Customizing for New Members

Michelle Frisque is thinking and writing about how to reinvent the American Library Association as part of a pilot course about inventing Library 2.0. Every association should be so lucky as to have members like Michelle, Michael, Jenny and others who are dedicated to their profession and will blog about how the association could best serve them and their peers.

Michelle also mentioned one of my articles in another post, which made my day!

Michelle recently wrote about how the ALA web site could do a better job of serving new members:

ALA is a huge organization. I remember when I first joined I found it very confusing. How do you get involved? What is ALA doing that affects me? What will my membership in ALA do for me? How do I network? None of this is easy to find on the Web site.

Something I got from Michelle’s post is the idea of customizing your association home page for new members. Help them discover the organization by highlighting information, services and opportunities on the home page when that new member is logged in. Change it every week or every day! You can phase out the special content over time or allow the member to turn it off when they no longer need it. It should be fairly evergreen content, which is great because it is relatively easy to manage once it is developed.

A few other ideas: Provide the same content in an RSS feed! Create a serial e-mail autoresponder for new members that gives them a new tip about the association every day for two week after they join! You get the idea.

(A serial e-mail autoresponder is an e-mail announcement list where all the messages are written and queued up so that a new subscriber gets each message in order at a specified interval. These have been around a long time but I’ve never heard of an association using them, oddly enough. Seems like a natural for a lot of association promotions and content.)

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2 thoughts on “Customizing for New Members

  1. David – statistically speaking, when given the option to customize the home page, very VERY few members actually do it. I don’t know why. I am just observing actions. We tested this with associations like http://www.spegcs.org in the past (12k membership/20k+ registered with the site).

    My theory is simply that we want an editorial board of humans to filter and prepare our content for us. CNN, WSJ, boingboing, these are groups of editors with lots of smarts doing our filtering. I know I can filter RSS feeds by keywords, but usually I’d rather just get the full feed and skim past unwanted content. Same for customized web pages. I want to experience what the association is doing fully even if my interests as a newbie are slightly different.

    Trends that I *do* think will increase for associations are RSS, incentivized RSS and RSS to email. I base this off of watching our association clients with visualization tools http://www.tendenci.com/mms/visualizations/

    The biggest obstacles? Central association management that wants to deliver information instead of pointing to others (like you!) that have the information. This applies to many associations and is part of human nature I suspect. Companies as well.

    Best yardstick of organization success? Distributed authoring. Measure numeric diversity of content added to the live site. One gatekeeper = F. Five contributors = C-. Hundreds of contributors to actual content on the live site – you get an A+.

    Sorry for the long comment. Should have been a trackback I guess.

    Keep up the great blog posts! And thanks for the link to Michelle’s blog.

    Thanks,

    Ed

  2. Thanks for the comment, Ed!

    I was thinking more along the lines of the site automatically modifying the home page content for new members when it detects they are logged in, rather than the member selecting it to be displayed proactively.

    I agree 100% that Yahoo-style customization just isn’t a viable (or even desirable) option for most associations. They do not have the depth and breadth of content available to enable meaningful customization of that type.

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