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Big Data for Associations

How to use data to deliver better experiences for members

Associations are in the relationship business. But how do you make sure you’re nurturing quality relationships with your members? By digging into the data you have on their behaviors, you can create more relevant offerings, facilitate community and improve member engagement.

 

4 types of data

 

Data is “a collection of facts (numbers, words, measurements, observations, etc) that has been translated into a form that computers can process.”

 

On its own, data is not very useful. It’s what you do with it that counts.

 

To understand how best to use data in your marketing and communications—or why it’s one of the most common buzzwords today—it’s important to know what kinds of data are being collected, why and by whom. Afterall, data has the power to drive decisions across industries.

 

  1. Personal Data

What’s personal to you? Any identifying factors such as your email address, location or demographic information would be considered personal data. A number of companies—including social media sites—collect your data every time you enter your email. Often, personal data is aggregated and sold to companies for advertising purposes in order to keep you engaged.

 

  1. Transactional Data

Lights, camera, action! Think of the things you do online that require not only an action, but a transaction. For example, clicking on an ad, visiting a particular web page, or the more obvious one, making a purchase. Transactional data is crucial for companies. It can provide insights for optimizing user experience, patterns that highlight new revenue opportunities or competitive advantages.

 

  1. Sensor Data

No, this is not your webcam automatically turning on. This type of data comes from technologies with sensors. Think your smartwatch, heart-rate monitors or accelerometers. Sensor data is primarily focused on the physical environment and often part of the discussion of the Internet of Things.

 

  1. Web Data

What you see is what you get. In essence, Web Data is any type of information that is public-facing. It is not data that is stored in any internal database. Web Data can be pulled or ‘scraped’ from the internet or an HTML page code. Often it is used to monitor the competition, generate leads, build apps and uncover a less-than-optimal user experience.

 

The big deal about Big Data

 

Obviously, the potential for data is big—really big. Hence, the term Big Data you always hear so much about. By now you’ve probably heard this term so many times you may not even remember you aren’t sure what it really is.

 

Big Data is not large in size, per se. It is a compilation of the all data types collected across multiple channels. “Big” simply refers to the increase in data we’re collecting, which is ever-increasing as new technologies and techniques are introduced.

 

Big Data does have a few characteristics to keep in mind:

 

  1. Volume: The quantity of data stored
  2. Velocity: The speed which data is collected and processed
  3. Variety: The nature and type of the data
  4. Veracity: The quality of the data

 

So what does this mean for you?

 

Everyone is buzzing about data. You’d be hard-pressed to read an email, news article or go on social media without seeing something about it. As technologies become more accessible, organizations can harness Big Data to make major improvements.

 

All too often, an organization’s data is not optimized properly to gain insights that will allow them to make better decisions for their members. Your organization may be good at collecting data, most likely from surveys, member registrations, event registrations, sponsorships, and the list goes on. Chances are, even your education and marketing segments have different data sets. Aggregating this data is key to making informed decisions that will benefit your membership, and in turn, benefit your organization as a whole.

 

Venturing into this can be daunting. To begin, start with collecting, cleaning and organizing your data.

 

How to use your data more effectively

 

Remember to follow these key rules, and ask the right questions, all courtesy of the smart folks over at Association Advisor:

 

  • When it comes to member data, go for quality over quantity.
  • A lean but clean member database is more valuable than a robust database with sketchy information.
  • Leverage comprehensive member data to make decisions about program content, association communications and strategic priorities.
  • Some members are more valuable to your organization than others. Do you have the ability to know who (and why)?

 

Questions to ask yourself

 

  • How long has this person been a member?
  • How do you define their membership value, and what is their value to you?
  • Are there open opportunities to engage with this member about leadership positions, sponsorships, volunteering, mentoring, content creation or event involvement?
  • Is their membership about to expire?
  • Have they taken any learning courses recently?
  • Do they hold a special certification or degree within your industry?
  • When was the last time they attended one of your events?
  • Are they a board member?
  • Who is their employer?
  • Have they recruited other members, sponsors, volunteers or event speakers?

 

Making sense of it all

 

Okay, you’ve cleaned up and organized your data. Now what?

 

Well, it’s an ongoing effort. Internally, your organization must create a culture where data is king and all departments make sure it’s being collected, organized and cleaned up properly.

 

Externally, begin to make changes your member-facing surveys, online forms and website to align with the type of data your organization needs.

 

In order to fully engage your membership, knowing as much as possible about them is key. Additionally, having the right information will help you not only build, but maintain their trust in your organization.

 

Be sure everything is up-to-date. That includes their contact information, professional preferences and involvement within the organization. Collecting data about your members regularly increases your ability to provide meaningful content, maximizing their experience. In turn, they will become ambassadors for your organization.

 

Let’s get visual

 

How do we know how to market to our members? Data visualization—another term you’ve most likely heard before. And for good reason. Think about it—would you rather stare at an Excel spreadsheet or a color-coded graphic of the data? Which would help you comprehend and share the information faster?

 

In order to manipulate data and create visuals that represent your membership’s patterns, find software that can help. Tools such as Tableau, Raw or Visual.ly provide excellent solutions for your visualization needs.

 

Here’s another resource if you want more options and are looking for something specific, courtesy of Creative Bloq, The 38 Best Tools for Data Visualization.

 

Now what?

 

Leveraging data and technology will help your organization better understand member behavior and the value of their membership. In turn, this will help you make smarter decisions about your marketing and how you communicate with your members.

 

Even if you haven’t used data to your advantage in the past, it doesn’t mean you can’t start today. Now get out there, crunch those numbers and use them to help deliver a better experience for the members of your association.