Social Media’s Impact on the Lifetime Value of Non-Members and Lapsed Members

May 5, 2009 at 10:50 am Leave a comment

For years, associations have been contemplating and calculating the lifetime value of a member.  In other words, the measure of the tangible value of a member who maintains her membership over a period of time minus the cost of servicing that membership. 

As we continue to move rapidly through the not-so-new frontier of the social web, we need to also look at another important lifetime value measure… that is the lifetime value of non-members and lapsed members.  The truth is we should have been looking at this particular measure even before the arrival of the social web years ago. 

Why you might ask?  First, because word-of-mouth marketing has been around since the dawn of spoken language.  An individual need not be a paying member, or customer, to create or detract value from your association. 

If favorable impressions about your association resides within the hearts and minds of non-members and lapsed members alike, there is always a higher likelihood that they would have favorable perspectives to share with their friends and colleagues that may influence tangible behavior.  Likewise, if unfavorable thoughts about your association occupy that expanse between the skull and the chest cavity of lapsed members and non-members, then there is an even higher likelihood that word-of-mouth communication will take place… the brand of communication that keeps association executives up at night.   

Enter, stage right, the social web.  Given the expansive reach of communication and interaction offered to virtually anyone with a computer and Internet connection, the sphere of influence impacting our association’s subject-matter has grown well beyond the walls of membership.  As such, the traditional notions of value creation has moved well beyond the tangible contributions of loyal members into the intangible, yet influential sphere of the social web.

Members are no longer the only game in town when it comes to value creation and influence.  While members are the cherished core of our associations,  we must expand our perspective and reach and engage the many influencers and, yes, detractors that are out there talking either directly or indirectly about our associations.  Remember, legitimate detractors most often complain because they care enough to participate and want to be heard.  With that said, be careful to not confuse reasonable detractors with incoherent crazies.

There is also the layer of lurking participants who may not be out there creating content, but are certainly tuning in. 

Your association’s social media strategy should factor in the tangible and intangible value of those lapsed members and non-members who are both visible and active out on the social web.  Even more, if you make the right connection you stand to gain even more than the value-generating relationship, conversation and content… you might actually win them back or bring them on board for the very first time as members as well as their followers.

By now, I’m sure some of you have already asked the inevitable question… “Sounds great, but how do you measure the lifetime value of lapsed members and non-members?”.  The answer depends on your association’s defined measures for success relating to social media strategy.  It’s not always immediate dollars as social media is relationship and conversation-based marketing by its very nature.  Put another way, it’s like planting seeds to fertile soil which you nurture and cultivate. 

However, there are measures including:

– Web analytics, links, demographics, ratings, Technorati ranking of content sources, qualitative comment analysis, content timing and more..

COMPARED to:

– Membership growth, inbound web traffic, conference registration, product sales and much more. 

Another way to measure offline value creation would be to develop benchmark snapshots of membership and customer geography (city, county, state, region, country) and track increasing/decreasing trends over time.  While the social web is universal, we all have a geographic point of origin which is our physical social sphere.

Don’t forget that you can actively track re-captured members.  Further, you can create “customer” records in your AMS for key social web influencers/participants and run periodic anlaysis to see who has joined. 

There’s still the good old-fashioned means of asking new members and customers how they first learned about your association.  Beyond the generic social media sources (such as Twitter, Facebook, etc) to specific blogs or other social communities run by key influencers.

The most important consideration is to be creative, experimental and open-minded as you fight off the temptation to become paralyzed by the illusion of perfection.

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Entry filed under: participation, people, Social Media, Volunteer Strategy, Web 2.0 and Beyond. Tags: , , , , , , , .

The Root of Powerful Social Media Strategy The Role of the Emotional Value Proposition in Cultivating Member Loyalty and Activism

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