Publicación de blog

Why the "Network Effect" is the Secret Formula to Your Association's Success

Kenyatta Berry

Alliances Manager, Cornerstone

How many members are in your association?

For years, this question has been the guide to determining the value of an association, and members have been satisfied with the privilege of "belonging to the club." Today, however, people can join (or start) a group online at the click of a button. Organizations no longer have a monopoly over their constituents, and a membership alone is not enough to warrant someone's time or money.

The changing landscape of social networks is causing associations and other professional organizations to search for a new value prop, as the standard question of "How many members do you have?" is quickly followed by "What are your engagement levels?" If your members are spending much of their time in silos and not engaging with one another, they are literally missing out on a world of potential networking, learning and opportunity.

Leaders are realizing they need to offer members community, or "engaged action" as Seth Kahan wrote in Fast Company, in order to provide true value. In many ways, this is leading associations back to their original mission: to serve as a primary forum for like-minded individuals to share ideas, learn from one another and network with peers.

But it also presents an interesting challenge: How can leaders (who are used to quoting a straightforward membership number) evaluate the seemingly intangible value of "community"? The answer lies in the "network effect."

The Network Effect

The network effect is the idea that a service or product becomes more valuable as more people use it. For example, when the internet began it only had a few types of users, and presented little value to anyone outside of those groups. Today, the internet is used by more than 2 billion people and offers exponential value — from global commerce to online education and, yes, even to that cat video you just shared with a coworker.

For associations, the network effect means that your organization's value is actually exponentially greater than the number of individual members, since your members are making connections with each other. Metcalfe's Law was one of the first attempts to quantify the network effect, and proposes that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of users (n^2).

So, if your association has 10 users, the value the network provides is: 10^2 = 100. In other words, your association can facilitate 100 distinct inter-member connections. Pretty impressive, right?

However, some experts contend that the law only accounts for one-to-one connections, and doesn't full appreciate the group-forming ability of networks (think of interest groups on Facebook or subreddits on reddit). A more recent mathematical assertion comes in the form of Reed's law – which suggests a more encompassing manner to evaluate the network effect. Reed contends that the value of your network is how many unique "group connections" your members can form, represented by the power of two (2^n).

So, if your association has 10 users, that same group of people has the power to form 1024 unique subgroup connections (2^10=1024) – any which one that may become the genesis for a lifelong connection, a new business opportunity, or a brainstorm session that led to "the next big thing."

The Dual Value of Connectedness

Of course, in order to live up to the network effect, an association must offer ways for its members to truly engage with one another.

While it sounds intimidating, enabling connectedness actually takes fewer resources than recruiting new members and exponentially increases the value for current members. It's a lot easier to invest in connectivity tools —and thus (hypothetically) facilitate 1,024 connection opportunities for your association of 10 — than try to recruit 1,014 additional members.

A well-connected association also carries the added benefit of "If you build it, they will come." If you can show that your members actively communicate and interact with one another, it will be a lot easier to recruit new faces (and grow your network effect in the process!). In experiencing the tremendous networking value and source of knowledge that your association provides, new "joiners" quickly become "life-longers".

How to Foster Community

So, where do you start? The first steps are to evaluate your existing communication and collaboration strategies. If your main platform for communication with members is sending a monthly newsletter, or hosting an annual conference, it's time to rethink your strategy.

Instead of relying on association-only facilitated communication, look for ways to allow your members to speak to each other: start a blog where they can contribute posts, ask questions and offer comments. Even better, set up an online communities people can share ideas, offer feedback and organize virtual or real-life meet ups. Harness internal knowledge and empower members themselves to drive the conversation forward and spur new opportunities – especially helpful to associations handcuffed by staff resources. Evolve beyond basic e-learning where users only interact with a screen and embrace collaborative learning – where members can share comments in real-time, participate in communities and learn alongside with their friends or cohort. Most importantly, make sure your features are mobile-friendly, so people can log-in anytime and anywhere to engage with their fellow members.

As the workforce continues to change and technology enables more opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals, it's ever more important to help your members make meaningful connections. By investing in connectedness, you're also investing in the full potential of your association.

If you're interested in more ways to facilitate connectedness in your association, check out our new page for associations and their leaders.

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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy

Publicación de blog

4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy

Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20

Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting

Publicación de blog

Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting

Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons

The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt

Publicación de blog

The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt

Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock

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