Why Association Websites Will Matter Even More in a Post-COVID World
Just as the Internet connected people worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic, it has become the predominant forum for associations to engage with their members and partners going forward.
A new Pew Research Center survey conducted in early April found that roughly half of U.S. adults (53%) say the Internet has been essential for them personally during the pandemic. A New York Times analysis of Internet usage during the crisis also found a boost in social media and video chatting as people sought new ways to communicate with each other. And as conferences and meetings were canceled around the globe, business and professional online events increased by 1,100% in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
Association leaders need to keep abreast of these trends to ensure that their websites provide valuable content and resources to engage with their members and sponsors in a post-pandemic world. Members, too, will always be interested in learning and professional development, and online tools, like Zoom, that have gained popularity during the pandemic provide new approaches for doing just that. With in-person conferences being canceled, your association’s sponsors will be interested in new creative ways to reach your members and these interactive tools facilitate that engagement.
Online meetings and conferences run the gamut from simple to sophisticated. Some systems are so advanced that you can create your own avatar and have it “walk through” a virtual exhibit hall that looks just like a tradeshow floor. If you don’t have the budget for that, or if you think your members will be intimidated by the technology, Vanguard Technology has created a solution using your existing website and integrating systems like Zoom for live meetings and YouTube for archived videos as well as a virtual exhibit hall for sponsors.
Sessions can be conducted live online using Zoom, which has recently added enhanced security and new features. You can set Zoom up to work as a presentation, a networking event with or without video and you can restrict access and track attendance. Other sessions can be recorded ahead of time uploaded to YouTube and viewed on your website using a widget and both live and archived videos can be tied to sponsors. You also can synchronize registration and meeting attendance and limit access to meetings through your existing systems to connect to all these virtual meeting tools before, during and after an event to save your staff from performing duplicate work.
New Revenue-Generating Opportunities
A virtual meeting that is recorded and made available through your website and social channels also can help associations market future meetings or other relevant content including white papers and trade publications. Tag your content with search engine-optimized keywords and phrases and link it to other components of your website to capture visitors’ interest longer and encourage them to dig deeper.
These interactive technologies can also be used to generate revenue in other ways. For example, associations can add space on website templates to provide sponsors with access to members year-round rather than just during in-person events and place the sponsor alongside relevant content for premium exposure. Create a virtual exhibit hall on your website to give your sponsors access to your members and provide value to maintain your relationships with them. Some of our clients also are increasing the use of video on their websites, which offers abundant sponsorship opportunities if used correctly.
Interactive Tools Available Online
Many of these tools are readily available and can be implemented for a reasonable cost. Implementing chat software on your website is economically priced and provides interaction with your website visitors, and Zoom or other conferencing software is also affordable, especially with the nonprofit discount. You can create your own YouTube channel for free. Leveraging certain components of existing software like your association management system, community platform or learning management system can be quite cost-effective if you use each optimally.
Given the uncertainty the coronavirus pandemic has caused over meetings and events, associations need to get more creative with their websites by providing compelling, quality content and incorporating the interactive tools made popular during this crisis. By publishing websites that provide true value to visitors, associations can continue to grow membership and attract much-needed sponsorships in a post-COVID world.
President Vanguard Technology