How Do You Measure Member Engagement?

According to the American Society of Association Executives, engagement is “the level at which a member views the organization as a partner and go-to resource.” Membership engagement metrics, on the other hand, are statistics indicating how actively and positively members engage with an association and its content.

Both types of metrics are important indicators of the health of your association’s engagement strategies, but not all are created equal. For example, liking a Facebook post isn’t nearly as valuable as active readership of your blog, frequent engagement with your digital newsletter, or attending association events. Why? Because passive interactions don’t accurately capture you how your members value the experiences you’re creating. Understanding the value of your member experiences allows you to nimbly improve those experiences, and ultimately attract more members. 

So, when it comes to measurement, do measure passive metrics. They’re easy to track and they provide quick insight into your top funnel interactions. But when it comes to strategic direction for your member experiences, don’t get caught up in metrics that don’t matter. In our estimation, these are the ones that do. 

Engagement Metrics that Matter 

Email opens and corresponding interactions

Actively engaged members have a continually evolving relationship with your association. Nothing is quite as indicative of that relationship as email opens and the interactions that follow.

First of all, email is a channel where your association can have personalized association-to-member conversations. It’s not the same as seeing a post on a social media feed, available for thousands to see. Recipients must actively decide to engage with that content, and the association is in full control of driving the content experience. You can segment your list based on what you know about your members to deliver relevant, personal messages in each and every send. 

How will you know your email content strategies are working?

Keep a close eye on email open-rates, which should be nearing 25%. In-email interactions such as clicks on calls to action should hover near the 10% mark.

Here’s how you can improve email engagement if your metrics fall below these benchmarks:

To increase open rates, a focus on crafting more engaging subject lines. There’s an art and a science to writing high-converting subject lines.  This author loves to blend the two. Use a tool like subjectline.com to rate your subject lines, and never send just one. A/B test your subject lines to make sure your list gets your best one each and every time. 

To improve in-email interactions, make sure you actually know your audience. Is your segmentation strategy informed by member data and real member behavior? If not, consider how you can start to build smarter lists. Then, test, test, test your content standards. Maybe a CTA button that spans the entire width of your email will get more clicks than a button with no padding. Or maybe buttons don’t work at all and you should try hyperlinking CTAs instead. Maybe your copy is too long and your readers never make it to your call to action in the first place. Testing is crucial because optimizing your email list will move your members through your funnels more efficiently, leading to a more engaged member base.

Page by Page Interactions on Your Website

You should view your association’s website as an ever-changing dynamic channel, just like any of your other key marketing channels. The way members interact with an association's website should be tested, measured and assessed frequently so you know what to change when, and more importantly, how to do better in the future. Ever crafted an experience that your team considered the industry-altering, life-changing, drop dead best ever association event that just failed to convert when you started marketing it? It’s possible that it was just a flop. But it’s also possible that the problem wasn’t the experience itself, but the way you described it on site and drove users to sign up. Testing and optimizing for on-site engagement can prevent issues like this in the future. 

There are tons of great metrics to measure member engagement on your website, but we recommend charting your course using click through rate, page time, and conversion rate as your strategic guide.

Click through rate will give you a look at the general “stickiness” of your site. Do users stick around and visit multiple pages? If you’ve got a blog, are they reading multiple posts? If they’re not sticking around you’ve likely got a serious content problem that you’ll want to address right away. Or, if they’re bouncing right away you may have a page speed or discoverability issue.

Measuring page time, or the amount of time users spend on any given page will add helpful color to your CTR metrics. Maybe users aren’t clicking through like you’d like them to be, but they’re spending more time on some pages. Use these high read-time pages as a model for updating content on your other pages because something about them is clearly working. 

Conversion rate is likely your most important site metric because it’s an indicator of how well you’re driving towards actions that impact your bottom line. Similarly to page time, you can compare page over page conversions rates to get an idea about which pages have optimal content structure to guide users towards your most valuable on-site actions. 

Once you optimize for your guiding engagement metrics on site, here are a few other key site metrics to have your eye on:

  • Value Per Visit
  • Cost Per Conversion
  • Conversion Rate
  • Total Number of Sessions or Visits
  • Top Pages
  • Traffic Sources
  • Time Spent on Site
  • Interactions Per Visit

YOY growth and retention rates at events

Of course the mark of a healthy association is steady year-over-year membership growth. If your membership isn’t growing you're stagnating, or worse – free falling toward irrelevance.

However, growing isn’t possible if you aren't delighting the members you currently have. If metrics show that members aren't returning to your key annual events, it won't be possible to grow. After all, it's your current members that will, in large part, be responsible for increasing memberships. Provided your current members are happy with association experiences, they’re likely to spread buzz amongst their networks. Nielsen reports that 92% of people trust “earned media,” such as word-of-mouth, over traditional advertising.

Get our guide to running successful events that keep members coming back time and time again. But don’t take our word for it – continuously test experiences to see how they measure up with your audience. Every new event should be viewed as an opportunity to improve on the last.

There are multiple ways to test the effectiveness of your events, but our favorite way is simply to ask your members what they think. Utilizing tools such as proactive live chat support on your website and dedicated membership feedback forums have proven effective. Also, asking for feedback at the end of events or sending a follow-up survey might generate positive results. If members feel heard, and they can see the actions you’re taking to learn and improve based on their feedback, you’ll create a happy, loyal membership base for years to come.  

Making Metrics Work for You

At the crux of any valuable engagement-metrics strategy is its ability to tell you about your members' behavior and relationship with your association, allowing you to nimbly adjust to suit the needs of your member base at any given point. Metrics can’t and shouldn’t live in a silo – they should be considered as an ever evolving full body of knowledge to guide your association into the future. Understanding what these metrics indicate about the health of your audience, and taking it one step further by actually acting on these learnings  will allow you to create engaging experiences for a thriving and growing member base for years to come.

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