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Why everybody talks about private membership community lately?

Over the past few months, many important topics have gone unnoticed or been overshadowed by Covid-19-related news. Chief among those crucial subjects is how the pandemic has changed the way people and organisations interact.

Social interaction has almost become synonymous with social media. Many still consider it a must-have tool that organisations cannot neglect if they want to be successful. But anyone who has seen the documentary “Social Dilemma” can and should call into question the role of social media into the future of communication and community engagement. Instead, forward-looking associations should focus on their online private membership community.

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The Problem With Social Media

A string of scandals has raised serious concerns about the basic concept underpinning the business model used by social media. First is the issue of purpose, since algorithms are programmed to boost more on-screen time instead of meaningful interactions, quality time, or relevant information.

Second is the concern over data handling, especially in countries with strict privacy laws. For example, GDPR compliance in EU countries has rendered the use of social media impractical and cumbersome for associations wanting to attract or communicate with members. And we cannot overlook the ethical aspect of data handling in these platforms. Since it’s common knowledge that they use personal data for advertising or market research purposes.

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Third, social media success is quantified as “awareness”, “reach”, “likes” or “new followers”, but these metrics say little about meaningful connections. There’s an entire industry built around improving these metrics. Yet, a number is not equivalent to a loyal member – not even follower numbers guarantee that. Not to mention that social media experts and gurus may be overstating their case. There certainly are a handful of success stories, mostly related to early adopters who were in the right place at the right time. But for the rest of users, success may or may not arrive after a substantial monetary investment and time-consuming endeavour to get noticed and obtain tangible results.

In short, the prime time for social media for meaningful communities is over.

The Alternative: Your Own Online Private Membership Community

So, should associations invest time and money in social media? Not as their sole or primary strategy. The alternative is to focus on its member base, not on social media. Digital member communities are the future of social. There are compelling reasons for this:

  • Unlike social media, private communities aren’t controlled by corporations – associations own them. They don’t have to accept questionable terms and conditions.
  • Content and member data belong to the association.
  • Associations can set their own success metrics and analytics processes, never in exchange for ad space or promoted posts. This makes brand activation easier, and it portrays the association as an entity that cares enough to invest in creating a trustworthy community.
  • Because they’re not created for the general public, curated member communities foster higher engagement and solidify loyalty to organisations moved by a genuine desire to provide value to their members.

Having a stable network of real people with similar interests still works for most organisations. In today’s environment, being ahead of the curve means investing in building a digital space that members can call home.

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Covid-19 is accelerating the need for real digital transformation exponentially. And with it, to safe digital community-building. Fact is, people are spending more time online than ever. Why? Social networks are a tool that satisfies the desire of belonging to a community. To be aware of this fact presents a golden opportunity to forward-thinking associations: they can address that need by investing in their own digital and private membership community solutions to grow, engage and retain membership, communicate in a safe and meaningful way and even create new revenue streams. Now is the time to move the focus away from social media marketing and to create a modern community built around ownership and trust.