Membership

Cut Online Member Communities Some Slack

By / Aug 30, 2017 (Associations Now Illustration)

When an online Slack community popped up in its space, the Digital Analytics Association didn’t complain or ignore it. DAA found ways to work in partnership with the community, expanding membership and increasing member engagement.

One of the bread-and-butter benefits of association membership is the online member community, a digital space where ideas are exchanged, lessons are learned, tips are shared, and feedback is provided—usually without judgment.

For the Membership Blog, I frequently turn to the Collaborate community [ASAE member log-in required] to hear about some of the most pertinent issues and challenges in membership. Typically, online communities are full of robust and substantive conversation, but that’s not always the case, depending how and where an association’s members like to communicate.

Catherine Hackney, community manager for the Digital Analytics Association, says DAA was stumped as levels of online community discussion posts leveled and slowly decreased. It was only after some one-on-one calls with members and volunteers that Hackney and her colleagues realized that members were happily connecting somewhere else.

Some of the most engaging conversations, Hackney says, were (and still are) taking place on Slack through a channel called #measure. Lee Isensee, a longtime DAA member who founded and administers the Slack community, didn’t start it with the association in mind.

“I wanted to engage with peers in the industry, and I also wanted it to be a place for independent and unbiased conversations,” Isensee says. “It started organically. I tried to convince about 10 or 15 of my closest friends to use Slack, including my girlfriend.”

What started in 2014 with a just a handful of participants grew into a communication channel with about 2,600 users. In many ways, Slack is the go-to tool for digital collaboration, Isensee says, especially for product- or service-oriented businesses.

Slack is a cloud-based software tool that’s platform agnostic, meaning conversations can happen from many different devices. Slack, which stands for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge,” also stands out because the tool archives discussions, so that you can quickly review or study up on a topic. That stream of work consciousness happens in real time, and it includes features as informal as emoticons and .GIFs, which makes the space feel fun and personal.

It’s worth noting that the unlimited archiving and search features are part of Slack’s premium services. In the case of #measure Slack, users only see a limited archive since Isensee prefers not to pay for the service.

Go Where Your Members Are

Hackney estimates that of the 2,600 users in #measure, about half are dues-paying DAA members. While it can be easy to feel threatened by an organic community you can’t control, DAA has embraced Slack as an opportunity to engage its members who are interacting there.

Hackney and her team worked with Isensee to find a way to become active participants in the channel. A year after #measure launched, a new channel, called #daa, was formed.

“We created a DAA channel, so that if the association wanted to communicate what was happening, they had a forum to do so,” Isensee says. “Their goal is to be a part of the industry that they’re in, rather than to be the industry.”

The channel has proven to be extremely helpful in serving immediate member needs. When Hackney first entered the Slack space, she noticed that many DAA members within the #daa channel were asking for troubleshooting help.
“Slack gives me a way to publicly answer questions,” Hackney says. “It’s become a place where our members can ask: Why is my login not working? Or, what’s going on with the website?”

Meanwhile, DAA has come to see its own online community in a new way. Hackney says members typically come to DAA’s community for in-depth conversations or specific “how-to” topics. The forum remains especially popular with members because it lists a glossary of resources that explain advanced analytics techniques in a step-by-step approach.

“We morphed what the DAA online community is and what value it delivers,” Hackney says. “We don’t want to force our members to come to our space. DAA really wants to go to members, wherever they feel most comfortable.”

Attracting Members Through Slack

Hackney is using Slack not only to reach existing members, but also to engage with member prospects. A few of the #daa channel participants are nonmembers who are curious about joining. Hackney also engages with nonmembers by linking to DAA blog posts or other public-facing content relevant to a discussion.

“In my experience, Slack is way more conversational and informal. It’s much more like social media,” Hackney says. “Of course, it’s not locked down to just members, like our online community, so we really do get more eyeballs to some of our content.”

Associations can also take “one-to-one” Slack conversations and turn them into “one-to-many” conversations happening beyond the digital space, Isensee says.

For instance, DAA aligned its Women in Analytics initiative with a separate #measure channel, called #women-in-analytics. Those one-on-one conversations eventually grew to spark real-life action, including group meetups and events related to topics discussed.

“The DAA has taken the group and said, ‘We want to help facilitate this group of people and give them a chance, beyond just chat, to take action,’” Isensee says.

For any association, just listening is important, Isensee says, but associations can also be a trusted and reliable voice.

“I think associations can add real value to these Slack conversations without taking them over,” he says. “It has really taken off for DAA because they listen and answer people in a time of need.”

Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. More »

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