"The digital age has delivered all the tools associations need to leverage their credibility by engaging with a large audience more regularly."

After this lesson, you should be able to:

1. Explain effective ways of using content to increase engagement
2. Describe how AI is impacting marketing and content
3. Describe audience monetization
4. Explain how frequency impacts engagement
5. Describe effective advertising techniques in the Digital Age

The task below will be automatically checked off once you complete taking the quiz.


We have all been hit with a tidal wave of content, so much so that most people can’t make head nor tail of it, because the sheer volume of content and number of sources is overwhelming. At the same time, people consume more content than ever before — and they’re consuming it rapidly and with arguably less confidence in its credibility than in previous decades.

With today’s seemingly unending content stream, the desire to hear from reliable sources is even greater. That desire puts associations at the center of endless opportunities to take center stage and showcase their work to audiences who would otherwise know nothing about them.

Associations clearly have credibility with their members, but they also have the credibility that extends much farther. The Digital Age has delivered all the tools one needs to leverage that credibility by engaging with a large audience more regularly. That’s a fact that associations too often don’t capitalize on, leaving a valuable and easily accessible market virtually untapped in the process.


Fundamental Problem

A fundamental problem of associations is their business models have them engaging in deep, but infrequent ways, a concept also known as episodic engagement.


Most associations will engage with someone through a seminar, an event or publication and then remain relatively silent until the next event or publication months later.


Those are meaningful forms of engagement. But if those are the association’s only forms of engagement, the organization doesn’t have the kind of frequency needed to build habit or loyalty.

In order to create brand habit, an association must compel people (whether members or not) to engage with them frequently and consistently. Doing that requires an association to make its usefulness (i.e., content credibility, quality, topicality, networking value, funding resources, community involvement, etc.) known to as many people as possible, as often as possible.


Capitalizing on Brand Credibility

Associations have highly valued brands, brands with credibility and trust. But they often fail to use these invaluable assets to their advantage. People are overwhelmed by mostly non-credible content, and associations have a credible brand with a reason to talk to consumers more often.


The solution is content.


Consumers want to consume content frequently, and they want quite a bit of it. Moreover, they want good, relevant content from trustworthy sources, and they want it tailored to them.

By repositioning the association’s brand to provide daily or weekly content to an audience of members and beyond, you’re solving a problem for both the individual and the association. The association gives quality content personalized to them, while at the same time asserting its brand value by leveraging its credibility and giving brand impressions with a target audience on a regular basis, which leads to habit. As I’ve said before, brand habits form from both the frequency of engagement and positive impressions.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Content

AI is revolutionizing marketing and content in general because the scale of marketing today and the complexities associated with it require a really smart computer figuring out what an organization should offer each person. That dilemma is considerably easier for associations because they already know their members have a specific interest, such as a particular career field, industry, service or issue. That knowledge helps content creators and aggregation software hone in on a type of unifying content.


“Just in time knowledge” is the right knowledge at the right time for the right purpose for the right strategy, all revolving around the fact that the knowledge is instant, fast and transitory.


When people feel like they’re getting topical knowledge that comes at the right time, offering a sense of future security, people find the content not only to be relevant, but extremely valuable.

People want information that tells them what they need right now, content that informs them what to do in the next minute, the next day, the next year. Audiences want to consume relevant, credible, useful knowledge quickly, which is why a partnership between associations and AI content aggregators is becoming such a popular tool.

We can use collaborative filtering to match content to people’s interests as well as their situational needs in creating market segments, which is a contemporary phrase for offering persona-based content. That type of information helps associations build a more refined consumer model both inside and outside the organization’s normal marketing scope.


Frequency and Habit

Growing membership without alienating current members has to do with FREQUENCY. The frequency in which you engage your audience is essentially a prerequisite for HABIT. Habit formation is the real key to building enough value for either participant in the relationship to stand the test of time. The concept of habit formation is critical.


If you’re forming a positive habit with a consumer, you’re building the kind of value for them that makes predicting future content of interest a much easier process.


The association, in turn, is also building value for itself in the form of engagement frequency, cross-community visibility, and enhanced credibility through a media outlet using the content as source material.


Data Integrity

Data today go stale much faster than it once did. People’s interests change very rapidly in the world we live in today. Our access to information in the recent past was far more limited.  The speed at which data becomes stale or incorrect is so rapid that the degree of engagement frequency ultimately determines not only what the association knows about its audience, but how valuable it is to the audience in question.


Associations tend to do things that happen infrequently really well (e.g., conferences, annual studies, quarterly news briefs, etc.), but now, more than ever, they must make sure they are doing the little things really frequently (such as curating daily news briefs).


People today crave consistency and credibility from their content more than anything else. You have to keep your finger on the pulse of their lives if you hope to provide those cravings for them because they are looking for somewhere trustworthy they can go to learn about relevant issues on an immediate basis. That job is what associations are specially positioned to do well because they are already an objective, trusted voice in their field. That alone puts them in a great position to become the master curator for their entire community.


People who are more aligned with the organization’s purpose and more aware of its usefulness are more likely to attend events, recruit others, purchase content, extend memberships and engage in all traditional sources of revenue. When people are more frequently thinking about the association, they are more likely to support its work.


There is a revenue model for advertising unique to the Digital Age. If you have a platform people regularly frequent because it’s meaningful to them, there is an opportunity to generate advertising revenue from third parties. By determining someone’s interests in certain content, you can better predict their interest in related products and services the association may offer.

Advertising becomes a bigger source of value for an association, especially for an association with a diverse audience, that’s more meaningfully engaged. That becomes a revenue stream that could outstrip all others.

Market research becomes a viable way to generate direct economic benefits for the association simply because it has regular engagement with a large number of people. That fact alone is fundamentally valuable because the association is seen as a platform to sell various items and collect information. These types of audience monetization strategies create a sustainable and significant economic engine for the association, and they are dramatically more impactful with a larger audience consisting of members and non-members.


Non-Member Benefits

The advertising play is the most obvious one in this category of Digital Age benefits. But benchmarking and selling reports based upon people’s interests, habits and the companies involved in the industry becomes an incredibly valuable way of leveraging data and audience participation. It’s also possible to sell non-members specific offerings such as webinars and education even if they’ll never become a member.


Rather than thinking non-members are only valuable if they might be members, organizations need to recognize the value of their brand engaging with anyone interested in their topic of expertise.



Activities to apply this lesson’s concepts


Click each tab for the activity.


See if you understand the concepts by completing the quiz. Click Open Your Garden! Quiz to begin.

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