Membership Memo: Tap Your Real-Time Data

Behavioral data reveals member preferences for the American Society for Microbiology.

An all-digital world has opened the door to more revealing member data. Members are connecting more through online platforms like social media, online community forums, and virtual events, which is painting a much more accurate picture of their interests. Tracking these behaviors, often in real time, will help associations be more responsive to member needs.

“We can use all of these disparate pieces of data of how a member interacted with a virtual meeting, content, or on social media, to paint a richer picture,” says Tom Lyons, director of IT at the American Society for Microbiology.

The ASM team is looking at member behavioral and demographic data to improve their understanding of what members are really interested in. “What we’re trying to do is find things of meaning and value to the people in our community,” Lyons says. Behaviors provide a more realistic glimpse into member preferences than an outdated member profile.

Data is everywhere; it just needs to be tapped. Beyond web analytics, online communities provide a dynamic way to find out what members are thinking in any given moment, social media gives a more personal picture, and the chat function in a virtual meeting platform reveals what’s on members’ minds when they’re engaged at conferences.

This more comprehensive and meaningful data mining can lead to strategies for more personalization and allows an association to anticipate what members will interact with or what they need—and provide it even faster. “Gathering quick intelligence gives associations the opportunity to then turn it around into an actionable item,” Lyons says. When an association does that well, revenue usually follows.

Where is the best place to start analyzing members’ behavioral data among online communities, virtual meetings, or social media? “Don’t try to do everything at once,” he advises. “Start with the one you’re most comfortable with, because then you’re working from a source of strength.”

Getting a real-time analysis of how members are engaging will help associations navigate uncertain terrain and remain relevant, responsive, and useful to their communities.


(Serdarbayraktar/Getty images)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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