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8 Models for
Associations to
Segment Their
Online Communities
and Create Private
Groups
INTRODUCTION
For many associations, creating online communities for their
members is a new endeavor. On the surface, it might appear that
each of your community members has a singular, unique interest
in your industry, organization, or issues.
So, how do you design ONE online community that makes
everyone happy?
INTRODUCTION
Your members have individual characteristics that inform their
perspectives and preferred online community experience. Luckily,
thanks to the flexibility of modern online community platforms, you
don’t have to deliver a single, generic experience.
Today’s online community platforms have the ability to segment
members into sub-communities where the content, people, and
discussions are hyper-relevant to their specific interests.
INTRODUCTION
In addition to having access to general membership information,
members also have access to private groups for specific
interests, as well as committees, chapters, or other leadership
responsibilities they have within the greater association. This out-
of-the-box functionality allows associations to build an online
community that provides a custom online experience for
everyone.
INTRODUCTION
Along with this great power comes great panic and indecision.
Many association executives struggle to create a structure for
their community that makes sense for their unique membership.
There is no one model fits all solution. However, to help you
chart your path, we’ve gathered the most common online
community structures to fuel your team’s brainstorming
sessions.
8 Ways to Segment Your Association’s
Private Online Community
8 MODELS FOR ASSOCIATIONS TO SEGMENT THEIR ONLINE COMMUNITIES AND
CREATE PRIVATE GROUPS
#1) MEMBER AND NON-MEMBER
This model is a great way to position your organization at the
center of your industry. Open up certain blogs, discussions, and
resource libraries to the public, while keeping a majority of the
value in the members-only area of the community. Members will
have access to all of the engagement opportunities, while non-
members will be able to participate in the public discussions.
#2) GEOGRAPHIC
Depending on your association and the diversity of your
membership, you may want to segment based on country, state,
or even smaller regions. There are certain interests and issues
that are important to specific geographic areas.
Creating sub-communities or groups around a geographic region
enables members to engage around local topics. This can add
value to your online community by allowing your members to
connect with people in their same general location, which can
create more offline connections as well.
#3) COMPONENTS OR CHAPTERS
Components (often called sections or chapters) within an
association are a common segmentation structure. They usually
have a defined sub-membership model to them.
This method of segmenting your online community is beneficial
when the organizational structure supports it. It provides
individual chapters or members of semi-autonomous groups to
connect directly in their own private area under the umbrella of
the overall online community platform.
#4) ORGANIZATIONAL
You can create sub-groups and private forums based around the
organization of your association. These might be work groups,
councils, committees, or boards based on how your organization
is set up.
With your online community segmented by organizational
structure, private sub-groups can be used to get things done,
such as collaborating on planning a conference, new
programming ideas, or discussing related issues.
#5) SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS
Creating special interest sub-groups gives your members a place
to delve deeper into the topics that engage them most.
Example:
If you are an association of lawyers, you might have a special interest group
specifically for lawyers who practice real estate law, litigation, or intellectual
property law. Segmenting by interests can lead to higher participation and
keep them coming back to your community because the information,
conversation, and peers in the community are highly relevant to their
interests.
#6) EVENT ATTENDANCE
A good draw for event registration is the promise of access to a
specific peer group after the event. This not only helps boost
event participation in the real world, but also keeps the
momentum going after the event. Group participants will be able
to share notes, discuss event sessions, and build excitement for
the next year’s event.
#7) STUDY GROUPS
Many associations are stewards of their industry’s certifications
or accreditation tests. You can segment your online community
into small study groups for each semester or period of testing.
Group members can then ask questions of each other and get
peer support throughout their preparation, which can make the
process of achieving advanced certificates or accreditations less
overwhelming.
#8) CAREER STAGE
Often your members will get more value from connecting with
peers who are at a similar stage in their careers. Sub-groups of
students, executives, and other professionals can help connect
individuals who can relate to one another on a more personal
level based on where they are in their careers.
Additionally, this also sets up your community as a destination
for members seeking industry mentors.
Association Online Community
Takeaway
8 MODELS FOR ASSOCIATIONS TO SEGMENT THEIR ONLINE COMMUNITIES AND
CREATE PRIVATE GROUPS
TAKEAWAY
Your members are busy and while you don’t want to over-
structure your association’s online community, some degree of
structure can increase the value you’re offering your members
by making their experience more relevant to their particular
needs and career goals.
Start with these eight models when you assess your
association’s individual qualities and engagement strategy.

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How Associations Should Group Members in Their Private Social Networks

  • 1. 8 Models for Associations to Segment Their Online Communities and Create Private Groups
  • 2. INTRODUCTION For many associations, creating online communities for their members is a new endeavor. On the surface, it might appear that each of your community members has a singular, unique interest in your industry, organization, or issues. So, how do you design ONE online community that makes everyone happy?
  • 3. INTRODUCTION Your members have individual characteristics that inform their perspectives and preferred online community experience. Luckily, thanks to the flexibility of modern online community platforms, you don’t have to deliver a single, generic experience. Today’s online community platforms have the ability to segment members into sub-communities where the content, people, and discussions are hyper-relevant to their specific interests.
  • 4. INTRODUCTION In addition to having access to general membership information, members also have access to private groups for specific interests, as well as committees, chapters, or other leadership responsibilities they have within the greater association. This out- of-the-box functionality allows associations to build an online community that provides a custom online experience for everyone.
  • 5. INTRODUCTION Along with this great power comes great panic and indecision. Many association executives struggle to create a structure for their community that makes sense for their unique membership. There is no one model fits all solution. However, to help you chart your path, we’ve gathered the most common online community structures to fuel your team’s brainstorming sessions.
  • 6. 8 Ways to Segment Your Association’s Private Online Community 8 MODELS FOR ASSOCIATIONS TO SEGMENT THEIR ONLINE COMMUNITIES AND CREATE PRIVATE GROUPS
  • 7. #1) MEMBER AND NON-MEMBER This model is a great way to position your organization at the center of your industry. Open up certain blogs, discussions, and resource libraries to the public, while keeping a majority of the value in the members-only area of the community. Members will have access to all of the engagement opportunities, while non- members will be able to participate in the public discussions.
  • 8. #2) GEOGRAPHIC Depending on your association and the diversity of your membership, you may want to segment based on country, state, or even smaller regions. There are certain interests and issues that are important to specific geographic areas. Creating sub-communities or groups around a geographic region enables members to engage around local topics. This can add value to your online community by allowing your members to connect with people in their same general location, which can create more offline connections as well.
  • 9. #3) COMPONENTS OR CHAPTERS Components (often called sections or chapters) within an association are a common segmentation structure. They usually have a defined sub-membership model to them. This method of segmenting your online community is beneficial when the organizational structure supports it. It provides individual chapters or members of semi-autonomous groups to connect directly in their own private area under the umbrella of the overall online community platform.
  • 10. #4) ORGANIZATIONAL You can create sub-groups and private forums based around the organization of your association. These might be work groups, councils, committees, or boards based on how your organization is set up. With your online community segmented by organizational structure, private sub-groups can be used to get things done, such as collaborating on planning a conference, new programming ideas, or discussing related issues.
  • 11. #5) SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS Creating special interest sub-groups gives your members a place to delve deeper into the topics that engage them most. Example: If you are an association of lawyers, you might have a special interest group specifically for lawyers who practice real estate law, litigation, or intellectual property law. Segmenting by interests can lead to higher participation and keep them coming back to your community because the information, conversation, and peers in the community are highly relevant to their interests.
  • 12. #6) EVENT ATTENDANCE A good draw for event registration is the promise of access to a specific peer group after the event. This not only helps boost event participation in the real world, but also keeps the momentum going after the event. Group participants will be able to share notes, discuss event sessions, and build excitement for the next year’s event.
  • 13. #7) STUDY GROUPS Many associations are stewards of their industry’s certifications or accreditation tests. You can segment your online community into small study groups for each semester or period of testing. Group members can then ask questions of each other and get peer support throughout their preparation, which can make the process of achieving advanced certificates or accreditations less overwhelming.
  • 14. #8) CAREER STAGE Often your members will get more value from connecting with peers who are at a similar stage in their careers. Sub-groups of students, executives, and other professionals can help connect individuals who can relate to one another on a more personal level based on where they are in their careers. Additionally, this also sets up your community as a destination for members seeking industry mentors.
  • 15. Association Online Community Takeaway 8 MODELS FOR ASSOCIATIONS TO SEGMENT THEIR ONLINE COMMUNITIES AND CREATE PRIVATE GROUPS
  • 16. TAKEAWAY Your members are busy and while you don’t want to over- structure your association’s online community, some degree of structure can increase the value you’re offering your members by making their experience more relevant to their particular needs and career goals. Start with these eight models when you assess your association’s individual qualities and engagement strategy.