by By Bob Walters | January 01, 2012

So much of your work today is focused on keeping attendees, members and customers engaged with your organizations and programs. This means finding ways to keep your message in front of your audience, and providing that audience with reasons to visit your website, contribute to your social media pages, and participate in your meetings and events.

Database Love
Let's take a look at two primary aspects of audience engagement: e-marketing and your organization's social media pages and platforms. A lot of the value from these platforms is derived from what you know about your audience and how you can tailor a message to keep them engaged. That starts with your database.

Databases are often taken for granted. In the course of our daily activities, we usually track information in our sales, membership and registration databases, but we often overlook the value of the information contained therein. In addition to profile data such as names and addresses, you should also be tracking member or client interests, attendance at your programs, awards, volunteer activities and affiliated organizations they belong to or whose meetings they attend.  You should also have an online portal where these members or clients can update their profiles and provide you with more information via surveys and the like, all of which will help you develop your message.

Targeted E-Marketing
A number of e-marketing tools are available to help you get through to your audience, each with good core features; as you expand the functionality of each, the price increases accordingly. Well-known tool makers like Constant Contact, Magnet Mail and iContact are being joined by new providers such as High Road Solutions. Increasingly, this technology focuses on triggering follow-up activities that are based on recipient behavior, such as which links your potential audience clicks into.

We often call this "drip marketing" -- creating a series of predefined responses or paths that will lead people to additional information. These paths become behavioral profiles, which you can combine with database profiles to help you better target programs, meetings and services.

Socially Adept Social networking forms the final link in this engagement model. Whether using public sites like FaceBook, Twitter or LinkedIn, or private social networking solutions like Higher Logic, The Port, Socius or Socialgo, you must stay involved in the communication. Launching a social site and not committing the time to contribute new content and monitor what is being posted will quickly cause visitors to lose interest. The key is offering something of value to get them to come back and to contribute.

When you launch a social networking site, make sure you understand what you want to accomplish. Is it to be a place to stay up-to-date on the latest news? Or is it a collaboration environment where your members, clients or attendees can learn and share? Using what you know from your databases, tailor the social networking experience to keep them coming back for more.