One of our clients has been advocating to auto-subscribe their members to an Open Forum community, but the "powers at be" are not sold on the idea. Are you facing a similar situation? Below are highlights to help you build a business case around auto-subscribing your members.
1) If an association does not auto-subscribe their members to an Open Forum community (and to their respective committees) then they are essentially setting up their community site for failure. No matter how many marketing, communication and engagement strategies are employed, it's a steep uphill battle to get members to proactively subscribe themselves. Simply put, members are just too busy and won't make it a priority. Think about it this way: On average, 5-10% of users will proactively subscribe or unsubscribe themselves from an Open Forum -- do you want 5-10% of your members subscribed or 90-95% of your members subscribed?
2) The most effective way to improve member engagement on your community site is to auto-subscribe members to an Open Forum. The hundreds of Connected Community clients that have followed this best practice have seen engagement rates of 20% or higher in the very first year of launching their community sites! The 20% rates are achieved when our recommendations for launching an Open Forum are closely followed; these include posting 25-30 high-quality seed questions, having your ED/CEO post the first message, and having an active community manager post weekly tips and tricks and ensure that all questions are answered.
3) Clients that do not auto-subscribe their members to an Open Forum during implementation - either because they have reservations or they lack buy-in from their Board/ED - rarely see the engagement levels expected at their three-to-six month reviews. At that point, almost all have agreed with our recommendation that auto-subscription is the best way to improve low engagement levels. No other strategy has proven to work more effectively to improve engagement.
4) ASAE is one of our clients that has followed our best practices for auto-subscribing their communities. Their research department has cross-referenced
their NetPromoter results against their community site engagement levels and found that members who are active within Collaborate are 23% more likely to recommend ASAE to a friend or colleague.
5) In a member satisfaction survey the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination (AANAC) found that their community site was the highest ranked member benefit. They auto-subscribed all of their members in 2010 to AANAC Connect, and still have 95% of their membership subscribed to the community.
6) The Association of University Programs in Heath Administration (AUPHA), who launched AUPHA Network back in September 2009, auto-subscribed their Open Forum in June 2011; at the same time, they started allowing their organizational members to have an unlimited number of individual memberships. AUPHA created the graph below to depict login counts before and after they auto-subscribed their members to the Open Forum. The red vertical line indicates the date that the Open Forum was launched. Although it took a while for discussions within the Open Forum to really take off, Kristi Donovan, Senior Director of Professional Services, assures that "it brought folks to the site that had not otherwise taken the time to check it out."
7) The Professional Photographers Association of America (PPA) has been tracking the number of unique authors - users who have posted at least one public message to The Loop - each month. The red line in the graph below indicates the date that members were auto-subscribed to the Open Forum. There is a clear increase in the number of unique authors posting to The Loop each month. The launch of their mobile app and a few promos certainly helped participation, but auto-subscription has provided the most sustainable increase in engagement thus far. Thank you, Lindsay Starke, for sharing your story and creating the graph!
8) The Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) successfully prepared seed questions for their Open Forum community prior to launch. Within one month, they had 182 discussion posts in "AHP Huddle" from 120 unique authors. This serves as yet another testament that auto-subscription and properly launching an Open Forum community yields a high ROE (return on engagement).
9) Here are a few additional stats of two clients that made the decision to auto-subscribe to an open forum post-launch. They both had an all-member forum set up, but did not automatically opt anyone in. not automatically opt anyone into it.
Professional Photographers of America:
In the 8 months preceding the auto-subscription, their all-member forum had a total of 844 unique contributors and 8,301 posts (average of 1037 posts/month). In the 8 months since they auto-subscribed, they’ve had 1,282 unique contributors and 11,520 posts (average of 1440 posts/month).
American College of Healthcare Administrators:
Client launched in April 2013 without auto-subscribing their members. From October 2013-January 2014, they had 43 unique contributors to their open forum and 136 total posts (average 34 posts/month). We auto-subscribed their members on 2/23/14. Between March 1st and April 30th, they’ve had 67 unique contributors and 169 total posts (84.5 posts/month). They’ve more than doubled their engagement, not only in terms of posts but also the number of members contributing.
For additional best practices on launching auto-subscriptions, please read our best practice document.
Interested in getting the auto-subscription process started after reading our best practice document? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share your experience with auto-subscription in the comments section below!