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3 Things Associations Should Focus on in 2020

2019 was a year when many organizations embraced a return to lower-tech ways: Phone calls over texts, printed newsletters over emails, in-person meetings over virtual gatherings. But just as many associations are embracing tech even more, in ways that put humans first: Ensuring everyone can enjoy a video no matter their capabilities, finding a balance between the desire to work remotely and the need to build solid staff/member relationships, using social media to encourage one another in the pursuit of healthy living.

We’re predicting more smart use of technology in 2020 that will allow for more diverse voices to be included in association initiatives and strategies. With the goal of a more inclusive membership experience for all in mind, here are three things associations should focus on in 2020.

Accessibility

Carmen Collins, senior social media and talent brand manager for Cisco, realized how much of our online communications aren’t optimized for people with visual, audio or physical impairments when she broke her elbow last year. “I had to use voice-recognition software to type because I couldn’t efficiently type with my hands,” she explained. “That’s when I delved into the array of tools those with visual or hearing disabilities use to consume social media, videos, and general online content, and found that most organizations aren’t doing a great job of making their communications easy to enjoy for those with disabilities.”

Making your association’s communications more accessible is easy enough if you know what to consider. Collins suggests using descriptive alt text on images, captioning on videos, and cap (capital) case or “camel case” with your hashtags. Limit your use of emojis because automated text readers translate emojis quite literally and will read the descriptor for each and every emoji your social media coordinator places in a caption. Be aware of how your color schemes might be seen by those who are colorblind, and use a variety of colors in your brochures, infographic and images to make them more understandable to that cohort and more interesting to all.

Above all, Collins recommends that associations design content to be mobile-first. According to Hootsuite, 94 percent of the 3.5 billion people worldwide who use social media are accessing their preferred platform on a mobile device. Designing your content for a mobile audience – with large fonts, appropriate image sizes, and alt text/captions for images or videos that don’t always load thanks to spotty Internet connections – can make a big difference in the level of engagement with your material.

Human-Centered Design

As our devices and the software that powers them become more sophisticated, many fear that the humanistic side of business is fading away. But Garth Jordan, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for the Healthcare Financial Management Association, emphasizes that the only way to successfully move your organization forward is to involve the people it serves in your strategy and daily operations.

“Starting with your board is good,” Jordan said, “But that doesn't include your staff, general member stakeholders and other folks. If you aren't emphasizing with your customers/members, it's going to be hard for you to create unique insights that allow you to serve your population in ways that delight them.”

Human-centered design means placing people at the core of a strategy, event, or any other business function. This qualitative-based research and planning method relies heavily on members’ stories about their work, their aspirations and their concerns. Going on a listening tour doesn’t require thousands or even hundreds of interviews or focus groups, Jordan points out. Conduct a couple of dozen, and you’ll hear common themes about how people in your organization perceive the current state of affairs and where those people in the trenches think your association’s work should go.

“[Associations] that collect transactional data like search queries or such aren't collecting data about their [members’] work life,” Jordan emphasized. “You have to go meet them and observe them to discover where they're at and where we can meet them, not where they can meet us.”

A Focus on Now

Finally, as technology speeds up our pace of life, a third trend that associations should focus on in 2020 is living in the now. Collins’ team will be investing more time and money in live videos, live Facebook and LinkedIn updates, and more stories broadcast on Instagram and Snapchat. “Live media is the way of the future,” she says. “People want to engage with brands in real time, and live social is a convenient way to do so.”

Brian Fanzo of iSocialFanz echoed similar sentiments at Digital Summit Tampa. Fanzo is the creative voice behind multiple podcasts who pointed out that this audio format is popular in part because people can listen to a podcast in multiple places with devices they already own. Furthermore, the nature of podcasting is more intimate than other forms of print or digital communications. “As you listen to a podcast – or an audiobook, for that matter – you can create personal visualizations for yourself,” Fanzo described.

Taking action and improving your skills by trying a new communication medium is better than sitting still. “Podcasting might seem like too much of a time commitment, or like something you've missed getting a jump on, but there's still lots of opportunity to make your mark, whether it's for member resource sharing, highlighting member work, advocacy or industry education,” he said.  “Learn how to use a few basic, free tools, then press the damn button – just go for it!”

No matter what events unfold in your association in 2020, there will always be a need for members to connect with each other. Improving your association’s accessibility, centering your strategies around the human side of business, and focusing on the present are sure to help everyone make those desired connections, no matter your industry or goals.

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