Sharing Our Launch

By Sherry Milligan posted Apr 30, 2010 09:35 PM


Well, we’ve done it. Went and launched AARConnect to a limited group of members. I’m not sure I can call this a success story yet, but so far everything’s gone rather well, surprisingly well, in fact. . .certainly not the disaster I had foretold in my mind.

So let me tell you how we did what we did and how I think it goes from here.

The American Association for Respiratory Care is a national association for respiratory therapists. We have about 50,000 members. In addition we have had some very active listservs through the years. There are 10 main lists with about 500 members each; they are built off the membership of our Specialty Sections, which is what we call our special interest groups.

After tweaking, tweaking, tweaking and fiddling with every page and control, we invited in the largest, most senior, and most prolific of our Specialty Section members this Thursday. There are 1900 of them; about 700 had been registered on our former listserv.

And you know what -- things have gone rather well. Of those 1900 only about 20 called or wrote with questions – questions that could be easily answered like “what is my password” and “how do I get the messages in real time like before.”

What Made it Go So Well

I think it went so well this week because a lot of planning went in ahead of time with our superior team here at AARC.  All of us working on this project have been excited and energized since we started building it all four months ago.

Beta Group – After we got AARConnect pretty well set up in the way we wanted, I invited in a beta group of about 20 people with differing profiles. Two were naysayers (those people very critical of what our current system was all about); a couple were uber-users (those who I often see on a lot of our lists and bulletin boards); others represented various committees or groups who might have projects or applications for AARConnect. I devised a series of activities for them, then asked them to report in to me on a Survey Monkey questionnaire.

Tutorial Materials – We got ready by preparing tutorial materials in a variety of formats. I invite you to look at them all here: We have short descriptions of AARConnect; long descriptions written as a lay-beside-your-computer workbook; and a series of video tutorials, also provided as PDF printouts. The scripts for these last tutorials were based entirely on the scripts I found in the Go-To-Resources area of HUG. Thank you Catherine Stegmaier.

Training of Staff – About a month before we went live, we got our customer service staff acquainted with the system. We encouraged them to make profiles and even create groups. By giving them this time to play around with AARConnect and do whatever they wanted, they all had a better comfort level. We also gave them a list of attributes and benefits of AARConnect that they would keep on their desks as a script to use when members called.

Pre-Sensitizing – About two months before we went live, whenever I saw a problem on our old list that AARConnect would solve, I pointed it out to list members. For example, list members often complained that someone would not sign their post. I mentioned to them that in the “New World Order,” a signature is automatically appended to all posts. Or if someone offered up a document and 40 people came back and said “me too” I mentioned how our new system would store that for them automatically in a library.

Keeping Tabs – These first days I have been keeping tabs on how the community is growing. Rather than taking the time to write down the information, I take a quick screen shot each time I log in to check on the number of profiles created and the number of real time subscriptions requested. So that you can benchmark with us, take a look at us 36 hours after launch--

1947 Management Section members in community
395 unique logins
155 profiles created
247 unsubscribed from list
46 created real time subs
(the rest had been auto-subscribed to daily digest)

Creating Tasks – To keep momentum building in these first few critical days, we have outlined a series of tasks and messages for our Management Section members over the next three weeks. I’ll place these on the old list and on the new list. One of the tasks has our Management Section members writing advice to mentor another important group I’ll bring on next week – our students. We’re asking managers to write their advice on interviewing skills for our graduating students. Hopefully it will give something for our managers to write and something for our students to read, all ending in engagement.

Hopefully each subsequent group will go as well. But nonetheless I am now ready to go forward with a confidence I didn’t have two days ago.

Thanks HUG members for quick answers, samples, and lots of support.




Nov 12, 2010 11:09 AM

Thanks a ton Sherry, this if very informative. IRA is just starting to build it's community with a launch date in the new year, so this kind of info is exactly what I was looking for. :) Hope things go well for you.

May 07, 2010 10:04 AM

Sherry, CONGRATS !!! Thanks for taking the time to share your launch story. Very helpful.

May 05, 2010 12:50 PM

Good stuff! The gradual approach, allowing members to react and staff to tweak, apparently paid big dividends.
We can all learn from your example. Thanks for a great blog!

May 01, 2010 07:14 PM

Bravo! I have had the pleasure of watching the AARC Connect Web site take shape and as Higher Logic staff member was consistently impressed by the time, dedication and thought that went into the site as well as the launch plan. So for all of our other current clients who are in the Beta phase or about to launch please make sure to read through what Sherry and her team have prepared here as well as what they have shared in the Go To Market Resource Library. We can't wait to see what will happen next with the AARC Connect site.