Sunday, February 2, 2014

Do Online Communities Compete With Traditional Associations

An ongoing conversation about the growth of online communities is occurring over on Associations Now.

The discussions surrounds the news that Doxmity, an online community for healthcare professionals, now has more than 250,000 members. That’s more members than the American Medical Association, with about 225,000.
  • “Think of it this way: If a separate organization builds a product or service that improves your industry, isn’t that still a step toward your mission? Does it matter if your association didn’t build it?” 

Time & Money

To fulfill the mission, associations need resources: money (dues, fees, donations) and time (volunteers).

Time is a finite resource. Money is somewhat finite.

Thus, I've always viewed "competition" as anyone or anything that gets my members or prospects to part with their time or money. Competition ranges from another association to an online community to attending/watching the Super Bowl. 

If that thing or event takes time and/or money from my members or prospects, they don't have that time or money to invest in my association.

So, even if an online community is helping my profession or industry, it does detract from the ability of my association to meet its mission through its programs and services.

Given the time or money challenge, online communities are competition for most associations.

Maggie McGary talked about this in her Mizz Information headlined Why Online Community is About More Than Community for Associations
  • “I think the Doximity discussion is about much more than online community; it’s about how start-ups are recognizing that associations are falling behind in ways that are leaving a lot of potential revenue on the table and it’s pretty easy to build a business based just on gathering that low-hanging fruit. 
  • “Even in the face of case after case of for-profit online communities popping up and offering traditional association members something better when it comes to online community and networking 24/7/365 instead of just face-to-face at annual meeting, associations for the most part don't see online community as something worth investing in. The difference in resources and attention given to online community in the for-profit and start-up world and in the association world is night and day. Where most associations have no dedicated staff running their online communities, start-ups often have several community managers and many companies have whole community teams.”

So, what about you and your association?

Are you 24/7 or still open a traditional 40 hour week? (Reminder: a 40 hour week means your association is open only 23.8% of the work in today's 24/7 world.

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