19/12/2016 07:25 GMT | Updated 20/12/2017 05:12 GMT

It's Not All About Age - Millennials And Membership

By 2020, the millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000, will form 50% of the global workforce. Finding the right way to engage these people will have a dramatic impact on the future of any membership organisation. Many articles associate millennials with lists upon lists of traits that supposedly make them indifferent to traditional recruitment and retention strategies. These tend to include valuing social media over traditional news sources, critically examining advertising, expecting everything to be available online, needing to be met with a personal approach to feel a sense of belonging, a desire to create, contribute, and make a difference, and embracing the value of personal development and a professional network

Think about it - are these traits really unique to people born after 1980?

Young people may be spearheading a change in membership, but they are not the only ones behaving in a more digitally focused and connected way. A more useful term than millennials may be Generation Connectivity, or Gen C as it's abbreviated. Gen C is a cross-generational cohort of people possessing the 'millennial traits'.

Our connected world allows us to engage with the organisations we belong to in new ways. Today, the appeal of your organisation is dependent on how you're perceived online, and the desire to stay a member is determined by the participation and networking opportunities you offer. Millennials are not a whole new breed of people with alien worldviews. Since you're reading this, chances are that you're one of Gen C yourself, even if you're born before 1980.

So what does Gen C want? Gen C wants to engage, as opposed to being a passive member and consumer of content. To actually engage, however, engagement needs to feel both accessible and meaningful. Many prefer to participate in bite-sized chunks that don't feel like a lot of effort, and if there's a social aspect to it, that's even better.

One example of how to do this is to invite members to spread a hashtag for a cause, conference, or publication by your organisation. This need for ease also applies to the necessary actions as a member, such as payments and renewals.

Treating your members as individuals will help them perceive of engagement as accessible and meaningful. Gen C wants to feel that you are relevant to them personally. Getting content that comes across as curated and customised can help tick this box. This is why it is increasingly important to understand your membership community through in-depth analytics.

The social and networking aspect is often the main reason why Gen C gets involved with your organisation in the first place. They are looking to expand their network of people with similar interests, and being savvy social media users they want to be able to network anywhere and at any time. Making sure that engagement is easy, relevant, and social can be done both by social media strategies as well as having the right software that makes this easier for you - such as the membership management software offered by VeryConnect.

Again, remember that millennials/Gen C are not some alien group. What makes yourself want to engage?

The basics are all about staying active. Keep your website up to date, make your presence on social media a priority, and encourage vibrant discussion and interaction in your online community. Gen C wants more than to pay their membership fee and be done with it - we want to feel like an active member in many small, everyday ways, even if it's only by liking what you just shared on social media.

Don't be afraid to show your personality and don't be afraid to invite your members to participate. For example, a personal message can contribute to a sense of involvement, and guest blogging on your online community can bring a sense of recognition and ownership.

In short, the secret to engaging millennials is to stop thinking about them as a code to be cracked. It's not about age - it's about a mindset of connectivity. Gen C are people like you who want to be engaged. You just have to give us the right tools.