The success of a young social network for doctors serves as a reminder that associations need to keep their focus on member needs.
Founded in 1847, the American Medical Association is the largest professional medical organization in the United States, representing over 224,000 physicians and medical students, according to the latest data. Now meet Doximity, a social network for doctors founded in 2011 that doubled in size over the last year and now has more than 250,000 members.
The free network reaches over 35 percent of all doctors in the United States, which CEO Jeff Tangney called a “significant tipping point.”
“When you focus on members, everything else changes. … It’s a different way of planning and developing programs or assigning priorities.”
“This essentially means Doximity will get doctors the answers they want faster, and more reliably, than a simple Google search,” Tangney told VentureBeat. “Doctors can ask a critical mass of their peers any number of questions ranging from drug interactions to specialist advice, and it points to the demand and hunger for specialized, vertical social networks that meet an unmet need.”
Meeting unmet needs: That’s the new imperative, and it’s why the near-instant success of a platform like Doximity is not a big surprise, said Anna Caraveli, managing partner at research, consulting, and organizational development firm The Demand Networks, LLC.
“What you see is, people talk to each other, they help each other. The LinkedIns and the Facebooks, this kind of collaborative thinking is the kind of format that consumers prefer today,” she said. “This kind of thing is happening everywhere, and some groups have been wiped out in terms of retention rates, in terms of any other measure.”
Part of the problem, Caraveli said, is that associations are stuck in an “Industrial Age of thinking,” where they are more concerned with selling the products and programs they produce than they are with meeting member needs.
“Everything is set up to produce, everything is set up around the annual conference, the magazine, the programs,” she said. “Look at any of the startups or the high-tech groups out there. People are not running around to meet deadlines. They operate on a constant sense of discovery and looking to solve a problem for the consumer rather than [saying], ‘OK, let’s churn out 20 seminars for members to attend and maybe get the answer they’re looking for.’”
Shifting focus toward member needs can help associations better promote their value, said Caraveli: “When you focus on members, everything else changes. You don’t spend hours and days in committee meetings to do strategic planning. It’s a different way of planning and developing programs or assigning priorities.”
And when staff starts spending more time with members, participating in discussions about what they need, those conversations lead to development of solutions.
“You orient your whole organization around people as opposed to products, and that brings about a whole different source of value,” Caraveli said. “There’s a huge difference between saying, ‘Here’s an article, or here’s a seminar, or here’s a certificate,’ and saying, ‘If you participate in this forum, you can bring your problems, and you will find the people we invite, the access we give you to experts, and the possibility to talk to your peers will help you find the solution you’re looking for.’”