Q&A with Guidebook‘s Matthew McHugh
Over the past year, associations have found creative ways to leverage virtual technologies—and mobile apps are at the center of many of those efforts. We spoke to Matthew McHugh, Senior Manager, Customer Success & Partnerships at Guidebook Inc., about the how rapid mobile app adoption has accelerated associations’ move into the digital realm—and provided significant benefits along the way.
Protech: Last year, associations did a rapid pivot to take their events online. Can you talk about the ways that mobile enabled that pivot?
McHugh: Rapid pivot—yes! One of the first things we all learned is that nobody wants to join a Zoom on mobile. But we also found out that virtual events aren’t just Zoom links. You have to keep people engaged with content—and more important, with each other.
That’s where the core value of mobile shines. We’re all mobile all the time, using our phones throughout the day. So that phone is already a nucleus for engagement with people and content. That makes mobile a natural fit as a support vehicle for events; that’s where a lot of associations got started with their apps.
Protech: Throughout last year, what would you say were the most important ways that associations leveraged mobile?
McHugh: Hands down, networking and engagement. Associations used mobile apps to really elevate their events. In any given session, you had option for live polling, Q&A submissions and group chat. Outside sessions you had event threads, one-to-one chats between individuals and opportunities to connect directly to sponsors.
A close second is access to content. One thing we found is that events don’t have to end at a set time; you can have content that stays available through the app for as long as you want. When people keep coming back to re-watch or find new content, that’s a great feedback loop.
Protech: As the year progressed, were associations able to get even more use out of their mobile apps? For example, you’ve talked about leveraging a mobile app as a year-round benefit for increasing member engagement.
McHugh: Yes, now you don’t have a limited time when you can offer events. With fully virtual or hybrid event platforms, you can offer an extended schedule of events throughout the year. You can have a full-blown conference, then extend its reach by offering sessions, content and pre-recorded webinars on a rolling basis. That extension allows more visits and more opportunities for members to engage.
Mobile is the key. And now that you already have that in place, you can put it to work in multiple ways. With your app, you can send notifications when events and content are available, enable registrations, target invitations to segmented groups. Mobile reduces friction in all those communications.
Protech: As we head into the second half of 2021, how do you see the opportunities for using mobile apps evolving?
McHugh: I think a big evolution in events will be in the expanded use of mobile for compelling engagement. Phones are a great tool and a great distraction. If I’m planning an event, I want to be sure that the phones are lighting up because of me.
An easy example is the use of live polling on both web and mobile. You can also push out notifications to let attendees know when the keynote has started or when to join their networking group.
Protech: What would be your top recommendations to associations for extending the use of their mobile app?
McHugh: Whether your new to mobile or just want to do more with the app you have, don’t overthink it. Guidebook makes it easy to add and update your app. So whenever you think about what your members need to access throughout the year, you can make those things front and center for them. You deliver on your key association values—and get members in the habit of connecting with you more often.
Protech: As associations extend their app’s functionality, how can they also enhance the way they capture and use data related to those functions?
McHugh: Associations need to not just have a mobile app but also understand that the investment means something—to them and to their members. We have a metrics dashboard that can measure your usage data and provide insights about how to improve what you’re offering.
To start, you can look at three things:
- How many people downloaded the app
- How many times they used it
- How much time they are spending in the app
There is a whole ecosystem of metrics you can explore. For example, when you have sponsors for an event, you can tell them how many clicks their ads got, how many people registered and attended their sessions. You can build them a portfolio of after-event information—a real review.
And throughout the year, you can see how people interact with notifications, your site and your content. If they aren’t responding to information that’s important—say a membership renewal notice—you can change the way it appears and encourage them to act on it. In the dashboard, you can see who how people respond to your offerings and use those metrics to select groups for enhanced outreach.
Staying Active in the Digital Space
In today’s highly virtual world, mobile makes it easier for you to stay connected to your members. It reduces friction and helps you to run your business more efficiently. Most important, it enables you to meet your members where they are—whenever they pick up their phones.