Member Engagement in the Age of Groupon

A new member-engagement program at the National Association of Realtors adapts the daily-deals formula to provide busy members with simple calls to action and immediate rewards.

Between email, Twitter, blog subscriptions, and television, I have what feels like a million small messages flying at me every minute of the day. It takes a lot to catch my attention amid all the noise, and if I don’t act immediately or mark something with a follow-up flag, “read it later” button, or calendar reminder, I can almost guarantee I’ll forget it shortly after, amid all the continuing noise. I assume a lot of people feel the same.

NAR’s MVP program is association engagement as a child of Groupon—engagement in the age of constant urgency, short attention spans, and information overload.

This modern existence has led to headline writing like this, and it also has had strong influences on how associations try to drive member engagement. The February issue of Associations Now shares a new member-engagement program at the National Association of Realtors, called Member Value Plus. We shared a few key lessons from the MVP program—offer rewards for actions, keep engagement actions simple, and mix up the actions and rewards regularly—but there’s more to the story.

While MVP is not directly modeled after daily deals sites, the resemblance is hard to miss. It is association engagement as a child of Groupon—engagement in the age of constant urgency, short attention spans, and information overload.

Two-week windows for action. MVP offers NAR members a chance to take a simple action, such as customizing a newsletter or registering for a meeting, to earn a reward. Importantly, members have only a two-week window to engage and earn each reward. Compared to daily deals like Groupon, two weeks is long, but it nonetheless imparts a “do this now” message to members; this is not a yearlong member-get-a-member campaign.

Super-easy and super-fast gratification. Glance at the screenshot of the MVP website (above) and it’s immediately and abundantly clear how simple the premise is. You can’t miss the big, bold words “ACTION” and “REWARD.” From there the steps are clearly explained, and the user knows exactly what the reward will be for engaging. No “potential” rewards or entries into a raffle that will be drawn six months hence. Instead, everyone wins and wins now. The prizes aren’t goldmines, but they’re still useful, tangible resources from NAR that members would otherwise have to pay for (or pay more for). Also note that MVP lives on a dedicated microsite with its own branding. There’s no clutter to distract visitors from the simple call to action.

Multi-channel awareness building. NAR promotes the MVP program online, in weekly and monthly newsletters, and in its bimonthly magazine. Members can also sign up for an email alert when new actions and rewards are posted. State and local realtor associations can add a widget to their websites that automatically displays the current MVP opportunity. And, perhaps most important, NAR gets its state and local realtor association executives involved so they can help spread the word. MVP has a separate, monthly action/reward opportunity exclusively for realtor association execs; some rewards benefit the executive, while others go to all members of the state or local association.

When I spoke with Ken Burlington, vice president of strategic alliances, business development, and product management at NAR, in November, he said the MVP actions and rewards were already planned out through June. The engagement opportunities come from all parts of the association, and they’re often timed to coincide with an event.

“I would imagine every association has hidden gems tucked away that they really would like to get members to engage with,” Burlington says. “It really has been a great way to expose some of those things in another way that’s a little bit fun and easy for the members to engage with and gives them something of value in the end.”

“Fun and easy” has made sites like Groupon and LivingSocial successful. They stand out amid the noise because they promise some momentary excitement. NAR has found a way to use that same formula to engage its members.

What do you think of this model for member engagement? Has your association tried new ways to cut through the clutter and catch your busy members’ attention?

(National Association of Realtors)

Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

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