The Digital Gym for Non Profits: Is Your Web Site Out of Shape?

Did you ever buy a gym membership and then forget about it? You paid a fortune for it, and you know it’s there, but you don’t use it much. This is what many people used to think about web sites a few years ago; even up until last year. But those days are over.

The most innovative organizations today know that a web site isn’t just a storefront anymore. You know, to show you’re “legit.” Although it used to be treated like one, or an external façade, today a web site is considered a multimedia machine that is being activated more than ever. And it’s getting easier with a little know-how. The reason you activate it? To build your brand, show your brand muscle and to stay relevant. It’s not enough anymore to communicate your mission and predict that people will want a membership. Your prospects now want to see that others are fervently interacting with you; that they want your brand too.

At inQbation’s “Digital Gym”, you’ll need the right form(at), a trainer (www.inqbation.com), and a willingness to try something new.  And you may want to look around and see what the other gym-goers, who are in the best shape, are doing.  Here’s what we’re seeing in the non-profit world:

Trend 1: Visual First

Today, consumers are conditioned to respond first to visual stimuli before content, and visual images have found their way to the forefront in the digital market.  Due to a surge in content, decreased attention spans and busy lifestyles, content providers must now capture the reader in more innovative ways and a lot more photos. These images will no longer be shown on desktop versions down the road, as the mobile format continues to be an accelerating trend.

Trend 2: Personality is Key

Building a following is paramount to attracting a new audience.  One method is to assign a “personality” from your staff that reflects the image of your brand and the audience itself.  Think “Flo” with Geico.  A good website will provide several multi-media methods to easily promote your personality and distribute messages, such as surveys, webcasts, podcasts, hangouts, YouTube and other social media messaging. Without a representative with whom your members can identify, you lose the personal experience that they demand.

Trend 3: Community Building, Using Your Membership

Remember the old SIG message boards? They were an early attempt to create niche audiences, or Special Interest Groups, and get members talking.  It was slow and inclusive – and most of the membership didn’t know about the subject matter.  Non-members couldn’t fully realize the value to the interactive, albeit static, conversations. Now, portions of your member dialogue can be instantly shared across many different platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), which means your brand can become universal in the association world and more attractive to non-members, without sacrificing the “members-only” access.

Trend 4: Targeting Age Groups to Enhance Engagement

Specific behavioral data can determine whether your content will be consumed, particularly between three large, diverse groups: The Millennials (born between 1982 and 2004), who spend over 25 hours a month online look for more interaction, Gen X-ers are highly mobile and not far behind the Millennials in social media interaction, and Baby Boomers, who spend over 27 hours online, like digital video. Your website delivery methods should encompass different formats to engage both.

Trend 5: Your Sponsors Want Speed

Today, sponsors are moving away from legacy websites in favor of high trafficked organizational sites that update at a speed that all of your members demand (from social networks to video).  Instant gratification, allowing members to put their faces out front, broadcasting opinions and contributing content is key to engaging your membership and feeding Sponsors unique page views.  As your demographics widen within different groups, your platform and speed should adjust to support your interactive content.

With these “workout” tricks, your new web site (with a few cool features) gives your membership department an added boost in its mission to recruit and retain, and makes it easier to show your organizational value. Stay ahead of the curve by building a top brand that everyone’s talking about and maintaining a faster model that draws various audiences  – who can communicate your success story for you.