How Cloud Computing Can Boost Your Member Engagement

From thinking more strategically about member data to building benefits that leverage cloud resources in innovative ways, associations should look to the cloud as a way to think more broadly about member engagement possibilities.

Cloud computing is the glue that holds much of the modern technological world together—you’re probably using it all the time without realizing you do.

This omnipresence may be invisible, but it offers associations options to better serve members by utilizing cloud-based platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Cloud platforms, which offer both data storage and computing resources that can be scaled up or down as needed, can provide ways to do things with computing that a decade ago might have proven cost-prohibitive or technically challenging.

The result: the possibility of becoming an essential tool for boosting member engagement. Here are just a few ways that’s possible:

Use cloud-driven data analysis to identify new opportunities. In an Amazon Web Services webinar from February, membership officials from the American Chemical Society explained how they were transforming digitally, with an eye on leaning more aggressively on engagement, rather than member count, as a key metric. ACS aims to build more personalized membership offerings—and used the cloud to up its data analysis game. “We invested heavily into our data store and data scientists to help us really understand that personalization, creating that intimacy at scale,” said Katherine Fryer, then ACS’ executive vice president of membership, during the session. And this doesn’t necessarily mean creating new data, either. In a blog post, Chris Biggs and Noor Oweis of Slalom, ACS’ strategic partner in the endeavor, explain that organizing existing data in a central store so that it can be better analyzed is an important step toward maximizing its value. “Yes, more data is better, but it’s crucial to leverage existing data to offer a more holistic, customer-focused approach to member engagement,” Biggs and Oweis write.

Improve personalization of your basic services. One benefit of gathering data about your members over time is that such data can be used to strengthen common member benefits to make them more engaging through artificial intelligence-driven personalization. Platforms such as, which relies on machine learning to deliver an email specifically targeted at the individual reader, could help your organization better connect with members through offerings that are better attuned to their specific needs. “Imagine a world where members regularly turn to their associations to find the next person who can help in their learning journey or career,” Amith Nagarajan,’s executive chairman, explained in 2018.

Build benefits that leverage existing data. If your organization has access to a significant source of external data—for example, proprietary industry research that can be turned into a product, or data-based resources that could benefit from data analysis, there’s opportunity to turn that data into a more tangible benefit for both your members and your industry at large. One example: A few years ago, the American Heart Association launched the Precision Medicine Platform, which makes cloud-based resources available to researchers focusing on cardiovascular and brain diseases. “The promise of precision cardiovascular medicine and care can be realized when research and technology come together to deliver new insights,” AHA CEO Nancy Brown said at the time of the program’s launch in 2016.

Create new ways for members to communicate. Big or small, nearly every application you build—whether mobile or web-based—relies on a cloud-based data resource of some kind. Which means that whether you’re building an app or a private community, the cloud can help you find ways to enable communications in some way, whether it’s through application programming interfaces (APIs), or simply plugging community data into personalization. Earlier this year, Marjorie Anderson, manager of digital communities at the Project Management Institute and the founder of Community by Association, recommended taking steps to build strategies to gain a better understanding of private communities through data the communities produce. “Overall, associations should be close to any voice-of-the-customer data they can get their hands on,” she said.


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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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