Keeping Up With the Times
Over the past several years, the aspect of our society that has seen the most rapid change has been the way in which we communicate with each other. With the advent of the social Internet and all that accompanies it (smart phones, iPads, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), keeping up with the changes can be a daunting task for many already tech-savvy individuals, let alone for private clubs.
As the communications landscape continuously changes, many clubs are developing their communications strategies, leveraging cutting edge technology to provide targeted content in formats with which members are currently engaging. In order to effectively communicate with members and increase member satisfaction, clubs need to know and understand what members want. According to VCT Corporation’s recent 2011 Club Communications Survey, the majority of club members want personalized and relevant content, delivered in their preferred format.
The Rise of Mobile Computing
Over the past year, consumers have become increasingly interested in mobile connectivity—integrating and syncing their personal communications from all of their various devices—and this trend isn’t showing any signs of slowing. As smart phones and tablets continue to proliferate in the marketplace, members will become more accustomed to constantly having information at their fingertips, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. Of course, many will likely expect their club communications to be accessible 24/7 as well.
Pew Research Center’s April-May 2010 Internet & American Life Project Tracking Survey indicated a 13 percent increase in consumer Internet access via mobile smart phone devices from 2009-2010. This trend holds true for private club members as well, moving into 2011. Data from the 2011 MembersFirst Internal Mobile Usage Study indicated that visitors to club websites using mobile browsers (web browsers found on smart phones, iPads, tablets etc.) have increased by an average of 245 percent each year. According to a recent study by Gartner, Inc., mobile web browsing could surpass computer-based browsing by as early as 2013—making mobile devices the preferred vehicle for accessing the web.
As the mobile Internet grows in popularity, club communications strategies are beginning to leverage mobile-friendly communications. E-mail and electronic publications are the most effective (47%) according to clubs that participated in VCT Corporation’s 2011 Club Communications Survey. And while print publications are still preferred by a large portion of the membership demographic, VCT’s survey indicated that 37 percent of participating clubs believe a combination of print and electronic communications is most effective in satisfying member needs. Twelve percent of participating clubs have completely moved away from print publications altogether and instead are leveraging club websites, e-newsletters and other electronic communications that are mobile and interactive.
New Media for Members
Successful clubs are transitioning from traditional forms of communication, such as mailings, fliers and e-mail blasts to new media alternatives in order to take advantage of current communications trends and to improve member interaction and involvement. Videos, interactive photo slideshows and lifestyle enriching content are allowing clubs to engage with members in new and exciting ways. As technology and the ways people interact with it advance, there has been a shift towards two-way communication, even with businesses and clubs. People are able to interact with organizations, as well as with other people, through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
According to the McMahon Pulse Survey Database, increasing member usage was the number one strategy for dealing with declining revenues and dues in 2011. With member engagement a growing priority, it is not surprising that clubs are opening their eyes to the possible benefits of social media. Twenty-six percent of clubs surveyed in VCT Corporation’s 2011 Club Communications Survey said that they currently use social media as part of their member communications strategy. Another 44 percent are still considering social media as a more direct way of communicating with members.
Clubs are beginning to leverage this type of interaction when dealing with members. Nowadays, people, especially members, want to participate in the exchange of dialogue in order to remain connected. Viral features incorporated into club e-publications, such as graphical “forward to a friend” buttons that encourage sharing among members, and social media sharing buttons that allow members to post sections of content to private club groups, add a new dimension to the traditional word-of-mouth approach.
As the communications and media landscape continues to evolve, clubs can consider expanding their communication efforts by leveraging new forms of communication to increase both member engagement and satisfaction.
For more information on today’s changing communications landscape, and other lifestyle, demographic, economic and food & beverage trends affecting the private club industry, be sure to check out NCA’s 2011 Trends & Issues: A Private Club Perspective.
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