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Open Web Authors: Liz McMillan, Lori MacVittie, Gilad Parann-Nissany, Carmen Gonzalez, Mark R. Hinkle

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Open Web: Article

The Social Web: The Game Has Shifted

Creating an effective online member acquisition strategy

Marketers historically have paid close attention to site traffic, time on site and page view metrics. Success on today's Internet, the social web, is not guaranteed by any of these numbers. The game has shifted, and most savvy marketers are waking up to the fact that new key performance indicators are more relevant:

  • Quality of site traffic takes precedence over quantity of site traffic
  • Interactions on your site are far more important than just time on site
  • Sharing content from your site leads to effective word of mouth marketing, unlike passive page views

The critical foundation underlying these new success metrics is knowledge of your users.

Create a Compelling Reason to Register - The "Give to Get" Paradigm
This give-to-get scenario is a catalyst that prompts and ensures successful user registration because the user perceives the benefits of membership to be worth the time it takes to register. A compelling why is arguably the single most important factor in getting a visitor to become a member. Think about this as a value exchange or a "give to get" relationship. You are asking users to give you something of value - information on themselves and in return you are going to provide something of value such as premium access, promotions, free newsletters or other value-added benefits.

Once you identify the value proposition, display it everywhere: place it beside your registration form, incorporate the reasons into your online advertising rotation, ensure that a user cannot spend more than 30 seconds on your site without knowing why they should become a member.

Member Acquisition Strategies - Benefits to Offer Your Members
This list of potential benefits to offer members is by no means exhaustive, but some options to offer include:

  • Access to premium content: Allow your members to view enhanced content such as in-depth features, multimedia, podcasts, case studies and marketing briefs.
  • Access to enhanced customization: By creating an account and pulling in profile data you will be able to build personalized features on your site such as recommended reading and suggested products to purchase.
  • Access to your online community: Promote the community you have created by allowing your members to interact with each other through personalized profiles, photo sharing, forums and user-generated content.
  • Free newsletters: Keep your registered users abreast of new product releases, current articles, and organizational updates.
  • Coupons and promotions: Offer coupons and special promotions such as free shipping, daily discounts, contests and sweepstakes only to registered users of your site.
  • Insider scoop: Allow your registered users to test beta products, be the first to hear about new products, events and tour dates.

Expand Your Membership Through Online Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Once you have some momentum, take it to the next level by leveraging your members' social networks. Through the addition of social sharing functionality your members will be able to share experiences from your site directly with their friends and online communities, extending your brand reach at minimal cost. For example:

  • Commenting on an article or posting a review
  • Promotional campaigns that provide incentives for members to win a prize when they invite friends to become members
  • Loyalty programs that upgrade the membership level when friends they have invited become members
  • E-commerce related triggers encouraging sharing of a purchase on completion of the process
  • Mobile campaigns that send messages out to promote both membership and additional downloads of the mobile application

Optimizing the Registration Process
Make the registration process as simple and painless as possible. The answer to growing your members is to provide the key combination of a compelling why coupled with an incredibly simple registration process. There are best practices to simplifying the registration process:

  • Shorten the registration form. Take a hard look at your current forms and determine what user profile information you really need. Most sites see an immediate uptick in registration rates when forms are simplified and only present relevant questions.
  • Adopt a progressive disclosure model. Request a minimal set of data from the user at the initial registration point, and then at future touch points ask for more information to build a complete user profile over time. For example, if you offer coupons on your site, perhaps you initially only request a name and email address to download the coupon, but to access a second more personalized coupon requires the addition of a zip code.
  • Leverage your user's existing identities. Offer login through a Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, or other accounts to reduce friction and speed up the process. This method also enables you to instantly collect accurate and rich profile data from your users.

Offering Registration with an Existing Identity
The rapid spread of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as the ubiquity of Internet email accounts through Google, Yahoo or Microsoft Windows Live, has increased the likelihood that the majority of your site visitors already have at least one preferred online identity. Offering registration or login through these identities has been proven to not only increase registration rates, but to increase the quality and reliability of the user data.

Conclusion
In order to increase ROI on the Internet today, marketers have to reconsider the registration entryway and value proposition. Optimizing these two factors will lead to higher member acquisition rates and increased ROI. When converting visitors to members, marketers gain more insight into their users and uncover new marketing opportunities. Providing compelling reasons to become a member, coupled with a streamlined registration process, will drive member acquisition and improved online revenue.

More Stories By Larry Drebes

Larry Drebes, CEO of Janrain, founded the company in 2005 to address the challenge of managing user identity on the Internet. In its early days, Janrain drove the development of the majority of the open source OpenID protocol libraries that continue to be used today by organizations such as Google and Yahoo, and was a founding member of the OpenID Foundation, a non-profit governance organization for the industry.

Prior to Janrain, Larry was a co-founder of Silicon Valley start-ups Desktop.com, a web-based service, and Four11 Corporation. At Four11 Corporation, Larry led the development of its RocketMail product, one of the first Internet based email systems. Four11 was acquired by Yahoo in 1997 and its RocketMail product became YahooMail.

Earlier in his career, Larry did software development for Raynet, McDonnell Douglas and A.G. Edwards.

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