Creating a Connection with Young Members

Our Young Members 2.0 report, published in February, laid out what’s proven a surprising statistic for many readers. Millennials will represent half of the global workforce by 2020 and Gen Z will make up an additional 20 percent by 2021. That’s right, young members will make up 70 percent of the global workforce in less than two years.

Yet according to Marketing General’s recently released 2018 Membership Marketing Benchmarking report, despite being a growing majority of the workforce, Gen Z and Millennials together still only represent only a quarter of association membership.

We apparently still have a lot to learn.

Thus far we’ve been lucky enough to host a number of webinars and conversations on the topic of young members. We’ve done a walk-through of the report and last month spent some dedicated time doing a deep dive on topic of young members and affordability.

But we’ve continued to receive interesting questions from association professionals like you around different pieces of our research and were recently asked about connection. How can we position the relationship and in-person connections that have always served as the cornerstone of membership with this emerging demographic?

What is Connection?

Connection, per social science, generally refers to the feeling that you belong to a group and feel close to other people.

I like to think of it as both the driving need behind and the outcome of engagement. The interactions young members have with you – whether in person or online – are done out of a need for, and a want to, connection. At the same time, the culmination of these interactions – their level of engagement – creates connection.

This connection is what will position organizations for long-term success with young members, ensuring they have a fulfilling experience and that you keep your retention numbers high.

IRL and the Value of In-Person Interactions

Think connecting with young members is all about digital? Think again.

Our Young Members study found one-on-one conversations with real people matter and remain essential in demonstrating value and creating a meaningful experience.  When asked how important it was that an association facilitates connections with authentic people who understand their unique needs within the initial part of their journey, 94 percent of young members identified this as important, with almost two thirds suggesting it’s very important.

81 percent report attending an in-person event in the last 24 months. Top events from our respondents include:

  • Workshop
  • Networking
  • Community Service
  • A gala/party

Young members are significantly less likely to attend an annual conference. There are a number of reasons why – early career young members may not be in a position to request travel budget and Millennials with small children may have to balance demands of work and a young family. But this is concerning for those of you looking for young members to not only support growth in your dues revenue but also your non-dues revenue.

The Telephone…Friend or Foe?

In 1979 Philadelphia ad agency NW Ayer & Son came up with a new ad campaign for AT&T. The jingle encouraged consumers to reach out and touch someone. The full line was actually To communicate is the beginning of understanding. Reach out and touch someone.

40 years later the telephone – whatever its shape or form – continues to be an invaluable tool in building a connection with young members. Not just texting either, be real conversations between actual people.

According to our study:

  • Only one third of young members report receiving phone calls from their association yet a larger percentage of young members report phone calls work, with 78 percent of all members saying phone calls are either somewhat or very effective in engaging them.
  • Almost half of Generation Z found these phone calls very effective.

When was the last time your organization called a young member to check in and talk about something other than a dues renewal?

Driving Digital Results

According to Forbes, Gen Z uses an average of 5 different screens – smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop and tablet – to peruse information media, compared to millennials who typically switch back and forth between 3 screens.

With all the interconnectivity and information available you would think it would be easy to engage young members, right? Or does the seemingly endless collection of platforms and channels make engagement harder?

I’d argue it provides more opportunity to connect with young members, but in different ways. Email is a critical components of your communications strategy. It is the way members stay informed about your organization and about the various opportunities you provide to help them build those connections.

According to Adobe’s fourth annual Consumer Email Survey, workers between ages 25 and 34 spend 6.4 hours a day checking their email and our report found almost three-quarters of young members report receiving email from their association often, either in the form of a newsletter (72%) or a more personalized message (73%).

But when it comes to young members, email seems quaint, old-fashioned especially in an environment where social media seems to reign supreme. According to Marketing General’s benchmarking report, 70 percent of associations report an increase in member engagement and participation on their public social network within the last 12 months

Which channels are associations using in their social media outreach?

  • Facebook used by 93% of associations
  • Twitter used by 89% of associations
  • LinkedIn used by 69%
  • YouTube used by 60%
  • Instagram used by 40%

We know that young members are engaging via social medi

a and that associations have picked up on it – using a number of channels to engage members there. But which channels are young members using to create connections? And what’s working? Facebook tops the list at 80 percent, followed by Twitter (74%), Instagram (76%) and Snapchat (68%).

Personify has a number of tools designed to help you understand young members and optimize your efforts to help them form a connection to your organization, and with one another.

Get started with our on-demand webinar and eBook. When you’re ready, check out our other young member-related resources!