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Beyond Search: Is Your Association Website a Step Behind?

Beyond Search: Is Your Association Website A Step Behind?

In the association world, information is currency, and staying ahead of the curve in knowledge management is non-negotiable. Enter the arena where traditional search tools have been the go-to—they’re reliable, sure, but they can leave you knee-deep in links without answering your burning questions.  

Now, there is a shift happening.  

The world’s knowledge management platforms are moving away from search. Even Google and Bing are shifting and shifting fast. Associations run the risk of being behind the curve further than ever before if they do not embrace the shift that their members are experiencing everywhere else online.  

Associations need to be moving towards intelligent tools powered by Generative AI, designed to cut through the clutter and provide the exact info their users are looking for. These tools are more than search engines; they’re like having a conversation with an expert who’s got the entire library in their head. 


Generative AI is shaking things up in the association world. It’s not just about finding information; it’s about understanding context, nuance, and the natural flow of human curiosity & knowledge need.  

Imagine a tool that not only finds what you’re asking for but also knows why you’re asking it and anticipates what you might need next. That’s the kind of interactive, smart experience that Generative AI brings to the table.  

For associations, this means delivering personalized, accurate responses straight from their wealth of resources to members. These AI-driven tools are becoming indispensable, turning every search into a smooth, satisfying conversation. 


The Challenges with Federated Search 

For those associations who’ve implemented it – federated search has improved access to information across disparate websites. That’s good! Search has been like that trusty old library catalog: great when you know exactly what you’re looking for and where to find it. But when it comes to the complex needs of members, Associations continue to report it is found lacking.  

Picture this: you type a question into the search bar and get back a flood of results – reports from years past, a mountain of unrelated documents – and somewhere in there, the answer you need. For the member, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. 

Members don’t need more information; they’re drowning in it.  

What they need is the right information and the answer to their question. With federated search, users often end up on a wild goose chase, sifting through pages of results, which can be frustrating and time-consuming. It doesn’t help that these systems often lack the ability to understand the context or the specific needs behind a query. They can’t tell if you’re looking for a quick fact or a deep dive, a beginner’s overview or expert-level discussion. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach in a custom-tailored world. 

While your information may be best-in-class in your field, users won’t put up with this experience and go to “good enough” sources of information from broader based tools that can solve their problem faster and better. 


Intelligent Chat Tools: The New Knowledge Navigators 

That’s where intelligent chat tools strut onto the stage, and they’re changing the game. These tools are more than just smart—they’re insightful, like a good mentor. They get to know you, learn from interactions, and remember your preferences. Using the latest advances in AI, they provide spot-on answers and can even throw in some added value you hadn’t thought of helping as a brainstorming partner. 

Think of these tools as the modern librarian who knows every book, article, and snippet of information like the back of their hand. But they’re not just pulling books off the shelf; they’re engaging you in a conversation, understanding the nuances of your questions, and guiding you to the knowledge you seek with the ease of a Google search crossed with a heart-to-heart chat. 

Let’s say you’re looking for the latest trends in nonprofit governance. Instead of throwing a list of articles at you, an intelligent chat tool might respond with, “Are you looking for recent changes in nonprofit law, or more about best practices for board members?” It’s a tailored experience that goes to the core of what you are trying to do in your work. 

These AI chat tools also get smarter over time. Every question, every interaction, feeds into the system, honing its ability to serve up exactly what’s needed. They’re not just answering questions; they’re building a relationship, creating a dynamic repository of knowledge that evolves with the association’s membership. 

The benefits are clear: not only do you get better, faster, more relevant answers, but you also save that precious commodity—time. Members can ask complex, multifaceted questions and get answers that lead to deeper understanding and engagement. For associations, this means happier members who see real value in their membership, driving renewals and fostering a community of engaged professionals. 

With intelligent chat tools, the knowledge within an association isn’t just archived; it’s activated. It’s not just stored; it’s a living, breathing resource that’s as dynamic as the field it represents. And in the digital age, where speed, low friction, and relevance rule, these tools are the secret weapon for associations ready to make the leap into the future of knowledge management. 


Do you still need Search? 

There can be multiple “right” answers to this question. On the one hand a simple search bar at the top of your website has become the standard that people expect. And for simple or very specific things, like finding your annual meeting, search might still be useful.  

For most of the requests that come into search, you might want to reconsider the investment in the expensive add-on federated search tool (beyond the basic search that’s part of your website CMS). Generated AI tools like we’ve discussed do overlap with search, and in many respects, they replace the need for more extensive/in-depth search. AI intelligent assistants are a much cleaner, appealing, and more powerful solution.  

What is the key? You need to make sure your intelligent assistant is: 

  1. Grounded only in your content. You must not use knowledge from other sources beyond what you curate to ensure accuracy 
  2. Providing citations with links so the user can easily go to the source article on any site that you run (or even sites you don’t if you choose to include their content with the appropriate permissions). 


Intelligent Assistance – The Era of the Association Knowledge Cycle

As we navigate the question of whether traditional search is becoming obsolete on association websites, it’s clear that the shift toward intelligent assistance marks a new era of knowledge navigation. While a basic search function remains a staple for quick look-ups, the depth and complexity of most queries are increasingly demanding a more sophisticated approach. This is where Generative AI tools step in, offering an alternative that not only encompasses the utility of search but transcends it with interactive and contextually aware conversations. 

Grounding your intelligent assistant in your own curated content is critical. This is the one of the three pillars of The Association Knowledge Cycle – knowledge repository – whereby Associations leverage their extensive legacy knowledge-base and create access through intelligent knowledge assistants.  

By doing so, you’re ensuring that your members receive accurate, relevant information directly from the source. Moreover, providing citations with links back to the original content not only builds trust and transparency but also boosts engagement by encouraging deeper exploration within your site. 


Tailoring Member Experience and Encouraging Exploration 

Imagine a member seeking guidance on compliance changes within their field. Instead of navigating through a labyrinth of documents, they could simply ask your AI assistant and receive an instant, tailored response. This not only saves time but also presents an opportunity to explore related topics, fostering an environment of continuous learning and discovery. 

As members interact with the AI, their experiences are personalized. The intelligent assistant adapts, learning the needs and interests of each user, thereby shaping a unique and satisfying journey through your association’s knowledge base. This dynamic interaction doesn’t just answer questions; it opens doors to new avenues of knowledge that might have remained hidden behind the static lists of a search result page. 

From a strategic standpoint, intelligent chat tools provide associations with invaluable insights into member interests and knowledge gaps. These insights can guide content strategy, influence event topics, and even inform the development of new professional development programs. The continuous learning cycle of AI-driven tools turns every interaction into a chance to grow and evolve the association’s offerings. 

By analyzing the patterns in deep member inquiries through conversation threads, associations can anticipate future needs and proactively address them. Associations will be staying ahead of industry knowledge needs and solidifying and constantly reinforcing their position as the stewards of the industry’s most important body of knowledge and institutional intelligence.  


The Future of Association Websites 

So, what does the future hold for association websites?  

With intelligent chat tools, they’re set to become more than mere repositories of information. They’re transforming into dynamic platforms for engagement, learning, and member support. It’s not about replacing search; it’s about redefining it. It’s about ensuring that your members have a partner in their pursuit of knowledge—one that’s as committed to their success as you are.  

Associations that embrace this technology will lead the charge, offering their members a seamless, responsive, and deeply satisfying experience. 

Ready to revolutionize your association’s knowledge management?  Dive into the world of intelligent knowledge assistants and see the difference for yourself with a demo of Betty.