New Members and Twitter Rookies – Why Do They Leave Us?

Nielsen Online reports that more than 60% of the people who sign up for Twitter leave within a month. This finding provoked lots of conversation on blogs and listservs about whether Twitter is a fad or here to stay. Some used the study to validate their perception that Twitter isn’t worth their time.

I’m not surprised by the low retention rate. New users of Twitter leave for the same reasons new members leave associations, online communities, chambers and other groups — they never learned how to use Twitter or their membership effectively, therefore they don’t see or get the value.

  • They enter the “room” and can’t find anyone to talk to. They don’t know how to find the right people to follow.
  • They fall in with the “wrong crowd.” There are a growing number of spammers, multi-level marketers and idiots on Twitter. They follow everyone, hoping someone will follow them back. They’re only after numbers and provide nothing of quality. Many new users follow them or people who only broadcast, never interacting, like celebrities. The new user remains lonely in a crowded room and hears nothing of substance.
  • They don’t look to see how others use Twitter effectively. They don’t know what to say and, believing all the hype about Twitter, they talk only about what they’re eating for lunch. Nobody cares. Or they use Twitter as a therapist and whine about their life or crazy siblings. Nobody cares. Or worse, they become broadcasters themselves, talking only about their company or product. Nobody cares. Don’t answer the Twitter prompted question — what are you doing? Instead tell us what you’re thinking about, what you learned toda, or what you read that’s worth sharing. Aspire to be interesting — easy to say, hard to do.
  • They don’t know how to manage the barrage of tweets. They don’t have time to read it all. Besides, so much of it is crap. Yes, it is, if you follow the wrong people and don’t have tools, like Tweetdeck, to help you manage your updates.

    (photo by mhalon/Flickr)
    (photo by mhalon/Flickr)

These poor souls never learn how to use Twitter as a knowledge and networking tool. They don’t get any value from it and they leave. Who can blame them? I’ve written about this before — it’s the same challenge with new members. If we don’t teach them how to use their membership appropriately and effectively, they’re not going to get the resources they need or develop the relationships they desire. We won’t meet their membership expectations and we’ll lose them after one disappointing year.

There is a great opportunity here for organizations to be their members’ social media coach and teach them how to effectively use not only Twitter, but also RSS readers, Facebook and LinkedIn.

If you know of someone who’s struggling with Twitter, tell them about your experience – how you learned to use it and what you get out of it. The web is full of resources about Twitter. I think one of the best directions you can point them is Darren Rowse’s TwiTip blog. He and his guest bloggers focus on how to use Twitter effectively. Or, for a more amusing (but helpful) introduction, show them the Twitter Rule Book.

Twitter has turned out to be more educational and rewarding for me than I ever expected, and my passion (there, I said it) for Twitter reminds me of the same passion some of our members had for my old association. Once they figured out (or were taught) how to “work” their membership, their opportunities to learn and develop relationships were unending. Many of those members learned from others – they had unofficial mentors. Maybe it’s time for us early adopters to be Twitter mentors to others, to share how we use it and help them find the same rewards we have. Reach out and save a Twitter Qwitter!

Do Right By Your New Members, Teach

We all want to help new members avoid being “that guy” — the one who doesn’t know the unwritten rules and doesn’t understand what to do as a member, usually resulting in a bad experience or unmet expectations. Yesterday’s post recommended that the first step with any new member is to ask questions to learn about their needs and expectations — to listen.

The second step is to teach. Many of your members (vendor, supplier, associate, affiliate) joined in order to make new contacts that will lead to new sales. To help them avoid the “that guy” label, you must take the time to teach them how to successfully network and develop business in your organization.

What you teach will depend on your organization’s culture, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Focus on relationships, not pitching your product. People are much more likely to listen to or buy from someone they know and trust. Your membership opens the door a bit, but it doesn’t get you inside; you need to do some work to get there.
  • Find ways to get involved in the organization and to work side-by-side with fellow members on events, committees, special interest groups, community service projects, whatever. Take the time to get to know them as people, not prospects.
  • Think about giving, not getting. Show up at a meeting with the mindset of “how can I help you?” and see how you feel when you leave. The other members will feel better about you, that’s for sure.
  • Don’t ignore your fellow vendors. So often new members concentrate only on developing relationships with their prospects — big mistake. A fellow vendor can make introductions, be a good reference, and send business your way — cultivate those relationships as well.
  • Learn about the industry. Keep up on issues, news, and trends that occupy your prospects’ minds. Demonstrate by your knowledge and actions (and your checkbook doesn’t hurt either) that it’s your industry too; after all, your revenue does depend on it.
  • Manage your expectations. You (or your boss) want results but relationships take time. Building a reputation takes time. Building trust takes time. Yes, it might take more than a year, be ready for that. Your dues are a business development investment.

There are plenty of resources out there on the right ways to network, yet you’ll find that not everyone seems to apply theory to practice. You know your group’s culture and how a member can best get ahead, give them that insight.

There are several ways to teach them:

  • Schedule a “marketing” meeting with them, not an “orientation” meeting, the label matters. Discuss marketing opportunities that would fit their goals and product. Give them some pointers on networking and relationship-building. Share member success stories that illustrate those guidelines.
  • Assign new members to veteran members. Ask the veterans to call new members, share advice and experiences, and invite them to the next event where they can introduce them around.
  • Make sure all your new vendor members receive networking/business development guidelines by both mail and email. Give this advice to them in as many ways as possible — one of them is sure to stick.
  • A few times a year invite all new members to a panel featuring two regular and two vendor members. Incentivize attendance — if they come, they get a deep discount off their next event registration. The regular members explain how to earn their business. The vendor members share how they developed the relationships that led to new business.
  • Be the social media coach for your members — hold classes on how to use social networking and media tools to market their businesses effectively.
  • Dedicate a section of your web site to the special needs of your vendor members. Feature interviews about the success stories of vendor members. Keep the content fresh — find new resources about networking and post or link to them. Publicize all your marketing opportunities and include testimonials lauding the value.

What else can we do? How are you helping your vendor members do business with other members? What are you teaching them?

Do Right By Your New Members – Listen

Cynthia D’Amour wrote today about barbequing members, not literally. Take a moment to read it. Did you cringe too because it sounded familiar? Cynthia says “the rules were not explained.” That’s a fairly common occurrence on listservs. Sure, there were listserv guidelines that told members to refrain from commercial posts, but how many people really read them, especially if you’re a new member and are still procrastinating about reading the gigantic manila envelope of orientation material you received last month. Plus the rules are usually written in that “policies and procedures” language that causes us to skim quickly, not really digest anything, delete and move on.

Another barbequing happens when a new member goes to their first event or meeting. Armed with business cards, he approaches a small group, introduces himself and starts his elevator speech while pushing his card into everyone’s hands. What’s your usual reaction when this happens to you? Ugh, another pushy salesman. Not the best first impression, is it? If you see “that guy” again at a meeting, you quickly avert your eyes and head in a different direction.

But “that guy” doesn’t know any better. Most members don’t. They join the organization to make some contacts and get new business. He was nervous, he did his best. Then nothing happens — he’s not feeling the love at meetings, his calls aren’t returned, soon he stops going, and when it’s renewal time, he thinks, well, that didn’t pan out, don’t think I’ll be signing up again.

What can we do to help our members succeed? Their goal is to get new business — how can we help them with that? We should have a plan in place for each new member that includes educating them on how to market within our organization, and this doesn’t mean just mailing them a list of advertising and sponsorship opportunities.

(photo by ky_olsen/Flickr)
(photo by ky_olsen/Flickr)

First, survey all your new members when they join. You have their full attention when they’re completing the membership application so add some questions to it. Even better, interview new members. Some associations have member ambassadors make these calls or visits — a great way for the new member to make at least one new friend.

Learn about your members so you know how to help them meet their membership goals, and how they can help the organization.

  • What are their membership expectations? What does their boss expect?
  • What are they selling?
  • Who is their target market? What type of companies or people do they need to meet? What type of job position?
  • How do they normally market their product/service?
  • Will there be others from their company willing to get involved in the organization and attend meetings and events?
  • When can they attend meetings/events — breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend?
  • Do they (or someone else in the company) have expertise they’re willing to share? Can they write content for your publications or web site, present a class or webinar, or provide podcasts or videos?
  • What other organizations do they belong to? How are they involved there?

These additional questions will give you insight on how to better serve and engage your members.

  • What methods of communication do they use and which do they prefer?
  • What types of social networking/media are they or their company involved in?
  • What are their most pressing business challenges? What keeps them up at night?
  • What kind of classes do they need for their professional development? What do they need to know to help their business prosper?
  • How do they spend their free time? What are some of their personal hobbies and skills?

Now that you have listened and learned about their membership goals, you can suggest a marketing strategy for them based on their probable involvement and other visibility enhancing opportunities — advertising, sponsorship, exhibiting, and content marketing (webinars/classes, podcasts, videos). You can also suggest other ways they can get involved based on what you’ve learned about them and their business.

But that’s just step one, step two is critical. To help them avoid the “that guy” scenario, you must teach them how to network and develop business at your organization the right way. And that’s the topic for my next blog post.

So what have I forgotten? Are there other questions that you ask your new members?

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