Association web sites seem to fall into three camps: those that are updated daily or almost daily, those that are updated every few weeks, and those that are rarely updated. Are associations that update their sites on a daily basis clearly doing a better job than the other associations? Not necessarily.
When considering the proper frequency of updates for your association web site, there are two key questions to ask:
1) Who are our association’s target audiences?
2) What do we have to say to those target audiences that is of value?
When it comes to appropriate update frequency for your association web site, target audience is of paramount importance. That is because each target audience has different needs, expectations and natural visitation frequencies. For example, prospective association members who are coming to your web site to review membership information will probably only visit once or twice. After that point, they will have made a decision to join or not join your association, or perhaps to wait and then consider joining again at some time in the future.
While it is important to ensure that your association’s marketing information for prospective members is strong and useful, it is probably not necessary to update it frequently unless you have new news such as an added or improved member benefit. On the other end of the frequency update spectrum are your association’s members. Of all the target audiences your association serves, members tend to have greatest informational needs.
In between these two groups fall other target audiences for your association such as prospective buyers of your members’ services or products, or external inpiduals who may be interested in an events calendar, call for papers or hobbyist information. Contrary to popular belief, not all association web sites serve all audiences of the association. Some association web sites are very externally focused, and have little information for members. Those sites tend to need infrequent updating if the external audiences are using the site as a reference or informational tool.
Despite the low frequency of updates, those association web sites can be very useful and deemed successful. On the other hand, some association web sites are ostensibly very focused on the members, yet still have very few updates. Unless the primary focus of the association is to provide a database of information or reference materials to the members, it is likely that a very high frequency of updates would be necessary to meet the needs of the target audience.
That brings up the other key question: Does your association have anything useful to say to the target audiences? Hopefully your association does, so the question can be rephrased as “Does your association have useful information that changes or requires updating frequently?” For example, some associations are constantly generating or tracking and reporting news from their area of interest, be it an industry, a research field, or a common cause.
But for every association that is generating or tracking and reporting relevant news, there are probably several that are not. In the case of these associations, frequent updates of information for the members may not be a realistic goal. The bottom line is that the frequency of updates for your association web site should be based on both your target audience and your access to or generation of relevant, timely information.
The only caveat is that if your association web site’s target audience tends to require frequent updates (e.g. members) but your association is not providing them because it does not have information worthy of frequent updates, it may be a signal of impending problems. In that case, it is important to either begin to generate/report that information, or change the target audience of your association’s web site. If that alignment cannot be achieved, members’ perception of the value of the association may deteriorate over time.
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