richAs promised in my previous post, understanding how and why your content is actually accessed by your members is critical to making your content more effective. Just think of some of the key questions:

  • Do they arrive through your society homepage, direct to a page through a bookmark, from 3rd-party search?
  • What kinds of content are accessed most often?
  • How long does a typical member stay on a particular page? How much variation is there in member behavior once they’re on your site?
  • Of increasing importance, what kind of device are they using to access your content — smartphone, tablet, or PC? Does this vary based on member demographics? (You bet it does!)
  • What makes them choose your content over content from a different source?
  • … and so on, and so on.

Whether you use Google Analytics or one of the many third-party analytics consultants, you certainly can accumulate pages and pages of numbers, and with some practice you can teach these numbers to “sing.”

To me, this is a great place to start, but it’s not the entire story. Ideally, you want to observe some of your members as they go about their everyday activities, noticing when, why, and how they seek digital information. A speaker at Doody’s Digital Workshop in 2014 discussed “ethnographic research. Done right, it’s harder than simply “shadowing” people, although that’s a good first approximation. At any rate, the aim is to understand how some of your key members behave, and then return to your analytics.

Also, as pointed out by two speakers at last year’s DDW, it’s important to have millennial members on the inside — that is, involved with all aspects of governance. A lot of professional organizations have “young member committees”, or whatever they might be called, and that’s fine. Ideally, however, you’d also disperse those members to serve on all the key committees. No matter what the governance function, it’s critical to hear from millennials. For many societies, that’s a huge culture shift. Traditionally, to get on the most prestigious committees, members need to pay their dues on lesser committees, so by the time they reach the Board of Directors they’ve been involved with the society for 20 years or more. Our speakers in 2015 strongly suggested that it’s increasingly important to identify articulate youngsters and place them on these committees.

Remember the signs at railroad crossings? Stop. Look. Listen. The alternative is getting run over by a train. So, before you make assumptions about how your digital content is being used:

  • Stop assuming.
  • Look at the data.
  • Listen your members, maybe your youngest members in particular.