivery services usually mean a lower percentage of messages are tagged as spam.
Trend: Short three-word subject lines (more easily read on mobile devices) have the highest engagement rates. Member reach: high
Recently relaunched association websites have a few key elements in common: a focus on simplicity, a mobile-friendly design, and a robust search feature. Efforts to streamline and eliminate the need for frequents updates are the trend as associations invest more time into social media. Associations also are adding features that ensure their websites comply with the Americans with Disability Act, including easily resizable text, captions for photos, and audio descriptions and transcripts of videos. Member reach: high
The recently redesigned LinkedIn (which focuses more on news feeds and social sharing) creates a better opportunity for associations to publish news and updates to their followers, and encourage sharing among members. Advertising, often used for advocacy efforts, can target users with specific titles in narrow locations.
Tip: Association-sponsored groups facilitate discussion and provide a free platform for disseminating news and information. Many associations enlist members to monitor these groups, which can focus on the local market or have a commercial or international theme. Member reach: medium
With a read rate of 98%, text messages are a tempting member communication channel. However, members must opt in and are likely to opt out if texted too frequently. Today, associations use the texting option mostly for advocacy calls to action. Member reach: high
Although hundreds of REALTOR® associations maintain Twitter accounts with large followings, a close look at tweets shows links to Facebook and blog posts. This suggests that Twitter is one of many platforms where associations’ news is automatically posted with tools such as HootSuite that enable one-click posting to multiple outlets. Social media management tools are a must for associations with multimedia communication strategies.
Tip: Hashtags double the engagement of tweets. Twitter is becoming the go-to social tool for customer service. Member reach: medium to low
Following the mantra “go where the members are,” associations enjoy a strong member following on Facebook.
Associations use targeted advertising on Facebook to drive consumer traffic to their public search sites and prompt members to advocacy engagement.
Those associations experimenting with the new Facebook Live feature say it draws a modest audience if events are promoted in advance. Popular live events include member reports from real estate conferences and announcements of association award winners. Member reach: high
Associations of all sizes are jumping on the video bandwagon producing everything from weekly CEO updates and annual video annual reports to new-member orientation videos and event promotions. YouTube is the most popular platform for housing and sharing these videos via link to other social spaces. Some associations opt to house their video on Vimeo, which is very similar to YouTube, but it has no ads and content can be password protected, which is ideal for monetizing video education or delivering members-only content. Member reach: high
Hyped as the next best way for members to reach millennial home buyers, Snapchat is getting a lot of attention but little use among associations as they take a wait-and-see approach to this image messaging and multimedia platform. Member reach: low
This photo-sharing platform is flourishing among members who use it to generate leads by posting listing photos, but among associations it has yet to deliver. Although dozens of REALTOR® associations are found on Instagram, many accounts are relatively inactive. Staking out territory and claiming the association name on a social platform before someone else takes it is becoming common, as it becomes harder to determine which platform will be the next Facebook.
Associations that use Instagram do so to share photos of members at events, promote market infographics, and advertise to consumers. The demographic on Instagram skews younger, which may eventually enable associations to engage another segment of their overall audience. Member reach: low
Good-quality images, such as housing data infographics, can go viral on this site due to its visual nature. Yet, a successful Pinterest presence takes effort since the focus is on collections of visual material as opposed to individual photo posts. While members use Pinterest to promote their listings and services, and offer advice to consumers on topics from remodeling to interior design, associations on Pinterest promote reasons for using a REALTOR® and local market stats. Association branding on this platform has proven challenging because dozens of users have already launched pinboards with association names. Member reach: low
Beyond its application as a way to quickly communicate with directors, leaders, or staff in closed groups, this platform currently offers little practical use for reaching members in general. Member reach: low
For associations with the staff to create original content or curate industry news, blogs are an effective way to deliver updates, perspectives, and content members can customize. Member reach: medium
Although many REALTOR® associations offer event-specific mobile apps, app fatigue is making members increasingly unwilling to download and update new apps. Associations are instead pushing to ensure that their websites are mobile-friendly. Member reach: low