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Conquering The Digital Divide

According to research by Pew Internet, 55% of U.S. adult cell phone owners use their mobile phones to access the internet, nearly double the rate from three years ago. And 31% of American adults own a tablet computer. This means that more than half of your members may interact with your association while they’re on the go. Yet the average association is still behind the digital curve when it comes to being mobile friendly.

According to research by Pew Internet, 55% of U.S. adult cell phone owners use their mobile phones to access the internet, nearly double the rate from three years ago. And 31% of American adults own a tablet computer. This means that more than half of your members may interact with your association while they’re on the go. Yet the average association is still behind the digital curve when it comes to being mobile friendly.

THE FOLLOWING GUIDELINES WILL HELP YOU CONQUER THE DIGITAL DIVIDE:

Research your members’ online habits.

It’s hard to plan a digital strategy without understanding how your members prefer to receive information from you. Conduct a survey to find how what types of devices your members own and how they are using them in relation to you. Ask about member reading habits as well. Do they do most of their association reading online or do they prefer reading your print publication (if you still have one)?

Consider a dual print/digital strategy.

Consider a strategy that includes both print and online communications rather than an “either/or” approach. Though more expensive than an “online only” strategy, this allows you to cater to both younger and older members (although it’s important not to make assumptions about user patterns based solely on age) and increases your chances of being effective due to the likely repetition of your communication messages.

Embrace responsive design.

As the number of devices, platforms, and browsers that need to work with your site grows, so does the need for flexibility. Responsive web design crafts sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices. Yet many associations are worried only about updating their website—not making it viewable on other platforms—putting them behind them behind the curve when it comes to the digital divide.

Budget for technology.

The average $4 million dollar association spends 4.1% of its annual revenue on technology. (When staff salaries are subtracted, the number plunges to a measly 1.6%–barely enough to keep up with new equipment purchases and license renewals.) What’s your association spending? And what could you achieve if you increased this number? Consider developing a technology plan in addition to your strategic plan. (You do have one, don’t you?)

Keep pace with staff technology needs.

I’ve worked with association staff who have 10-year old laptops, organizations that have complex databases that only one or two staff members really understand and others who don’t allow texting for association business. How do you think these associations do when it comes time to recruit new staff talent–what about the Millennials? If you want—and or need—to be competitive when it comes to hiring, don’t be a technology dinosaur.

Like it or not, the digital divide is here. Wise associations don’t just acknowledge it—they are embracing it. How’s your association doing in this arena?

Take the first step towards your future.

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