2023 Customer Awards: AARP - Best-in-Class: Community

2023 Customer Awards: AARP - Best-in-Class: Community


Company: AARP

Company background: AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age.

Contact: Sandy Moreland

Title: Senior Manager, Gaming & Community

Related URLs: https://community.aarp.org/t5/SongTheme/bd-p/songtheme

Kudos Category: Best-in-Class: Community

1. Describe the organization's objectives in launching a Khoros community. What is the use-case and purpose of your community (support, enablement and learning, marketing awareness, customer success, driving sales, product innovation, etc.)? Has the community charter evolved since its launch, and if so, how?

AARP has run a world-class Online Community since 1999, where users connect with other users on a myriad of topics related to their generational interests. AARP constantly achieves a high average monthly CHI score with May YTD of 704, well above 650+, which is considered healthy.

AARP’s Online Community is unique. It serves thousands of different users with thousands of different interests, behaviors, and goals. It is full of emotionally charged conversations, debates, requests for help, networking, advice, questions, user-based support, and much more.

Online Community is a trusted consumer-centric experience that delivers in the moments that matter, leading to an emotional connection with the brand.  The experience provides members a place to be heard, empowering them to influence policy, products and services affecting how they live as they age.

For over 20 years, AARP’s Online Community has continued to grow in specific areas such as Games, AARP Rewards, Health and general entertainment-related topics. 

AARP’s Online Community provides awareness for its programs as well as topics of interest to our membership. When we moved to Khoros in 2014, our Online Community team continued to allow our users to grow conversations in the entertainment area, specifically around song title-themed threads.  The team often celebrated milestones (such as 40K posts, 50K posts, etc.) with special channel promotion and house ads. Since 2009, the topic of Song Word play has grown to nearly 120K posts and 6.7MM views.

The team worked with Khoros and iTalent to create its own Song Activity called AARP’s SongTheme™ as an extension of the most popular thread (SEE MORE IN #2).



Additionally, we have a peer-to-peer recognition program that allows users to rate others. When a user receives 25 “kudos” in a rolling six-month period, they are ranked in the AARP ACE program. The ACE Program launched December of 2019.

The program enables users to be recognized by their peers for consistent, high-value contributions to the Online Community. To become an ACE, users must have a profile picture, receive 25 kudos in a rolling 6-month period, fill out their profile, and be in good community standing. We have had 100+ users achieve this status all-time. We let users know how to become an ACE and encourage them to check their profile. The Online Community team works hard to cultivate these relationships. ACEs are often the first people contacted when user opinion or help is required.  They are also the first ones to come to AARP when brand involvement is needed.




2. How did the community get brought to life? Was there executive/business/stakeholder buy-in? What was the process to gain this buy-in? How was cross-functional support and organizational adoption achieved?

In 2009, AARP created a “Rock-n-Roll Board” where Online Community members engaged with one another. Every day there would be themes and “song challenges” that required members to write in song titles. The activity was hugely popular, generating nearly 100K replies and over 5 million views. These conversations spawned an “Oldies” spinoff and dozens of additional unique song challenges.

Based on this demonstrated community interest, an idea was born to develop a more structured song theme activity hosted by AARP on our site, incorporating an integration with Spotify so users can collectively create themed playlists that can be listened to and enjoyed.

Listening to music has been scientifically shown to improve cognitive abilities and stimulate areas of the brain responsible for movement and memory. AARP has teamed up with the Global Council on Brain Health to promote healthy habits that help maintain mental health. AARP’s SongTheme™ activity is a significant addition to AARP’s services as it aligns perfectly with the organization’s social mission.

There were several obstacles to overcome in making AARP’s vision a reality. First, since the original game grew organically from within the AARP community, the goal was to keep it there. Secondly, the team wanted to limit access to certain premium features to AARP members only, which requires a paid membership (joining the online community is free). It was also important to keep it simple and clean without needing elaborate actions or downloading additional apps to play.

Since this functionality does not exist natively on Khoros and had never been created before, the solution had to be custom-built from scratch and integrated with AARP.

The next obstacle was adding this song-matching activity to AARP’s loyalty program. This enables AARP members that are activated in AARP Rewards to earn points that they can redeem on exclusive deals, discounts and more. This process required the integration of the song-match activity with AARP’s existing rewards program system, which is internal to AARP but has components that are managed externally. This increased the complexity of the endeavor.

Finally, AARP wanted the community song-matching activity to be integrated with Spotify so that those engaging could listen to songs from inside the community, as well as an exclusive, for AARP Members only, exporting of community-created playlists to their personal Spotify accounts. One of the most demanding aspects was interpreting Spotify’s API capabilities resulting in many trials and errors before achieving desired results.

The song-matching activity is dynamic with 10 active themes programmed by AARP’s Online Community team. Themes change based on user feedback, special occasions/holidays, as well as categories that are relevant to AARP’s social mission. 

To ensure those engaging don’t abuse the activity, unique guardrails such as disabling autocomplete were included. The benefit is twofold: it limits API calls to Spotify, further simplifying the implementation, and obliges users to use their memory rather than be helped by listing all relevant songs.

In order to get Executive stakeholders buy-in, a case study was built sharing the history of song-matching within the AARP Online Community and demonstrated how AARP’s priorities could be incorporated. Priorities such as AARP Member Joins and Renews, Registrations on AARP.org, Activations in programs such as AARP Rewards and AARP Staying Sharp while increasing the AARP’s online known audience.

Since launching in February of 2023, AARP’s Strategy Directors who manage AARP’s theme month priorities are utilizing AARP’s SongTheme™ for the building of user generated playlists. For example, in June the focus is on Social Connections with AARP asking those engaging to submit songs celebrating the bond of friendship.

3. What were the results? More revenue generated, a reduction of costs, improved customer experience, more innovation, etc.? Tell us how Khoros helped you achieve those results. Please include quantifiable metrics if possible.

AARP’s SongTheme™ (2/8-5/31) is a one-of-a-kind activity unlike any other AARP offers. Those engaging represents 26% of all AARP Online Community unique visitors. Of those participating 92% are Known Users (Registered and Logged in on AARP.org). AARP’s SongTheme™ boasts an 85% Repeat Visitor Rate.  Social mission engagement (music listening) occurs in 70% of visits.

AARP’s SongTheme™ represents 16% of all Member Actions (joins, renews) and Power Actions (site registrations and activations to AARP Rewards and AARP Staying Sharp) from the AARP Online Community.

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Special Thanks: Hope Parker, Kristine Deveza

Case Study Opt-In: Yes