Social networking is about connecting with people. The purpose of your community site is to have people in the same profession and industry connects with each other. You may disagree, and say that the purpose is just for your members to connect. This reasoning will keep your social network small and ultimately obsolete.
Why do most associations have members-only community sites?
- Member-benefit: The online community will be a member-benefit and thus increase the number of people who will join the association
- Increased Confidence: Because the social network will only allow members to join, people will have increased confidence that the community members are professionals and not there to solicit or contribute discussions that aren't beneficial to the profession.
Why should associations consider allowing nonmembers to join their community site?
- Nonmembers could become future members of your association. Nonmembers need to provide contact information in order to join the community site. Associations can use that contact information to market to them in the future.
- Nonmembers can contribute engaging discussions, thus increasing the overall activity on the community.
- In a members-only community, content such as discussions and library entries will not be indexed by search engines like Google, thus preventing potential nonmembers from finding the community site.
- In a members-only community you wouldn't be able to utilize your other social media sites to cross-promote content. Cross-promotion would bring like-minded professionals from popular social networks (Linkedin) back on your community site. Once they're on the site, they can read the discussion and respond to the discussion. However, users can only respond to the discussion after they join the community (and provide their contact information).
- Linkedin is where your current and future members are. Linkedin is also free. Linkedin members to join Linkedin groups that pertain to their career. These are great places to cross-promote content by posting links to discussions that reside on your community site.
- If nonmembers aren't on your community site interacting, they may be on your competitors. Regardless, you won't know who they are.
Your association likely has other member-benefits to promote, such as discounts on products and conferences, and a monthly magazine. What was the incentive to join your association before the internet? That should be the focus. Use your social network community to encourage nonmembers to interact with your association. The more nonmembers are on your community site, the more likely they will become a member, buy a product, or attend a conference.
Eric Newman Esq., CCEP
SCCE/HCCA Social Media Manager
Direct: (952) 405-7938
Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE)
Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA)